Creating a Bodybuilding Split For Natural Bodybuilders

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Regardless of what the mainstream muscle media say, there isn’t a perfect bodybuilding split. All templates are temporary and require changes sooner or later. Even if you want to, you can’t do the same program forever. Minor tweaks will always be required.

Exercise Selection Is Fundamental

Choosing the right exercises is crucial. Below are a few criteria that I consider important when selecting movements for mass construction.

1.Big compound exercises are the best overall.


Compound exercises are effective because they teach you how to generate strength and power with your whole body. The strength and skills developed by compound movements translate well to sports and real life. In addition, multi-joint exercises are also more fun to do than isolation movements. Place them first in your routine.

2.Never do exercises that cause you joint pain.

Some joint pain and discomfort are unavoidable when you’re training hard, but you should never perform movements that are obviously hurting your connective tissues. If an exercise is causing you joint pain, it’s worthless.

3.Always do the important exercises first.

Don’t waste energy by starting your routine with small isolation drills unless the goal is to warm-up. Focus on your priorities.

4.Limit your exercises as much as possible.

Focus on movements that give you the best results and make you feel the happiest when you hit a PR or graduate to a more difficult variation. Quality over quantity.

5.Incorporate pulling, pushing and squatting motions.

To cover all basic movements of the body, make sure that your exercise selection includes pulling, pushing and squatting motions.

Finding The Right Frequency 

After selecting your exercises, it’s time to come up with a weekly schedule. How frequently you do a certain exercise depends on its nature and your goals.

If you want to progress at the bench press, you will have to do bench work frequently. If your goal is to be a better squatter, you need to squat more.

In general, the weakest points are the shoulders, the lower back, and the knees. When you’re writing a routine, you need to carefully spread the stress placed on these areas.

For instance, an experienced guy with a favorable build can squat every day without problem whereas someone who is not built to squat may find his lower back and knees in serious pain if daily squats are chosen.

Additional notes:

– the front deltoid is easy to overtrain since it participates in every pushing exercise. Be careful when spreading your weekly chest/shoulder/triceps volume {more}

– the lats and the upper back are almost impossible to overtrain, but too much back work can cause wrist, elbow and shoulder pain

– the lower back recovers slowly. Don’t deadlift heavy more than once a week unless you’re a beginner or someone who knows what he is doing.

– the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes are also hard to overtrain, but their respective tendons are not that tough. Don’t train your legs more than 3-4 times a week unless you can handle it.

– don’t do arm isolation for the triceps when you are a beginner. Stick to compounds to build some mass there. When you have more mass in the area, the mind muscle connection improves, and you can activate the triceps more effectively during isolation exercises. This will help you avoid elbow pain, which is common with arm isolation.

– never squat after deadlifts to protect your lower back. Exercise order is very important.

Example Routines


The Minimalistic Routine

This routine requires you to train only two days a week and covers everything.

Day 1: Lower body + Push Day

Squat – work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps and do 3 back-off sets with a lighter weight

Leg press – 3 sets of 10-12

Bench press – work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps and do 3 back-off sets with a lighter weight

Dips – about 30 total reps

Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Back day

Deadlifts – work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps.
Pull-ups – about 30 total reps

Day 5, 6, 7: Rest


Deadlift Focus

Deadlifts – work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps

Pull-ups – Up to 30 total reps

Some kind of rows that do not fatigue the lower back – 3 sets of 20

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Pushing exercises of choice

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Speed deadlifts and/or assistance leg work

Day 6, 7: Rest


Squat Focus

Day 1: Squat

Squat – work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps and do 3 back-off sets

Leg press – 3×10-20

Romanian deadlift – work up to one heavy set of 8 reps and do 3 back-off sets

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Light squat + Pushing work

Squats – 2 to 3 sets with no more than 80% of Day 1.

Chest and triceps work

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Squats + back work

Squats – work up to the weight from Day 1 but only do 2 reps. Keep the rest in the bank.

Back exercises of choice – No deadlifts!

Day 6,7: Rest


The Bro Physique Routine

This routine is designed to give you a big upper body and somewhat smaller yet existent legs.

Day 1: Chest+ Back

Dips – Up to 30 reps
Pull-ups – Up to 30 reps

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Legs

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Arms

Close grip bench press – Work up to one heavy set of 8 reps and do 3 back off sets a lighter weight
Pullovers – 3×10-12
Dumbbell curls – 5-6 totals sets

You can also add some shoulder work here.

Day 6,7: Rest


Points to Remember

The most important steps of building a routine are:

– choosing the right exercises for your current condition and goals

– finding a frequency that’s challenging and yet recovery friendly

– progression

I prefer the load/deload method a.k.a. cycling. Every time you go to the gym you add weight until it becomes hard. At that point, you deload by reducing the working weight to a level that’s just a little higher than your starting point. If you want to know more about training cycles, consult this post.

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