Thursday, September 23, 2021
The Best Muscle Workouts

Overview, Benefits and Sample Workouts – Fitness Volt

Almost everyone who lifts weights has a favorite split routine, and when it comes to planning your workouts, there are…

By admint10m , in Arms , at July 22, 2021


Almost everyone who lifts weights has a favorite split routine, and when it comes to planning your workouts, there are many options to choose from. Popular workout splits include:

The reason that there are so many split routines is that they all work. Providing you train hard enough and are consistent, even a poorly designed program will produce at least some results.

And therein lies the rub; while a poorly constructed workout plan will still work, it can also cause problems. For example, it’s all too easy to spend more time than you should training your favorite muscle groups and not enough time on the rest of your body. That’s why so many training programs are dominated by chest and arm exercises.

And that’s where the functional training split comes in. It’s an almost foolproof way to create a balanced workout program that ensures all muscle groups are trained equally.

In this article, we’re going to explain what the functional training split is, why it’s so valuable and effective, and provide you with a couple of sample workouts to follow.

Read more about the 12 best workout splits here.

Functional Training Split Overview

Most split routines organize your workouts by muscle group. For example, you might train your chest and triceps one day and your back and biceps the next, and your legs after that.

But, there is a problem with this approach; it’s all too easy to create an unbalanced workout.

If you look at most training programs, invariably, they involve far more pushing (chest, shoulders, triceps) than pulling (back, biceps) exercises, and upper body training almost always outweighs lower body training.

With the functional training split, instead of thinking in terms of muscle groups, exercises are arranged according to their main joint action and plane of movement. This ensures that all muscles are trained equally.

The functional training split was invented and popularized by Australian strength coach Ian King in his book “Get Buffed,” which was a terrible title for what is actually one of the best books ever written on strength training program design.

Ian King Coach
Ian King (Photo via @coachianking)

King believed that by focusing more on movements than individual muscles, it was possible to not only increase muscle mass and strength, but develop functional balance, improve posture, reduce the risk of chronic injury, and increase athletic performance, all at the same time.


The functional split uses this framework and usually involves four training days per week:

Workout One Workout Two Workout Three Workout Four
Upper body vertical push and pull, plus elbow flexion/ extension Lower body, hip-dominant exercises plus calves Upper body horizontal pull and push, plus elbow flexion/extension Lower body, knee-dominant exercises plus calves

As you can see, there is no mention of things like chest or shoulders but using this split will ensure all muscle groups are trained equally.

You may be unfamiliar with classifying exercises according to the dominant movement, so here is a brief list of example exercises grouped by their anatomical function:

Movements Details
Upper body vertical push Barbell/dumbbell shoulder press, shoulder press machine, handstand push-ups
Upper body vertical pull Pull-ups, chin-ups, lat pulldowns, pullovers
Upper body horizontal push Barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, push-ups, dips, chest press
Upper body horizontal pull Seated rows, single-arm rows, bent-over rows, incline rows, Pendlay
Elbow flexion Barbell, cable, and dumbbell biceps curls
Elbow extension Triceps kickbacks, overhead extensions, pushdowns, skull crushers
Lower body hip dominant Deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, leg curls, hip thrusts  
Lower body knee dominant Back squats, front squats, box squats, leg press, leg extensions, lunges
Calves Standing calf raise, seated calf raise, donkey calf raise, single-leg
calf raise

Admittedly, some exercises are a little harder to classify, for example, side raises and upright rows. Generally speaking, shoulder exercises like side raises fit best into the vertical push exercise, while upright rows could be put in either of the upper body pulling groups.

Just use your common sense and put any hard to classify movements in the most logical place while staying true to the spirit of the workout.  

Functional Training Split Advantages and Benefits

There are several advantages and benefits to following a functional split:

Structural balance

Muscles are arranged in opposing pairs across joints, such as biceps and triceps and quadriceps and hamstrings. For joint health, posture, and optimal function, both muscles in each pair should be trained equally and be similar in strength. Imbalances can lead to poor posture and joint pain.

The functional split ensures that pairs of muscles are developed evenly. For example, for every vertical pushing exercise you do, there will be a corresponding vertical pulling exercise.

Chris Bumstead At Olympia Stage
Chris Bumstead at Olympia Stage (Image via Olympia LLC)

Better balance between upper and lower body training

A lot of training splits involve just one lower body workout per week. Unless you are blessed with great genetics, that’s probably not enough to maximize leg development. With the functional training split, you train your legs twice a week.

Suitable for all training goals

It doesn’t matter if you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, strongman competitor, or just work out for health and fitness; you can adapt and use the functional training split to train for any goal. It’s a very versatile framework. The same cannot be said for most body part split routines.

Four days per week is the ideal training frequency for most people

The functional split involves four workouts per week, which provides an almost perfect balance between training and rest. Four workouts per week are manageable and sustainable for most people. Training more often will probably not produce better results and could lead to overtraining.

