Build Muscle Fast: Top 3 Training Splits For Busy Guys

Finally, you have the perfect plan. And a diet that makes sense. You’re geared up and ready to roll.

This is the time for you to go all in, get serious in the gym, and get back in shape.

Then, WHAM. Like a blind side hit from a linebacker, life gets insane.

Your 45-hour weeks turn into 70 hour weeks.

Then your kids get sick. Next thing you know, you’re coughing away. You’re pounding DayQuil like it’s going out of style. Then you hit the NyQuil to get a few hours of sleep.

Melodramatic?  Maybe. But the point is:

It’s damn near impossible to find the “perfect” routine to achieve your goals with your busy schedule.

Welcome to the club. Many others share your challenges:
– limited time
– limited capacity for real change
– information overload

In this article, we’ll cover…

The Three Best Training Splits for Busy Guys

Consistency and progressive overload.  These are the most important factors for success in the gym. These set you up for success. And while training more frequently might be the best plan overall, it’s not ideal if you’re consistently missing workout sessions. 

I’ll cover the pros and cons of each split. There is no one size fits all. Look at the benefits drawbacks of each.

We’ll focus on your workout/ life balance: Your training needs to fit your busy lifestyle, not consume it.

P.S. Get your free eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here. Offer expires 10/31/16.

How Should You Read This Article?

If you’re curious about how to get better results in less time. This is perfect for you. Dig in, look at the workouts, and see which looks best for you. Then, grab the Muscle Building guide featured at the bottom of the page. It will really help.

If you have plenty of time tor train yet still want to spend less time in the gym. Pay attention to what every program features, and make sure you’re covering your bases.

If you’re a coach: Think about your clients and ask yourself if the situation described below  sound familiar? Consider tweaking your clients’  programs to improve consistency.

Overall: Remember context is key. If you’re a bodybuilder, this isn’t ideal for you. Likewise if you’re using “busy” as an excuse, it’s not for you.
You must grind. Conversely, there are also no absolutes in training. If training less often lets you train consistently and with progressive overload rather than missed workouts, then this is perfect for you.

The Big Picture

As long as you have progressive overload, sound nutrition, and an emphasis on recovery…
…a new split will bring fresh motivation, more muscle, and improved strength in the gym.

Despite what some might have you believe, there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to training. Your training should depends on your goals, schedule, experience and injury history.

New programs should fit into your lifestyle, rather than consuming it. but renewed motivation will have you attacking each workout with focus and intensity.  You’ll build your strongest body yet.


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Training Split One: Total Body Training Split

Total body training splits are maximally efficient. They train the body as a unit, rather than as component parts.

Pros: Total body splits are maximally efficient for those short on time and looking for full body stimulation. High frequency of stimulation for muscles and moderate training volume suits many goals. Total body training minimizes fluff. it is suitable  beginners, fat loss, atheletes, and general health.

Read More on High Frequency Training here.

Cons: Low intra-workout volume may hinder metabolic stress-related hypertrophy. In non-science speak, that means you wont be chasing the pump as often. Stronger lifters may struggle with recovering from heavy lifts or hitting the legs three times in one week.  It’s difficult split to train more than three or four times per week, which drives many dedicated lifters crazy, leading to program hopping.  Smaller “show” muscles like your biceps 🙁  may be neglected. That;s tough to swallow for dudes used to bodybuilding -style training.

Total Body Training Examples


1.Squat 5×3

2.Bench Press 3×6

3.Lunge 3×8

4a.Farmer Walks 3×30 steps

4b. Dips 3×20

5. Isolation Work on medial delts, biceps, calves for 10-15 minutes


Tuesday: OFF



1.Deadlift 5×3

2.Dumbbell Overhead Press 4×6

3.Chin Up 3×8-12

4a.Plank 3×30 seconds

4b. Biceps Curl 3x 12

5. Isolation Work on medial delts, biceps, calves for 10-15 minutes

Thursday: OFF



1.Back Squat 5×3

2.Bent Over Row 4×6

3.Dumbbell Bench Press 3×8

4a. Dumbbell Curl 3×12

4b. Hip Thrust 3×12

5. Isolation Work on medial delts, biceps, calves for 10-15 minutes

Saturday/Sunday: Off/Conditioning


Training Split Two: Upper/Lower Training Split

Upper-lower training splits allow for more recovery and training volume than total body splits.  Upper body and lower body days alternate for four workouts in a seven-day training split.

Pros: Upper-Lower training splits are a great progression from total body training and work well with most people. Upper-Lower splits allow greater training frequency for quicker learning and mastery. But they still use heavy weights to drive strength gains.  Upper-lower splits offer a moderate training frequency and moderate-high volume. This is a recipe for solid, but not spectacular,  gains in muscle size.

Cons: Training days can be unbalanced. Upper body workouts tend to take much longer than lower body sessions, making scheduling hit or miss.  Upper-lower training splits offer shorter recovery time between training sessions compared to body-part splits. This may hinder recovery. And there’s this: Lower body training is brutal. Doing it two times per week might be too much for beginners.

