There are so many different muscle building splits out there, and it’s hard to know what’s good. Do you want to know the best natural bodybuilding workouts that help add pounds of muscle to your frame?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I will give you the best muscle building splits and examine the pros and cons for each. I included sample natural bodybuilding workouts to give you an idea of how to set them up. These are just examples; your routine will need to be adjusted to fit your specific needs, goals, and experience level.

By the end of this article, you will know which bodybuilding split is best for you and your goals.

Download a PDF of the workouts found in this article!

1. Full Body Workouts

Body Part Frequency: High
Body Part Volume: Low
Body Part Recovery: Moderate

Full body workouts are the most common place for beginners to start. They contain many multi-joint compound exercises and give you the most bang for your buck. Full body workouts include exercises like the squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell row.

You won’t find a lot of arm isolation exercises, so if your goal is to get big arms, it’s not the program for you.

The exercises in full body workouts hit big muscle groups (chest, back, legs) hard. Because you work your whole body every workout, you can’t perform it every day. You should have at least one day of rest between workouts for recovery.

These workouts are perfect for beginners or those with performance-based goals. They allow beginners to practice the lifts more often and become efficient. This frequency can help develop proper muscle activation during compound exercises much faster.

Pros:

  • Contain highly-effective exercises (compound, multi-joint movements)
  • Hits the major muscle groups multiple times per week (typically 3 times)
  • Good for performance-based goals and learning exercises because of lift frequency

Cons:

  • May neglect smaller muscle groups because isolation work isn’t included
  • Workouts can be very long because you need to rest longer between sets
  • Usually not enough volume for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders

Full Body Workout Example:

Monday: Full Body
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Full Body
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Full Body
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Full Body Workout

ExerciseSetsReps
ASquat35
BBench Press35
CBarbell Row36-8
DMilitary Press36-8
EV-Bar Pulldown36-8

Wednesday: Full Body Workout

ExerciseSetsReps
ADeadlift35
BDumbbell Bench Press38-10
CSeated Cable Row38-10
DDumbbell Shoulder Press38-10
ELat Pulldown38-10

Friday: Full Body Workout

ExerciseSetsReps
ADumbbell Lunges310-12
BStiff Leg Deadlifts310-12
CDumbbell Incline Bench Press310-12
DDumbbell Row310-12
ESkull Crushers310-12
FBarbell Curl310-12

2. Body Part Splits

Body Part Frequency: Low
Body Part Volume: High
Body Part Recovery: High

Body part splits are one of the common natural bodybuilding workouts. They allow complete focus on muscle groups and are sometimes called bro splits. Each workout usually contains 1-2 body parts. Unlike full body workouts, there’s a mix of both multi- and single-joint movements.

With this type of split, body part training frequency tends to be lower than full body workouts. Most body part splits only hit each muscle group once per week.

You will get some overlap on muscle groups because you can’t isolate some muscles. For example, when you work your back, chest, and shoulders, you also hit your arms. When you hit chest and back, you also work your delts. Because of this, some muscle groups are technically worked multiple times per week.

The schedule of these muscle building splits varies anywhere from 3-6 days per week. You want to arrange the muscles with the least amount of overlap to be fresh for each workout. For example, you don’t want to work triceps the day before a chest workout or hit biceps before a back day.

Body part splits maximize volume and metabolic stress within the workout. Both of which are important mechanisms for muscle growth. [1] The only problem is, body part splits typically only work a muscle once per week. There’s evidence that muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) returns to baseline after 48 hours. [2] If you wait a whole week to hit that body part again, you may be shortchanging your muscle growth.

Pros:

  • Can help you focus on lagging body parts by given them their own day
  • Maximizes volume and metabolic stress within the workout (both crucial for muscle building) [1]
  • Allows the most recovery between workouts of the same muscle group (typically a week)

Cons:

  • If you miss a workout, you have two weeks of not hitting that muscle
  • Body part training frequency may be too low to maximize muscle growth (based on muscle protein synthesis data) [2]

Body Part Split Example:

Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: Shoulders
Friday: Arms
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Chest

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Bench Press46-8
BIncline Dumbbell Press38-10
CDecline Barbell Bench Press38-10
DCable Chest Fly310-12
EPush Ups3AMRAP

Tuesday: Back

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Row46-8
BLat Pulldown38-10
CSingle Arm Dumbbell Row38-10
DV-Bar Pulldown310-12
ECable Pullover312-15

