How to Structure a Training Program:

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How to Structure a Training Program:

           In order to structure an effective workout program, the first step is to identify the fitness goal one desires. This specific fitness goal will determine how the workout program will be structured and how the set and rep scheme is utilized. Technique and form play a large part in overall progression, meaning emphasis on these components within the training program is crucial. These two components are determining factors regarding achieving actual results and progression. Regardless of the fitness goal, the workout program focus needs to consist of compound (multi-joint) movements. Compound (multi-joint) movements are most effective at building muscle, strength, and oxidizing fat. The core of every training session needs to revolve around the compound movement that utilizes the muscles being targeted during that training session.


The main compound movements for each muscle group:

  • Chest: Bench Press, Incline Bench Press
  • Legs: Back Squat, Front Squat, Romanian Deadlift
  • Shoulders: Barbell Overhead Press, Dumbbell Military Press
  • Back: Barbell Bent Rows, Deadlift, Seated Cable Row
  • Arms: Straight Bar Curl, Dumbbell Hammer Curl, Close-Grip Bench Press, Skull-   crushers


            Once a goal has been determined, the next step will be to decide how many days a week one desires to train. The amount of days a week an individual decides to train will determine the amount of volume within each training session. Determining the amount of volume that works best for each individual can be difficult, but overall the goal is to fatigue the targeted muscle group to near exhaustion. Reaching near exhaustion can be done in two ways: a light load with 3-5 sets of high reps (toning or hypertrophy focused fitness goal) or a heavy load with 2-4 sets (bulking focused fitness goal). When looking to bulk up and gain size (strength focus), the goal repetitions will fall in the range of 1-6 reps. If an individual is aiming to tone up and develop more proportional muscles (hypertrophy focus), the goal repetition range will be 6-12 reps. If the individual has a goal to lose weight or tone up (endurance/hypertrophy focus), then the goal repetition range will be 8-15 reps. With each personal fitness goal, the concepts of maximal time under tension and progressive overload need to be utilized. Maximal time under tension is optimized when performing slow and controlled reps with proper technique and form. This concept helps to maximize the amount of damage done to the muscle tissue which forces the muscle to grow in size and generate additional strength. Progressive overload is optimized by changing the rep and set schemes in combination with an increase in the load being used with each rep change. This concept helps to maximize the amount of stress imposed on the muscle being targeted which equates to strength progression.


            The least aggressive approach would be 3 days of training per week, and I suggest utilizing the push/pull/leg split with this training scheme. Using the push/pull/leg split allows the individual to adequately train each major muscle group without overexerting the body. This approach can be effective for beginners because the amount of stress imposed on the body is more spread out versus solely targeting a specific muscle group. The rep and set scheme that optimizes this style of training split would be an endurance and hypertrophy focus. The goal set range will fall between 3-5 sets, and the goal repetition range would be 8-15 reps. With this split, an individual will want to ensure that each muscle group involved with the specific movement (push/pull/legs) is adequately worked during each training session.


Push Focused Muscle Groups:

  • The chest-muscle complex (upper, middle, lower pectoral), anterior deltoids, lateral deltoids, and the triceps muscle complex (triceps brachii lateral head, long head, medial head)

  Pull Focused Muscle Groups:

  • The back-muscle complex (rhomboid major and minor, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, levator scapulae), posterior deltoid, and the bicep muscle complex (biceps brachii short and long head, brachialis, and coracobrachialis)

  Leg Focused Muscle Group:

  • The quadriceps muscle complex (vastus lateralis, medialis, intermedius and rectus femoris), the hamstring muscle complex (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus), the glute muscle complex (gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius), the hip flexors, and the calf muscle complex (gastrocnemius and soleus)


            A more aggressive approach that an individual can utilize is training 4 days per week. Using this approach can be beneficial for beginners to advanced lifters. This training split helps to isolate targeted muscle groups more efficiently and still allows for adequate recovery from each training session. The 4 day per week training split can be optimized by either utilizing a hypertrophy focused scheme (3-5 sets, 6-12 repetitions) or endurance focused (3-5 sets, 8-15 repetitions) rep and set scheme. This training split can be utilized when the personal fitness goal is to gain muscle size, tone up, or when wanting to lose weight.


The 4 day a week training approach can be broken up in a few different ways depending on the specific fitness goal:

 Example Split 1:

  • Chest & Triceps:
  • Back & Biceps:
  • Legs:
  • Shoulders

 Example Split 2:

  • Upper Body
  • Quadriceps Focus
  • Upper body
  • Hamstring/Glute Focus

 Example Split 3:

  • Chest & Back
  • Quadriceps Focus
  • Arms & Shoulders
  • Hamstring/Glute Focus


             The most aggressive approach an individual can take would be considered a typical bodybuilding style split. This approach consists of training 5 days per week and is the most taxing on the body out of the three styles of training splits. This style of training split is better utilized by intermediate and advanced lifters due to the stress imposed on each muscle group. The split allows the individual to isolate each muscle group by dedicating each day solely to a specific muscle group. A strength (2-4 sets, 1-6 repetitions) or hypertrophy (3-5 sets, 6-12 repetitions) focused rep and set scheme can be utilized in this type of training split. This training split should be implemented when the personal fitness goal is to bulk up, gain strength and toning up.

 This type of split can be broken up in two different ways depending on the personal fitness goal:

 Example Split 1 (traditional bodybuilding split):

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Legs
  • Shoulders
  • Arms

  Example Split 2:

  • Chest & Triceps
  • Quadriceps Focus
  • Back & Biceps
  • Shoulders
  • Hamstring/Glute Focus


            I hope this article helped to provide clarity when looking to properly structure a workout program. These training splits are not the only way to structure a workout program, but these splits have shown to provide progression and real results when consistency and persistence are emphasized. In order for an individual to take their training to the next level, a properly programmed workout program is crucial when wanting real results and continued progression. Give these different training splits a try and let me know what you think!