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#13: On Split Routines

  • Written by Denis Pedneault

201002_bodysculptingQ: Denis,

In your "Body Sculpting" articles, you recommend either push-pull or upper-lower splits.

I think I will try the push-pull split training five days a week. Do you think it would be better to do five days straight with the weekends off, or three days on then one off, then two on followed by one off? For example:

Monday = push
Tuesday = pull
Wednesday = push
Thursday = pull
Friday = push
Saturday/Sunday = off


Monday = push
Tuesday = pull
Wednesday = push
Thursday = off
Friday = pull
Saturday = push
Sunday = off

And is there any way I can specialize in the arms/shoulders area? I am small
everywhere, I guess, but especially in these parts.

. . . John Boatner

A: Hi John,

I don’t know exactly which routine you are referring to, but, basically, the push-pull routine is more suitable for a three-to-four days a week schedule, since working the entire body through several days would lead to overtraining in the long term. Dividing the antagonist muscles will only allow an athlete to train for four days in a week if he has to work out two days in a row. To make gains from a more frequent training regime, he will definitely need to take a day off in the middle of the schedule to recuperate.

I also always give my clients the weekend off and even encourage them to double their calorie intake to further shock the system and promote muscle growth. That’s great too, as you can manage to make gains and still "have a life" and go out on the weekends, something some extremists often forget to do! Taking two consecutive days "off" makes a BIG difference, because it has been shown to reduce cortisol by as much as 35 percent.

The basic push-pull would go this way:

3 days/week routine

Monday = push
Tuesday = off
Wednesday = pull
Thursday = off
Friday = push
Saturday = off
Sunday = off (begin next week with "pull")

4 days/week routine

Monday = push
Tuesday = pull
Wednesday = off
Thursday = push
Friday = pull
Saturday = off
Sunday = off

When I prescribe a five-day routine, I usually work with the antagonist muscles and always incorporate two days of leg training to make sure the upper body has time to recover between workouts. So the actual plan would look like this:

5-days/week routine

Monday = chest/midback
Tuesday = hamstrings/calves
Wednesday = delts/lats
Thursday = quadriceps/calves
Friday = triceps/biceps
Saturday = off
Sunday = off

As for your special requirements, if you look at the five-day routine, you can see that it allows you to focus an entire day each on shoulders (Wednesday) and arms (Friday). I never really make "specialization" programs. All my programs are individualized to my clients' needs, so each program is designed to work on the weaknesses we establish in the first place (although you could call that "specialization").

Careful exercise selection will do most of the job. When people say they want to "specialize" on something, they kind of need to "put away," at least for a while, the other body parts, and they always end up running after something new – needing more "this" now and more of "that" later.

Denis trains

You really have to envision this as a long-term project. If you look at how an artist makes a sculpture, you will notice that he will shape the rough base right from the beginning and then slowly work on the details. Only at the end will all the pieces be put together and a real "work of art" will arise.

I find it amusing that people constantly recall my shape, proportions, symmetry and posing when talking about my performances. To me, it’s just logic that I don’t seem to display any flaws, since my goal as a bodybuilder is, essentially, to present the most complete package every time I go on the stage. I continuously strive to come at my best and be better each time. Maybe my approach is different from that of most trainers out there, maybe it’s because I studied fine arts before shifting to kinesiology, but to me it’s clear that bodybuilding IS an art – the art of sculpting your own body. It’s up to you to either just "lift weights" or be an "artist." Keep that image in mind when you workout!

Stay focused, be patient, train hard!


. . . Denis Pedneault, Canadian Champion 2005, 2006, 2009 logo

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