Wednesday: Legs

ExerciseSetsReps
ASquats48-10
BStiff Leg Deadlifts48-10
CLeg Extensions310-12
DLying Leg Curl310-12
EStanding Calf Raise310-12
FSeated Calf Raise310-12

Thursday: Shoulders

ExerciseSetsReps
AMilitary Press48-10
BUpright Row310-12
CDumbbell Lateral Raise310-12
DMachine Reverse Fly312-15
EBarbell Shrugs312-15

Friday: Arms

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Curl38-10
BIncline Dumbbell Curl310-12
CPreacher Curl310-12
DSkull Crushers38-10
ECable Press Downs310-12
FFrench Press310-12

3. Antagonistic Superset Splits

Body Part Frequency: Low-Moderate
Body Part Volume: High
Body Part Recovery: Moderate

Antagonistic superset splits are body part splits, but they pair opposing muscle groups in the same workout. Arnold Schwarzenegger used this type of routine often. He would pair chest/back, bicep/triceps, and quads/hamstring and superset each to maximize training volume in his workout. Although Arnold was not natural, this workout can still be effective for natural bodybuilders.

Antagonist supersets provide the same volume in less time and may be ideal for busy bodybuilders. They essentially cut your workout time in half because there’s little rest between sets. Once you finish a set, you move right to working the opposing muscle group.

Studies show that antagonist supersets increase power output in subsequent sets. [3] Let’s take our example of bench press and barbell rows. By performing a barbell row before bench press, it increases pressing strength and allows you to use more weight. Another way they help you lift more is by allowing full recovery between the next set of the same exercise.

If you can lift more weight, you create a better environment for muscle growth.

Pros:

  • Maximizes your time in the gym (great for those with a busy schedule)
  • Increases power output of opposing muscle groups [3]
  • Allows you to lift more weight and accumulate more volume in each workout

Cons:

  • Can be tiring because of short rest periods between heavy compound movements
  • Difficult to perform the supersets in a busy gym

Antagonist Superset Workout Example:

Monday: Chest/Back
Tuesday: Quads/Hamstrings
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Shoulders and Calves
Friday: Biceps/Triceps
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Chest/Back

ExerciseSetsReps
A1Barbell Bench Press38-10
A2Lat Pulldown38-10
B1Incline Dumbbell Bench Press310-12
B2T-Bar Row310-12
C1Chest Dips3AMRAP
C2Chin Ups3AMRAP
D1Dumbbell Chest Fly312-15
D2Dumbbell Pullovers312-15


* Superset A1 with A2, B1 with B2, etc.

Tuesday: Quads/Hamstrings

ExerciseSetsReps
A1Squats38-10
A2Stiff Leg Deadlift38-10
B1Leg Press310-12
B2Seated Leg Curl310-12
C1Leg Extensions310-12
C2Lying Leg Curls310-12
D1Dumbbell Lunges312-15
D2Back Extensions312-15


* Superset A1 with A2, B1 with B2, etc.

Thursday: Shoulders and Calves

ExerciseSetsReps
ADumbell Shoulder Press38-10
BUpright Row310-12
CLateral Raise310-12
DMachine Reverse Fly312-15
EStanding Calf Raise410-12
FSeated Calf Raise412-15

Friday: Biceps/Triceps

ExerciseSetsReps
A1Dumbell Curl38-10
A2Skull Crushers38-10
B1Hammer Curl310-12
B2Cable Press Downs310-12
C1Dumbbell Incline Curl310-12
C2Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension310-12


* Superset A1 with A2, B1 with B2, etc.

4. Upper Lower Splits

Body Part Frequency: Moderate
Body Part Volume: Low-Moderate
Body Part Recovery: Moderate

With an upper lower split, you hit your upper body in one workout and lower body in the other. Makes sense, right?

You can do these workouts on consecutive days because they work different muscles. The most common upper lower split is a 4 day split (upper, lower, rest, upper, lower, rest, rest) but you can adapt it to fit your needs. Because of this, upper lower splits are a great option for those with a busy schedule.

These splits are a natural progression from full body workouts and are one of the most common natural bodybuilding workouts. They contain more volume and time for recovery, which may be helpful as you advance in training age. A beginner that has been doing a full body workout but needs a new routine should look into upper lower splits.

If you have a stubborn upper body, upper lower splits may cause muscle symmetry problems. Since volume is divided between your upper and lower body, you may end up with lagging body parts. Many find that two days aren’t enough to maximize the growth of all upper body muscles.

