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Workouts reached peak volume in the 1970s when Arnold Schwarzenegger hit most body parts with a 15- to 25-set barrage three times weekly and abs and calves daily. But Arnold didn’t just do half his workload one day and the other half the next, because the resulting sessions would’ve lasted more than four hours. He also went a step further and split each day’s workload, doing half in the morning and the other half in the afternoon or evening. By double-splitting, he moderated the volume of his 12 weekly workouts. We’re not recommending you follow Arnold’s high-frequency split long term. But there are three ways you can benefit from a routine daily double.
Double-splitting is not some relic of the ’70s, like Fonzie and mood rings. It’s still done by many top bodybuilders today. But unlike Arnold, Phil Heath and company don’t usually hit body parts three times per week (once weekly is the norm), and they don’t double-split in the off-season. Typically they only two-time pre- contest. The resulting shorter workouts allow them to apply maximum intensity and focus to each session from start to finish, even when their lower-carb intake reduces their energy.
Even if you don’t plan to flex on a stage, you can benefit from short-term double-splitting. Our sample routine divides the body into four “on” days (eight workouts), which can be done over five to eight days, depending on your schedule and recuperation needs. This routine focuses on a larger part (such as back) in the first workout and smaller parts (such as biceps and calves) in the second workout. A short-term double-split works best when done for no longer than six weeks followed by at least as long a period training once daily.
“I DID A LOT OF VOLUME, AND I WORKED MUSCLES THREE TIMES A WEEK, SO RATHER THAN DO ONE MARATHON WORKOUT DAILY I DID TWO SHORTER WORKOUTS SO I COULD BE FRESH IN BOTH.”—Arnold Schwarzenegger
The most popular way of double-splitting nowadays is to do your cardio separate from your lifting. This is typically fasted cardio, meaning it’s performed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, long after the previous day’s last meal, which facilitates the burning of body fat instead of carbs for energy. (We recommend ingesting a protein or a BCAA shake upon waking to stave off catabolism.) You can then do your weight-training workout later in the day with sufficient carbs for fuel. This division allows you to physically and mentally compartmentalize your fat burning and your muscle-making. Some competitive bodybuilders will triple-split pre-contest, doing cardio in the morning, lifting in the afternoon, and still more cardio and/or lifting in the evening.
DOUBLE-SPLIT TIP SHEET
One big downside of a daily-double routine is incorporating two trips to and from the gym into your schedule. Even if you have time and even if it’s an easy commute, seeing the same old gym twice on the same day can grow tedious. The solution is to do one regular workout in a commercial gym and one lighter workout in a home gym. Some of you may already have well-equipped home gyms, but most of you probably don’t. That doesn’t matter. In our sample routine, you won’t be doing squats or pulldowns at home.
All major muscle groups, except abs, are trained in a commercial gym. The home workout focuses on areas you can stress without weights, such as abs or calves (with one-leg, bodyweight calf raises), or with minimal equipment: forearms can be hit with a barbell or dumbbell, neck can be stressed with a barbell plate against your head. (In our sample routine, calves are also trained once in the gym with weighted resistance.) You’ll notice the routine includes space for a “weakness.” This is a body part you want to give extra focus to with high-rep, low-set work. For example, for arms, do two supersets of curls (50 reps) and overhead triceps extensions (50 reps) with a light barbell or a resistance band.
SHORT-TERM DOUBLE SPLIT
MAJOR / MINOR DOUBLE-SPLIT