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Creating a Weekly Weight Training Workout

When you begin a strength-training program, you should start by lifting weights two or three days per week for several weeks, completing one set of 10 to 12 reps. You may eventually want to increase to two or three sets. If your weight-lifting goal is maximum strength, targeting each muscle three times a week may not give your muscles enough chance to rest. In that case, cut back to two workouts per week.

If you really get into weight training, consider doing a split routine, in which you exercise some of your muscles during one workout, and then come back a day or two later to exercise the others. You still work each muscle at least twice a week, but because you don’t train every muscle during every workout, you can devote more energy to the muscles you’re focusing on that day — and each of your muscles still gets enough rest.

Splitting your routine is a good idea, especially if you’re serious about building muscle and if you have free time in small chunks. You may be fresher and more motivated if you walk into the gym knowing that, today, you have to work only your chest, triceps, and shoulders. You probably work these muscles harder than if you try to fit all your muscle groups into one workout.

There are two most popular ways of splitting a routine.

Push/pull

Work your pulling muscles (your back muscles and biceps) on one day, and during the next session, work your pushing muscles (your chest and triceps). You can fit in your leg, shoulder, and abdominal exercises whenever you want. Following is an example of a push/pull routine.

Day Muscles Worked
Monday Push (chest, triceps, shoulders, lower-body exercises)
Tuesday Pull (back, biceps, abdominals)
Wednesday REST
Thursday Push (chest, triceps, shoulders, lower-body exercises)
Friday REST
Saturday Pull (back, biceps, abdominals)
Sunday REST

Upper body/lower body

You work your upper body one day and your lower body the next. You fit in your abs two to four times a week whenever it’s convenient. Here's an example:

Day Muscles Worked
Monday Upper body (back, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps)
Tuesday Lower body (gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominals)
Wednesday REST
Thursday Upper body (back, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps)
Friday REST
Saturday Lower body (gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominals)
Sunday REST

Whatever workout schedule you design, make sure each muscle group gets at least one full day of rest between sessions. You can lift two days back to back, but you don’t want to lift with your upper body, for example, two days in a row. Lifting weight literally creates tiny little tears in your muscles. They need those 48 hours to recover and rebuild.

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