For those with stubborn legs, an upper lower split may be a good fit because you can give them a lot of volume in two sessions.

Pros:

  • More volume and time for recovery than full body workouts
  • Higher muscle training frequency than body part splits
  • Great option for those with a busy schedule

Cons:

  • May not be enough volume for all body parts
  • May cause a visual imbalance between upper and lower body if you have stubborn body parts

Upper Lower Workout Example:

Monday: Upper Body
Tuesday: Lower Body
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Upper Body
Friday: Lower Body
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Upper Body

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Bench Press36-8
BIncine Dumbbell Bench Press28-12
CDumbbell Row36-8
DV-Bar Pull Down28-12
EMilitary Press38-12
FBarbell Curl38-12
GCable Press Downs38-12

Tuesday: Lower Body

ExerciseSetsReps
ASquats36-8
BStiff Leg Deadlift38-12
CLeg Extensions38-12
DLying Leg Curls312-15
EStanding Calf Raise38-12
FSeated Calf Raise312-15

Thursday: Upper Body

ExerciseSetsReps
ADumbell Bench Press38-12
BCable Chest Fly212-15
CLat Pulldown38-12
DSeated Cable Row212-15
ELateral Raises312-15
FCable Curl312-15
GSkull Crushers312-15

Friday: Lower Body

ExerciseSetsReps
ADeadlifts36-8
BLeg Press38-12
CSeated Leg Curls312-15
DLeg Extensions312-15
EDonkey Calf Raise312-15
FSeated Calf Raise315-20

5. Push Pull Legs Split

Body Part Frequency: Moderate
Body Part Volume: Moderate-High
Body Part Recovery: Moderate

Push pull legs splits are like upper lower splits, but they separate the upper body into two days. On a push day, you work muscle like chest, shoulders, and triceps (muscles involved in pushing). For pull days, you hit your back and biceps (muscles involved in pulling). Pretty straight forward, right?

Because of this, there’s little overlap from workout to workout, and it allows you to be fresh for each body part.

This workout is a 6 day split and meant for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders. It is one of my favorite natural bodybuilding workouts. A beginner would burn out on this type of routine because it’s very physically demanding. If you have a busy schedule, it may be hard to stick to this kind of workout because there’s only one rest day per week.

If 6 days a week is too much, but you still want to do a push pull legs split, you can always adjust the schedule. You can add quads to your push day and hamstrings to your pull day. By doing this, you make it a 4 day split (push, pull, rest, push, pull, rest, rest). You can also make it a 3 day split by doing the push pull legs sequence only once.

The push pull legs split is a balance between many bodybuilding workout routines. It allows for a moderate amount of body part training frequency, volume, and recovery. By not being too extreme with any one variable, it makes this a solid routine for a lot of people.

Pros:

  • Great mix between many bodybuilding splits
  • Contains a moderate amount of body part frequency, volume, and recovery
  • Hits each body part while you are freshest because there isn’t much overlap

Cons:

  • 6 day splits can be very physically demanding (only one rest day/week)
  • Not ideal for beginners or those with busy schedules

Push Pull Legs Workout Example:

Monday: Push
Tuesday: Pull
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: Push
Friday: Pull
Saturday: Legs
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Push

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Bench Press36-8
BIncline Dumbbell Bench Press38-10
CCable Chest Fly310-12
DMilitary Press36-8
ELateral Raise38-10
FClose Grip Bench Press36-8
GCable Press Down38-10

Tuesday: Pull

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Row36-8
BLat Pulldown38-10
CSeated Cable Row38-10
DCable Pullovers310-12
EBarbell Curls36-8
FIncline Dumbbell Curls38-10

Wednesday: Legs

ExerciseSetsReps
ASquats36-8
BStiff Leg Deadlifts36-8
CLeg Extensions310-12
DLying Leg Curls310-12
EStanding Calf Raise38-10
FSeated Calf Raise310-12

Thursday: Push

ExerciseSetsReps
AHammer Strength Chest Press38-10
BWeighted Dips310-12
CPec Deck312-15
DUpright Row310-12
EReverse Dumbbell Fly312-15
FDumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension310-12
GTricep Kickbacks312-15

Friday: Pull

ExerciseSetsReps
AWeighted Chins38-10
BDumbbell Row310-12
CSingle Arm Cable Pulldown312-15
DFace Pulls315-20
EPreacher Curl310-12
FCable Curl312-15

Saturday: Legs

ExerciseSetsReps
ADeadlift36-8
BLeg Press310-12
CSeated Leg Curls312-15
DLeg Extensions312-15
EDonkey Calf Raise312-15
FSeated Calf Raise315-20

6. Muscle Specialization Splits

Body Part Frequency: High (for weak areas) Low (for other body parts)
Body Part Volume: High (for weak areas) Low (for other body parts)
Body Part Recovery: Low (for weak areas) High (for other body parts)

A muscle specialization split has one goal in mind: bring up a lagging body part.