Upper/Lower Split Examples

Monday: Upper Body

Tuesday: Lower Body

Wednesday: Off/active recovery

Thursday: Upper Body

Friday: Lower

Saturday/Sunday: Off

P.S. Get your free eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here. Offer expires 10/31/16.

Training Split Three: Push-Pull-Lower Body Training Split

Push-Pull- Lower Body training splits break training up by upper body push (bench press or overhead press), upper body pull (rows and chins), and lower body training (squats or deadlifts).  This allows for more volume to given muscle groups on their select day.

Pros: Push-Pull-Lower body routines are suitable for intermediate to advanced trainees. They’re very economical, allowing you to hit a variety of movements for a muscle group on each day. This increases your ability to create muscular damage and metabolic stress,  two drivers of muscle growth. Best of all, they are fun! They allow for more isolation work than other workout routines.

Cons: Push-pull splits are limited with athletic populations because they segregate the body by muscles that work together. For beginners, they only hit big movement patterns like a squat or hinge once per week– which may lead to slower gains in strength and technique. Overall, these are great for intermediates and advanced lifters, but not beginners.

Push/Pull/Lower Body Training Example

Monday: Pull

1a. Medicine ball Slam 2×5

1b. Box Jump 2×5

2. Chin Up 4×6

3. Bent Over Barbell Row 4×8

4a. Wide Grip Cable Row 3×12-15

4b. 1/2 Kneeling Pallof Press 3×12-15

5. Barbell Curl 3×8

6. Hammer Curl 3×12/each

Tuesday: OFF

Wednesday Push:

1. Med ball Chest Pass 2×8

2. Close Grip Bench Press 4×5

3. Dumbbell Seated Military Press 3×8

4a. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3×10

4b. Chest supported Row 3×12

5a. Feet elevated push up 3×10

5b. Triceps rope push-down 3×10

5c. Dumbbell lateral raise 3×10


Thursday: Off


Friday: Lower

1a. Box Jump 3×5


1b. Plank 3×45-60 seconds

2. Front Squat 4×5

3. Barbell RDL 4×8

4a. Dumbbell Walking Lunge 3×10 each

4b. Ab Wheel Rollout 3×10

5a. Calf Raise 3×15

5b. Stability Ball crunch 3×15


Saturday/Sunday: OFF

Exercise Split Considerations

What’s your goal? To maximize your training split, your goals must be clear. Since your time is limited, you can’t isolate every muscle group and pound it into oblivion. You can do anything, but not everything. Pick one or two muscles you’d like to focus on, and do all your isolation work on that muscle for 4-6 weeks. Then move onto the next muscle group.

What’s your schedule? Regardless of how “busy” you are you still have 24 hours every day…just like the rest of us. So prioritize. If training  two hours a day, five days a week isn’t ideal, simply pick a more efficient split. A workout is only as good as it’s execution. Determine what you can realistically do. And then do it.

Training Age. Beginners jump into  body part splits and isolation workouts before they’re strong enough to reap the rewards of focused isolation. Older lifters find they can’t train as hard as often due to greater neural requirements, joint stress, and recovery. Pick a training split that challenges you, but doesn’t provide more than you’re able to recover from.

Recoverability. The body is an integrated system. Rather than looking at recovery based on how your muscles feel,  you must take into account everyday stress, the nervous system, sleep quality, and nutrition.

Effort: Because you’re training less often you need to be 100% focused. No skipped workouts. No Snapchat (or whatever else you do when you’re supposed to be lifting), and no excuses. Get in, get focused, and maximize your minimal time.

Here’s a personal story to illustrate the recoverability point. A few years ago I worked in a typical big box gym. I didn’t have to stress my body much during sessions. Then I moved on to  work with a predominantly athletic population. I do tons of hands on-demonstrations with sprints, jumps, throws, and other techniques. The volume and intensity added up. I couldn’t train  as hard and heavy as I could previously.

The takeaway? Take into account all the stressors in your training. Adapt based on how your body feels.

Wrap Up

There’s more than one way to do things. The body-part split you’re doing today might not be the best for you. There is great individual variation.

And some people, especially the time-pressed, might respond best to total body training splits to lock in consistency and progressive overload.

The ideas outlined above should inspire some fresh thinking about what’s best for you.

Bottom line: Don’t overcomplicate things. Find a program that fits your schedule and goals. Stick with it for a few months, and progressively add weight and volume. Reassess as required, and keep your pedal to the metal. Your program is only as effective as the effort behind it. Will you step up to the plate?

P.S. Get your free eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here. Offer expires 10/31/16.

Kelleher, A., Hackney, K., Fairchild, T., Keslacy, S., & Ploutz-Snyder, L. (2010, April 1). The Metabolic Costs of Reciprocal Supersets vs. Traditional Resistance Exercise in Young Recreationally Active Adults. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
Schoenfeld, B. (2010). The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872. Retrieved October 20, 2014.



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