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Building Delts With Muscle Splits

Q: How can I set up a muscle split that has me training four days a week—Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday? I want to give delts priority because they’re lagging, but I don’t want to overtrain them or overlap with chest and triceps. Your advice is greatly appreciated.

A: Your training split will depend on your training experience and your ability to recuperate. A bodybuilder who is relatively new to training—six months to two years—can usually train each muscle group twice a week and still recuperate and grow. Also, younger trainers can train more frequently because they seem to recover much more quickly than older ones.

When I was in my early 20s, I trained four days a week, working each muscle group twice a week. I used the push-pull system, working chest, deltoids, triceps and calves on Monday and Thursday and legs, back, biceps and forearms on Tuesday and Friday.

If you want to focus on delts, that might not be the best choice for you. Although you would avoid overtraining your deltoids, because you’re working all the pushing muscles in one workout, you’re also in danger of tiring out your delts too much during the chest work to specialize on them afterward.

The push-pull workout is great for focusing on the basic exercises and building up size and strength. As you become more advanced and start using more resistance in your workouts and want to focus more on the individual muscle groups; however, it makes sense to split up your body into three or even four training sessions instead of just two.

For example, if you trained your body over three workouts, you could work chest and arms—triceps and biceps—on the first day, legs and abs on the second day and shoulders and back on the third day. That would be an excellent routine for you because you would be able to focus all of your efforts on your deltoids by training them first on the third day, and you wouldn’t have to worry about overtraining them because you don’t do any other pressing movements—for chest or triceps—on that day.

In order to get more out of your workouts, you may want to add a rest day to your schedule. When I’m using the three-days-on/one-day-off training cycle described above, I like to take an extra rest day after the first two days of training.

Here’s how that workout looks:


Day 1: Chest, arms, calves

Day 2: Abs, legs

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Delts, back

Day 5: Off

Cycle begins again


If you’re going to stick with training four days per week, you can still use that split, but you may have to be a little creative in terms of what days you want to take off from training. You don’t want to work chest and delts back to back, as both of those muscle groups either directly or indirectly work the deltoids.

Here’s a schedule for training four days a week and using the three-day split:


Week 1

Monday: Chest, arms, calves

Tuesday: Abs, legs

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Delts, back

Friday: Off

Saturday: Chest, arms, calves


Week 2 

Monday: Abs, legs

Tuesday: Delts, back

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Chest, arms, calves

Friday: Abs, legs


Week 3

Monday: Delts, back

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Chest, arms, calves

Thursday: Abs, legs

Friday: Delts, back


Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at and become a member. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to Send questions or comments to [email protected]. Look for John’s new DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse, www.Home-Gym
.com.  IM


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