As you advanced, full body growth becomes increasingly difficult. This is where specialization comes in.

This bodybuilding split is used to shock your muscle into new growth. You can’t do it for an extended period without a break because it’s very demanding. It involves training the lagging body part 3+ times per week and other body parts only once (to maintain).

You can blast weak muscles and get them growing in a relatively short period of time. Growth won’t continue forever, so it’s best to alternate what you specialize. By doing this, you decrease the chances of injury.

For me, arms have always been a weak area. I specialize and train them up to 6 days per week! I used this strategy to add a half inch to my arms in 6 months. To some, this may not sound like a lot, but it’s great progress for me.

The bottom line: specialization splits work.

Pros:

  • Allows for complete focus on weak body parts
  • High volume, frequency, and intensity shocks the muscle into new growth

Cons:

  • Can’t do it for extended periods of time
  • Training with a high volume, frequency, and intensity can increase your chance of injury

Arm Specialization Workout Example:

This is an example specialization program for arms. Specialization workouts are very individualized and will need to be adjusted to your weaknesses. Arms have always been my weak point, so this type of routine is one of my go to natural bodybuilding workouts.

A good approach for setting up a specialization program is to include a wide range of rep ranges. This will help develop all muscle fiber types and likely get growth moving again.

Monday: Low-Rep Arms
Tuesday: Lower Body
Wednesday: Medium-Rep Arms
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Upper Body
Saturday: High-Rep Arms
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Low-Rep Arms

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Curl34-6
BDumbell Curls36-8
CCable Curls36-8
DClose Grip Bench Press34-6
EWeighted Tricep Dips36-8
FCable Press Downs36-8

Tuesday: Lower Body

ExerciseSetsReps
ASquats38-10
BStiff Leg Deadlift38-10
CLeg Press310-12
DLying Leg Curls310-12
ELeg Extensions310-12
FStanding Calf Raise310-12
GSeated Calf Raise312-15

Wednesday: Medium-Rep Arms

ExerciseSetsReps
AHammer Curls38-10
BDumbbell Preacher Curl310-12
CDumbell Incline Curl310-12
DDumbbell Overhead Tricep Extensions38-10
ESkull Crushers310-12
FSingle Arm Rope Press Downs310-12

Friday: Upper Body

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Bench Press38-10
BIncline Dumbbell Bench Press310-12
CBarbell Row38-10
DV-Bar Pull Downs310-12
ECable Pullovers312-15
FDumbbell Shoulder Press310-12
GDumbbell Lateral Raise312-15

Saturday: High-Rep Arms

ExerciseSetsReps
ACable Curls310-12
BDrag Curls312-15
CSpider Curls315-20
DFrench Press310-12
EOverhead Cable Tricep Extension312-15
FTricep Kickbacks315-20

7. Strength/Hypertrophy Splits

Body Part Frequency: Moderate
Body Part Volume: Moderate-High
Body Part Recovery: Moderate

Strength hypertrophy splits (or power hypertrophy splits) are used to maximize growth over the long term. To get bigger, we need to overload the muscle continually. One way to do this is by getting stronger over time. This is one of the most common natural bodybuilding workouts because it allows for continual progress in some aspect (strength or hypertrophy).

A power hypertrophy split will have two distinct workout types:

  1. Strength workouts that focuses on moving as much weight as possible. It uses heavy compound exercises in the 1-10 rep range. Rest periods will be long to allow for complete recovery between sets.
  2. Hypertrophy workouts to maximize growth. These will contain a mix of compound and isolation exercises in the 8-20 rep range. It’s a fast-paced workout with the goal of accumulating a lot of training volume.

The most popular program in this category is by far Layne Norton’s PHAT workout. It stands for power hypertrophy adaptive training. If you haven’t heard of Layne Norton before, he holds a Ph.D. and is pro natural bodybuilder. He’s used PHAT training for much of his career and attributed a lot of his success to it.

