It doesn’t matter how motivated, how dedicated, or how genetically gifted a person might be, without the structure and regimentation of a solid training split it’s impossible to properly kick-start the body’s muscle-building mechanisms. Too many first-time trainers make the mistake of assuming that natural athletic ability is more important than planning and consistency and, as a result, they never achieve their full fitness potential. The fact of the matter is that gains come to those with the discipline to abide by a strict cycle of work and rest, no matter how frustratingly repetitive it might feel at times. As John F. Kennedy once said, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
When most people think of a split, they think of dedicating specific days to particular body parts. This type of training dates back to the 1970s and ’80s, also known as the “Golden Age of Bodybuilding,” an era in which fitness legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rachel McLish would spend hours each day training just one muscle group. Not only is this style of training time consuming and mundane, it’s also proven to be somewhat inefficient. Muscles require new stimuli and constant challenges in order to grow and strengthen, and they also need to be trained to work in tandem. By hitting all the muscle groups of the upper body one day and the lower body the next, you force your musculature to work overtime as a single, common element, rather than as individual parts. “An upper-/lower-body split allows you to train all body parts at a much higher volume,” explains Justin D’Olimpio, CPT and owner of Just Train Fitness in Hamilton, Ontario. “Research has shown that this style of training, coupled with a high rep range, is great for strength gains.”
This particular split routine comes courtesy of IFBB Bikini Pro and GAT-sponsored athlete Anette De La Rosa, one of Canada’s fastest-rising fitness figures. And if there’s one thing she loves about this style of split it’s that it drastically increases the frequency of leg training from once a week to every second workout. “I love leg days,” she says. “There is just so much you can do with them, and I personally find you can’t go wrong with having a great set of legs and glutes.” She explains that this workout will not only have your wheels looking better than ever, but the added workload of more leg training will also up your total weekly calorie expenditure and help set that fat-burn dial to “scorch.”
Unlike many training splits nowadays, Anette’s workout emphasizes machines over free weights, a choice about as popular in the fitness world as radish-flavoured protein powder (yum). However, given the sheer volume of training involved in this split, machines are a wise choice, especially for beginners. “You can isolate muscle groups more efficiently on specific machines,” she emphasizes. “You can also work with more weight than you would with free weights.” Because of the fixed range of motion machines allow, there is also the decreased chance of injury. This latter feature is another definite selling point for those trying such an intense split for the first time. “Start by doing two lower-body and two upper-body days per week,” advises Anette. “As you progress, you can add another upper- or lower-body day in the week, as long as you’re giving yourself at least 48 hours between specific training sessions to ensure that you’re getting adequate recovery time.” Start this top-notch routine today and look forward to spectacular results in as little as four to six weeks.
Lie face down on a hamstring curl bench with your feet hooked under the lever. Keep your body flat against the bench as you slowly pull your ankles toward your body until the weight cannot be lifted any farther. Pause momentarily before slowly lowering the weight to the starting position and repeating.
Tip: Focus on keeping your hips against the pad at all times. All the momentum should come from the hamstrings.
Sit with your back pressed firmly against the seat’s padding and feet securely under the padded rollers. Firmly grip the side supports for stability as you extend your legs to a position just short of locked out. Pause for a count, then lower and repeat.
Tip: For a real burn, hold your legs at the top of the movement for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.
Targets: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves
Sit back on a leg press machine with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart in the centre of the footplate. Push through your heels to press the weight up until your legs are just short of being fully extended. Pause for one second, then lower until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Repeat.
Tip: To further engage your hamstrings and glutes, place your feet higher and farther apart on the platform.
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings
Lean over a kickback machine with one foot raised and resting on the footplate. Keep your body firmly in position and core engaged as you press the plate until you cannot extend your leg any farther without changing position. Pause for one count, then return to the starting position and repeat.
Tip: At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes for one second in order to achieve peak contraction.
Targets: Pectorals, triceps, deltoids
Sit so that your feet are flat on the platform and your elbows are positioned in line with your lower chest. Press the weight forward until your arms are just short of being fully extended. Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your arms to the starting position and repeat.
Tip: Really squeeze your pectoral muscles at the top of the movement to ensure peak contraction.
Targets: Lower lats, rhomboids, trapezius, biceps
Adjust the machine so that the padding rests at roughly the top of your chest. Keep your torso in constant contact with the pad as you pull the weight toward your body, using only your back muscles for momentum. Squeeze your back muscles momentarily at the top of the movement before returning to the start and repeating.
Tip: Keep your abdominals tight, shoulders relaxed, and be mindful of pulling with your back and not your arms.
Adjust the machine so that the handles are roughly at mid-chest level. Keep your back firmly against the pad and feet planted as you bring the handles together in front of your body until they are just short of touching. Squeeze your pectorals hard for one count, then return to the starting position.
Tip: Don’t focus on packing on the weight but rather on performing the movement fluidly and correctly.
Targets: Front and middle deltoids
With your feet firmly planted and upper body straight, press the handles forcefully over your head until your arms are almost fully extended. Pause for a second at the top, then slowly lower until the handles are roughly at chin level before repeating.
Tip: Keep your traps (upper back) relaxed throughout the movement, and avoid the urge to lock out at the top.
Adjust the seat so that your armpits are flush against the pads and your elbows are straight. Curl the weight up toward your face in a slow, controlled motion while making sure to keep your arms against the pad at all times. Pause for one count at the top of the move, reverse, then repeat.
Tip: For variety, perform the movements one arm at a time, making sure to really squeeze each arm for peak contraction.