Charles is here on a weekly basis to help you cut through the B.S. and get some real perspective regarding health and training. Please post feedback or questions to Charles directly in the comments below this article.
 
What's the best way to organize your training week: Whole-body workouts or upper-lower splits? The training week is one of the smallest functional units of training, often called a “microcycle.” Individual workouts are the absolute smallest units. How you organize those units has a significant impact on your overall training success. If you know how to do it effectively, you’ll be well on the road to success.
 
cambered bar squat
Attention to detail in how you program day-to-day can pay huge dividends over a whole training cycle.
 

Construction of a Microcycle

A key element to constructing effective microcycles is understanding and respecting the individual recovery curves of the various exercises in your plan. You want to do as much work as possible in one week, while providing adequate time for recovery. You also want to represent all areas of the body and/or movement patterns equally and with minimal redundancy.  
The most important piece of data to take into account when designing a microcycle is your strength level. Your strength for any given muscle (or lift) determines how often it needs to be trained. This dictates to a large degree what your training week will look like.
 
If your maximum bench press is 250lb, you could and should include exercises for that lift about three days a week. This will provide adequate time for recovery between sessions. On the other hand, someone who can bench 450lb will require more recovery time, and so might train that lift only twice a week, and one of those sessions would be fairly light. 
 

Whole-Body vs. Upper-Lower Split Programming

Below are two sample training weeks based on strength levels. The first cycle is for a relatively weak lifter, and it employs a “whole-body” approach. The second is better suited for stronger lifters, and features an “upper/lower split” organization. As you look at these two hypothetical examples, focus on the overall patterns and don’t get caught up in the specific exercises.
 
Whole Body Sample Week

This whole-body program is best suited for lifters who bench press less than 250lb, squat less than 300lb, or deadlift less than 350lb.

 
Upper-Lower Split Sample Week

The upper-lower split is best suited for lifters who bench 275+lb, squat 350+lb, and/or deadlift 400+lb.

 
If you don’t fit squarely into either of these categories, organize your training week according to your level of strength and required recovery time. If you’re weaker than those who qualify for the whole-body plan, you can likely tolerate more volume, so you would do whole-body workouts four days a week instead of three. If you’re stronger than those who qualify for the upper-lower split, space your sessions out a bit more to allow full recovery between sessions. 
 
I hope this helps eliminate some confusion about this common question. If not, I’d love to hear your questions and comments below!
 

This Week’s Training:

Volume: 96,892lb
 
Significant Lifts:
  • Squat: 215 x 8
  • Bench Press: 195 x 8
  • 4” Block Pull: 395 x 8
 
Sorry I missed you all last week; I was sick and only managed a single workout. This week, I’m starting a new training cycle with 8 target reps per set. I’ve added a few new exercises and carried some over from the previous cycle. I’ll run these higher reps for a total of five weeks, and then transition to a strength phase, since I haven’t done any low-rep training in a while.

Monday, April 4, 2016

 
Bodyweight: 198.6lb
Volume: 27,895lb
 
Goblet Squat
  • Set 1: 10lb × 10
  • Set 2: 25lb × 10
  • Set 3: 55lb × 10
 
High Bar Squat
  • Set 1: 45lb × 10
  • Set 2: 95lb × 8
  • Set 3: 135lb × 6
  • Set 4: 185lb × 2
  • Set 5: 215lb × 8
  • Set 6: 215lb × 7
  • Set 7: 215lb × 8
  • Set 8: 215lb × 8
 
2.5" Deficit Pull
  • Set 1: 135lb × 5
  • Set 2: 185lb × 5
  • Set 3: 225lb × 5
  • Set 4: 275lb × 2
  • Set 5: 275lb × 3
 
Leg Press
  • Set 1: 180lb × 8
  • Set 2: 270lb × 8
  • Set 3: 340lb × 8
  • Set 4: 340lb × 8
 
Standing Calf Raise
  • Set 1: 200lb × 8
  • Set 2: 200lb × 8
  • Set 3: 200lb × 8
 
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
 
Bodyweight: 199.2lb
Volume: 21,063lb
 
Bench Press
  • Set 1: 45lb × 10
  • Set 2: 95lb × 8
  • Set 3: 135lb × 6
  • Set 4: 175lb × 4
  • Set 5: 195lb × 8
  • Set 6: 195lb × 8
  • Set 7: 195lb × 8
  • Set 8: 195lb × 8
 
Close Grip Bench Press
  • Set 1: 135lb × 8
  • Set 2: 155lb × 8
  • Set 3: 165lb × 8
 
Chin Up
  • Set 1: 1 reps
  • Set 2: 2 reps
  • Set 3: 3 reps
  • Set 4: 4 reps
  • Set 5: 5 reps
  • Set 6: 6 reps
 
Incline Dumbbell Press
  • Set 1: 100lb × 8
  • Set 2: 130lb × 8
  • Set 3: 130lb × 8
 
EZ Bar Curl
  • Set 1: 45lb × 8
  • Set 2: 65lb × 8
  • Set 3: 65lb × 8
 
Thursday, April 7, 2016
 
Bodyweight: 200.2lb
Volume: 31,404lb
 
4" Block Pull
  • Set 1: 135lb × 8
  • Set 2: 185lb × 8
  • Set 3: 225lb × 8
  • Set 4: 315lb × 8
  • Set 5: 365lb × 8
  • Set 6: 385lb × 8
  • Set 7: 395lb × 8 (Video Below)

 

 

Hack Squat
  • Set 1: 90lb × 8
  • Set 2: 180lb × 8
  • Set 3: 180lb × 8
  • Set 4: 180lb × 8
 
Back Extension
  • Set 1: +140lb × 8
  • Set 2: +140lb × 8
  • Set 3: +140lb × 8
 
Seated Calf Raise
  • Set 1: 90lb × 8
  • Set 2: 90lb × 8
  • Set 3: 90lb × 8
 
Friday, April 8, 2016
 
Bodyweight: 199lb
Volume: 16,530lb
 
Bench Press (Dumbbell)
  • Set 1: 100lb × 10
  • Set 2: 150lb × 8
  • Set 3: 180lb × 8
  • Set 4: 180lb × 8
 
Military Press
  • Set 1: 45lb × 10
  • Set 2: 65lb × 8
  • Set 3: 85lb × 8
  • Set 4: 95lb × 8
 
Seated Row
  • Set 1: 135lb × 8
  • Set 2: 165lb × 8
  • Set 3: 180lb × 8
 
Tricep Pushdowns
  • Set 1: 150lb × 8
  • Set 2: 150lb × 8
  • Set 3: 150lb × 8
 
Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)
  • Set 1: 60lb × 8
  • Set 2: 70lb × 8
  • Set 3: 70lb × 8
 
More Tips on Effective Programming:
 

Photo courtesy of Strength Education:

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