You can watch the videos of Layne explaining his PHAT workout below:

PHAT TRAINING PART 1

PHAT TRAINING PART 2

Pros:

  • Allows for development of both strength and hypertrophy
  • May help maximize long-term muscle growth
  • Different workout types can make your program more enjoyable

Cons:

  • Can be very physically demanding
  • Not ideal for beginners or those with busy schedules

PHAT Workout Example:

Monday: Upper Body Strength
Tuesday: Lower Body Strength
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
Friday: Legs Hypertrophy
Saturday: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
Sunday: Rest

Monday: Upper Body Strength

ExerciseSetsReps
ABarbell Rows33-5
BWeighted Pull Ups26-10
CRack Chins26-10
DDumbbell Bench Press33-5
EWeighted Dips26-10
FDumbbell Shoulder Press36-10
GBarbell Curls36-10
HSkull Crushers36-10

Tuesday: Lower Body Strength

ExerciseSetsReps
ASquats33-5
BHack Squats26-10
CLeg Extensions26-10
DStiff Leg Deadlifts35-8
EGlute Ham Raises26-10
FStanding Calf Raise36-10
GSeated Calf Raise26-10

Thursday: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy

* Optional speed work: Barbell rows for 6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of 3-5 rep max before back and shoulder hypertrophy workout.

ExerciseSetsReps
ARack Chins38-12
BSeated Cable Row38-12
CDumbbell Row212-15
DClose Grip Pulldowns215-20
EDumbbell Shoulder Press38-12
FUpright Row212-15
GLateral Raises312-20

Friday: Legs Hypertrophy

* Optional speed work: Squats for 6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of 3-5 rep max before legs hypertrophy workout.

ExerciseSetsReps
AHack Squats38-12
BLeg Press212-15
CLeg Extensions315-20
DRomanian Deaflits38-12
ELying Leg Curls212-15
FSeated Leg Curls215-20
GDonkey Calf Raise410-15
HSeated Calf Raise315-20

Saturday: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy

* Optional speed work: Dumbbell bench press for 6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of 3-5 rep max before chest and arms hypertrophy workout.

ExerciseSetsReps
AIncline Dumbbell Bench Press38-12
BHammer Strength Chest Press312-15
CIncline Cable Flys215-20
DCambered Bar Preacher Curls38-12
EDumbbell Concentration Curls212-15
FSpider Curls215-20
GFrench Press38-12
HCable Press Downs212-15
ITricep Kickbacks215-20

Which Split is Best?

There’s no one best training split. The best workout for you will depend on your goals, experience level, and schedule. I hope this article has helped you determine which muscle building split is right for you.

All of these natural bodybuilding workouts can be adjusted to fit your needs. For example, you can organize them to fit the number of days you have to workout. Additionally, you can and should adjust the number of sets per body part to what YOU need to grow. This will be different for everyone. If you notice you aren’t making progress, add a few sets and monitor what happens.

Below are some suggestions based on your experience level:

Beginner: Full Body, Upper Lower

Intermediate: Body Part Splits, Antagonistic Superset Splits, Upper Lower, Push Pull Legs, Strength/Hypertrophy

Advanced: Body Part Splits, Antagonistic Superset Splits, Push Pull Legs, Muscle Specialization, Strength/Hypertrophy

My Favorites: Push Pull Legs, Muscle Specialization, Strength/Hypertrophy

Remember, the best bodybuilding split is nothing without proper nutrition. Don’t neglect your diet and lose out on making gains. To learn how to set up a muscle building diet, you can check out this article:

Recommended Article: Natural Bodybuilding Diet – The Definitive Setup Guide

Don’t Forget About Progression

You can have the best training split and diet, but you won’t build muscle if you don’t focus on progression. By progression, I mean things like using more weight and doing more sets/reps over time. These aren’t the only variables you can progress in but are the most common. The amount of work you do needs to increase if you want to continue making progress.

Common bodybuilding progression schemes include single, double, and triple progression. Some bodybuilders even use complex periodization plans.

Just know that having a methodical way of overloading is crucial. If you don’t, say goodbye to gains.

Natural Bodybuilding Workouts Cheat Sheet!

I made a cheat sheet including all of the natural bodybuilding workouts found in this article. You can download it and use as a reference guide.

Download a PDF of the workouts found in this article!