Perfect for time-saving supersets

You can make your upper body workouts more time-efficient with agonist vs. antagonist supersets. For example, for your horizontal push and pull workout, you could alternate between bench presses and wide-grip bent-over rows, essentially halving the amount of time spent resting per workout.

Flexible training days

Because there are minimal overlaps between training days, you can perform your workouts (W/O) in several different ways.

For example:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
W/O 1 W/O 2 Rest W/O 3 W/O 4 Rest Rest
W/O 1 W/O 2 W/O 3 W/O 4 Rest Rest Rest
W/O 1 W/O 2 Rest W/O 3 Rest W/O 4 Rest
Rest W/O 1 Rest W/O 2 Rest W/O 3 W/O 4

This makes the functional workout split ideal for exercisers who find it hard to commit to training the same days each week. Instead, you can just keep rotating through the four workouts, training as and when your schedule allows.

Missing a workout is not a complete disaster

With a body part split, a missed workout can have a significant impact on your training. For example, if you miss chest day, it could be another week before you can get back on track.

With the functional training split, even if you miss a workout, many of those muscles are trained elsewhere during your workout week. While you should still try and avoid skipping workouts, the occasional missed training session shouldn’t undermine your progress too much.

Functional Training Split Sample Workouts

While you should have little problem putting together your own functional split workouts, here are three examples for you to try or modify according to your preferences and needs.

There is a bodybuilding, powerlifting, and a home bodyweight/resistance band workout for you to choose from.

Functional training split #1 – Bodybuilding

  Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3 Workout 4
  Upper body vertical push and pull Lower body – hip-dominant Upper body horizontal push and pull Lower body – knee-dominant
1 Incline dumbbell press Deficit deadlifts Overhead barbell press Front squat
2 Chest supported dumbbell row Reverse lunge Chin-up Forward lunge
3 Wide grip bench press Leg curl Seated dumbbell press Leg extension
4 Wide grip bent-over row Good morning Neutral grip lat pulldown Leg press
5 Cable crossover Standing calf raise Lateral raise Seated calf raise
6 Reverse cable fly   Narrow grip lat pulldown  
7 Skull crusher   Barbell curl  
8 Triceps pushdown   Preacher curl  

For this workout, do 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps of each exercise, resting 60-90 seconds between sets. To save time, feel free to superset opposing pairs of movements, resting only after completing the second exercise.


Functional training split #2 – Powerlifting

  Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3 Workout 4
  Upper body Horizontal push and pull Lower body – knee-dominant Upper body vertical push and pull Lower body – hip-dominant
1 Barbell bench press Barbell back squat Barbell push-press Deadlift
2 Pendlay row Pause squat Pull-ups Pause deadlift
3 Paused bench press Bulgarian split squat Single-arm dumbbell press Romanian deadlift
4 Face pulls Leg extensions Neutral grip lat pulldowns Leg curls
5 Close grip bench press Single-leg calf raise Arnold press Donkey calf raise
6 Barbell curl   Dumbbell skull crushers  

Ramp up to your 5, 3, or 1 rep max for the day, plus 1-2 back-off sets with 90% of your final weight on the first exercise of each workout. Rest 3-4 minutes between sets. Afterward, do 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps of the accessory exercises, resting 60-90 seconds between sets.


Functional training split #3 – Home Bodyweight & Band

  Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3 Workout 4
  Upper body vertical push and pull Lower body – knee-dominant Upper body horizontal push and pull Lower body – hip-dominant
1 Handstand push-up Wide stance squat jump Decline push-up Single-leg Romanian deadlift
2 Pull-up Walking lunge Incline row Nordic leg curl
3 Pike push-up Leg extension with band Chest press with band Romanian deadlift with band
4 Resistance band lat pulldown Wall squat Seated row with band Prisoner good morning
5 Diamond push-up Single-leg calf raise Triceps kickback with band Single-leg calf raise
6 Resistance band biceps curl   Concentration curl with band  

For this bodyweight and band workout, just do 2-4 sets of as many reps as it takes to get within a rep or two of failure. Rest a moment and repeat. We can’t give you detailed set and rep schemes for this workout because things like bodyweight and band strength will dictate how many reps you can do. 

The Functional Training Split – Wrapping Up

The functional training split is a very effective and efficient way to organize your workouts that should help fix and prevent muscle imbalances and ensures you work your upper body and lower body equally.

But is the BEST split? Probably not.

The truth is, there is no universal training split that works for everyone. For some, a six-day push-pull-leg split works best. For others, three full-body workouts a week is more productive.

That said, the functional training split has some real advantages and benefits over other types of workout split, so it’s definitely worth trying. After all, it might be the perfect way to reach your training goals, but you won’t know unless you try! 


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