Whether you’re a coach or an athlete, before you select what exercises to do in any given training session, it’s best to determine how you’re going to allot each movement pattern in any given training session
In other words, consider the six movement patterns first–squat, bend, lunge, push, pull and core—and then decide how best to break them up each week depending on your client’s needs and training history.
An Upper Lower split training program involves spending one training session on the upper body, focusing predominantly on the push and pull patterns, and the following training session on the lower body, focusing predominantly on the lunge, bend and squat patterns. In this sense, these clients can spend two days a week on the upper body and two days a week on the lower body, giving them ample rest and recovery in between each upper and lower body training day.
Note: The core movement pattern can, and should, still be sprinkled into both upper and lower training sessions.
Oftentimes, clients doing an Upper Lower split will train four days per week. Here’s an example of how to organize a training week using this split.
Monday - Upper
Tuesday - Lower
Wednesday - Active Recovery
Thursday - Upper
Friday - Lower
Saturday - Active Recovery
Sunday - Rest
Upper Lower training is great for maximizing strength gains—as well as muscle mass gains (hypertrophy)—as splitting sessions into upper and lower body-focused ones allows both for more training and recovery, because your upper body rests as your lower body is working and vice versa. In this sense, it's an efficient way to train for the intermediate athlete looking to continue to see improvements.
Further, the Upper Lower split also allows the client to devote more time to an area, or movement pattern, that might be weaker and requires more attention.
Putting it together: Once you have decided to create an Upper Lower split training program, it’s now time to select the movements to include on each day, each week.
A1. Dumbbell Bench Press @3111, 5 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
A2. Pendlay Row @3111, 8 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
B1. Seated Dumbbell Press @3113, 5 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
B2. Pull Up @3113, 4-6 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
C1. Dumbbell Bicep Curl @2020, 10-15 reps x 3 sets; rest 60 seconds
C2. Banded Lat Pulldown @2021, 20-25 reps x 3 sets; rest 60 seconds
C3. Ring Plank Hold, 45-60 seconds x 3 sets; rest 60 seconds
A1. Back Squat @3111, 5 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
A2. Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift @3030, 8 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
B1. Front Rack Dumbbell Step Up @2010, 6/6 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
B2. Russian Kettlebell Swing, 20 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 seconds
C1. Superman Hold, 30 seconds x 3 sets, rest 60 seconds
C2. Banded Glute Bridges: 20 reps x 3 sets; rest 60 seconds
C3. Hollow Hold, 60 second hold x 3 sets; rest 60 seconds
Choosing the correct training split is only a small part of designing training programs.
In fact, while an Upper Lower split may be ideal for those with an intermediate training age, sometimes individual schedules and resources make this unrealistic.
The best training split is the one that the individual can stick to.
That’s where the art of coaching comes into play.
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