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Fit 4 Life | Split your training right – Part 3

Published:Wednesday | March 21, 2018 | 12:10 AMMarvin Gordon
Train abs regularly – strive for variety in ab training.


Choosing the right exercises

You have chosen the training split you think is best suited for your life and now it's time to pick exercises. How do you get the most out of your training split?

Here are a few tips for choosing exercises:

Volume vs frequency

Volume - the number of sets and reps, and frequency - how often you train - play important roles in training. They also have a somewhat antagonistic relationship.

Ideally, as volume increases, frequency is reduced and vice versa. Most people place great emphasis on volume and ignore frequency. Boosting frequency safely while keeping volume at a low-to-moderate level has been shown to deliver better results in most forms of training. Only train at high volume if absolutely necessary.

Compound vs isolation movements

Compound movements will almost always deliver better results than isolation movements. Isolation movements are great for targeting weaknesses but don't overuse them. While it is good to have a few isolation moves in each session, it makes no sense to do a high volume of them. Compound movements trigger greater response on every level and offer more balanced development as well. So make sure you are getting those big moves in.

Small muscles

Don't obsess over small muscles. Focusing on compound movements doesn't mean you are ignoring small muscles; smaller muscles are also worked during compound movements. Your arms, for example, will have major involvement in big upper body movements such as military presses and pull-ups, so there is no need to do 35 sets of arm work per week. Small - or not-so-small - muscles that need little direct work include arm muscles; specific shoulder joint and shoulder girdle muscles such as the trapezius and rotator cuff; and calf muscles.

It is also best to train big groups before doing isolation moves. Doing so allows you to work the large groups fully before you become fatigued. For example, if you are working back and biceps in the same session, train your back before doing the isolation moves targeting the biceps.

Together or far apart

If possible, avoid training muscles that work closely together within a day of each other. If you can't train these muscles together, allow adequate rest between them - ideally 48 hours.

Training close-knit groups within a short time of each other will reduce productivity. Muscles that have already been trained will remain fatigued during your next session.

Muscle groups which work closely together include:

- Chest, triceps and shoulders

- Back and biceps

- Legs and lower back

Quick tips

- Do bodyweight work such as dips, pull-ups, chin-ups and push-ups.

- Train abs regularly - strive for variety in ab training.

- Don't ignore legs. Just don't. We have explored this before.

     - Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email:;