Achieve your optimum health and fitness for a lifetime!


By John Litteral 12-12-22


I have learned throughout the years that to maximize your gains for building muscle and strength, it is very important to have a plan set in place. Just going into the gym and doing random exercises is not very effective. Of course, doing something is better than nothing, but a well-thought-out plan will help you make the best out of your time and raise your fitness gains to much higher levels.


For adequate gains, one should do resistance training at least three times a week. I personally train five and six days a week. It is important to work all parts of the body at least one time a week. For example, you need to make sure that you train your chest, back, shoulders, legs, arms and abs (core) at least once a week. For a single workout session, you should be able to get a complete resistance training workout within 30 to 60 minutes. Oftentimes workouts that last over 60 minutes are not any more effective than 60 minutes or less.  


Below are some examples ONLY. Everyone has different responsibilities and schedules.

DAY 1 (Monday): Chest, shoulders, and triceps

DAY 2 (Wednesday): Back and biceps

DAY 3 (Friday): Legs and abs

The reason why I arranged the body parts in the order that I did is because, for example, on day 1, when you train your chest, your shoulders and triceps will be highly involved when doing exercises such as the bench press and the incline bench press. Your chest, shoulders, and triceps are all pushing muscles. On day 2, when you train your back, your biceps are highly involved in just about any back exercise, because both the back and biceps are pulling muscles. It is important to start off with your chest exercises first before doing shoulders and triceps because your chest is bigger and stronger, therefore it needs to be done while you are not fatigued. Then you should follow your chest training with shoulders, because if you train shoulders before chest, you will not be able to use as much weight for your chest exercises because your shoulders will be fatigued. It is wise to (almost) always work your bigger muscles first before the smaller muscles, therefore maximizing your gains. Your smaller muscles like shoulders and triceps will already have gotten trained hard during your chest exercises. After working chest, then go to shoulders exercises before triceps exercises, because triceps are smaller muscles than shoulders. And triceps are also involved in your shoulder pressing exercises, which means that by the time you get to your triceps exercises they will be pre-exhausted and they have played their part helping you perform your chest and shoulder exercises.

The same principle goes for training your back and biceps. If you do your bicep exercises before your back exercises, then you will not be able to train your back nearly as effective because your biceps play a large part in your back exercises.  

Legs are your biggest and strongest muscles, which means that having a day for just training legs is oftentimes preferred because those bigger muscles require more blood and oxygen, which will lead to greater fatigue than the other smaller muscles. I don’t recommend training abs before legs because your abs (core) are involved in the squat exercise.   


The schedule below is ONLY an example. Adjust the schedule for what works best for you.

DAY 1 (Monday): Chest and abs (core)

DAY 2 (Tuesday): Back and shoulders

DAY 3 (Wednesday): Triceps and Biceps

DAY 4 (Friday): Legs

The above example for a 4 day a week training schedule will allow you to make greater gains for your smaller muscles than the 3 day a week training schedule. The reason is, because on the 4 day a week schedule, your smaller muscles are not getting pre-exhausted, but rather they are getting trained while those muscles are fresh. This means that you will be able to use more weight during those exercises for those smaller body parts, therefore they will get stronger and bigger. For example, by not training your shoulders on the same day as chest, you will be able to use more weight for shoulder exercises, especially the pressing movement such as the overhead shoulder press. Also, by training your triceps on another day from your chest and shoulders, you will be able to use a lot more weight for your triceps exercises, which will lead to bigger and stronger triceps. Also, by training your biceps on a different day than your back, you will grow bigger and stronger biceps because the biceps will not be pre-exhausted from the back exercises.

The reason why I combined the back and shoulder training together is because training both of those together will not cause much pre-exhaustion for either. The reason is because the back muscles are pulling muscles and the shoulders are pushing muscles. There is a benefit to training your back before shoulders, and that is the back training will help your shoulders get good and warmed up, which will help prevent shoulder injuries. I will discuss the necessity of warming up a little later in another article.


The schedule below is ONLY an example. Adjust the schedule for what works best for you.

DAY 1 (Monday): Chest

DAY 2 (Tuesday): Shoulders

DAY 3 (Wednesday): Back and abs (core)

DAY 4 (Thursday): Legs

DAY 5 (Friday): Triceps and biceps

The 5 day a week training schedule is what I prefer for myself. This allows me to split up every muscle group individually. It is very effective because it allows each muscle group to be trained fresh without any pre-exhaustion, and it makes for shorter workouts at a time because no body parts are having to be trained together. The arrangement of the body parts per day does have a purpose because even though the body parts are trained on separate days, there is some level of pre-exhaustion to the muscles when you train two days back-to-back. If you work your shoulders on Monday and then your chest on Tuesday, your chest workout may be somewhat hindered because your shoulders will probably be a little fatigued from the shoulder workout the day before. If you work your triceps the day before working chest or shoulders, then your chest and shoulder workout may be impacted and suffer because your triceps will still be pre-exhausted. The same goes for back and biceps. If you train your biceps one day and then train your back the following day, then there is a chance that it will impact and hinder your back training because your biceps will likely be fatigued.

Note, if you work your chest first, it does not matter what order of days that you work your back, shoulders and legs, so pick what best works for you.


Back in 1996, I was highly influenced by Gary Strydom’s training routine, and it is still a pattern that I try to follow to this day. Gary said,

“I don’t train hours on end in the gym, or do long workouts [they’re usually 45-75 minutes]. Every fourth day is for rest, but I might even take an extra day off if I feel the need.”

DAY 1: Back   

DAY 2: Chest

DAY 3: Biceps and triceps

DAY 4: Rest

DAY 5: Legs

DAY 6: Shoulders

DAY 7: Abs and calves

DAY 8: Rest

DAY 9: Cycle repeats

I adopted this training split in late 1996 and it has been the model that I have gravitated towards for most of the time since. I don’t always follow the order exactly in detail and the order of the days, but I use it as the standard example to follow. It calls for intense workouts and sufficient rest. This would be considered high intensity-low volume.

Gary offered some valuable details concerning his training…

“I use an all-out style of training completed in short, intense sessions. I don’t go crazy with the poundages. I’m a big man and I can handle some very heavy poundage, but in the interest of safety, I use what would be termed moderate weights…

Use full-range movements over partial reps. Do your movements from the point of full extension to peak contraction until you reach muscle failure.

Use absolutely flawless execution. I can’t overstate the importance of this.

Do your pushing movements before flye movements, which isolate the [muscles] and can be done with lighter weights for higher reps. This will push you even deeper into the growth zone…

I don’t rely on too many intensity techniques, except an occasional forced rep from my training partner on a heavy set.”1


1 Muscle and Fitness, September 1996, page 57

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