Whether you are a beginner who is weight training for the first time, or someone who has had some experience lifting but is looking to learn more about it, one of the most important things to know when exercising is what muscles to work together. The reason for this is simple: working the wrong muscle groups together, or working too many muscle groups at the same time, will hinder hypertrophy - the increase in muscle size.
Then, what’re the best muscle groups to work on the same day? And how am I going to do it right? With our guidelines below, you’re on your path to becoming the next Mr. Olympia!
More Is Not Better
A common mistake made by newcomers is to train as many muscles as possible in one workout with the hope of gaining muscle over your whole body. With weight training, it is detrimental to your overall muscle growth if you attempt to train too many muscles at the same time. This is because muscle growth requires a lot of energy and work from your nervous system, and your body will be unable to deal with the strain of training numerous groups at one time. This is known as overtraining, and can lead to muscle atrophy - the decrease in muscle size.
Equally, it is important to ensure that you allow at least two days of rest for a muscle group that you have worked to recover before training it again. This is because when you lift weights, your muscles experience microscopic tears in their fibres which repair stronger and grow larger through rest and proper nutrition.
For this reason, it is important not to exercise the same muscle every day, but rather formulate a workout schedule that allows you to train different body parts on different days so that your muscles become stimulated to grow optimally.
What Muscles to Work Together
The best way of training to ensure that you are not overworking muscle groups is to divide your workouts into separate days, with each workout having exercises that will target specific muscle groups.
Then what muscles to work together exactly? The largest muscles in your body are your legs, back and chest. For this reason, it is sensible to begin by creating three different workout regimes that each focuses on a respective muscle group. As well as this, it is useful to factor the smaller muscle groups–shoulders, biceps, triceps, calves and forearms–in these three workouts.
A popular workout program is that known as the “push/pull/legs” split; this dedicates one workout to upper-body exercises with a pushing motion (movements that will train your chest, shoulders and triceps), another to those upper-body exercises with a pulling motion (working your back and biceps) and a final one to leg exercises (which will include your calves).
Workout #1: Chest, Shoulders and Triceps
Bench press: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
You can alter this to an incline/decline press depending on your desired shape of pectorals, and you may also use dumbbells instead of a barbell if you are looking to place emphasis on your chest.
Seated shoulder press: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Either dumbbells or a barbell is fine.
Chest fly: 3 sets of 6-12 reps
Again, this can be altered to an incline/decline fly position if you are looking to focus on your upper/lower pectorals, and you may use either dumbbells or cables to perform this exercise.
Triceps pushdown: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
You may use either a rope or barbell attachment to perform this exercise; the former will target the inside of your triceps more while the latter will place a greater emphasis on the outside.
Press-ups: 1 set to failure
This means that you perform the exercise until you can no longer perform any more reps.
Workout #2: Quads, Hamstrings and Calves
Barbell squat: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Preferably perform this exercise with a power rack so that you can easily return the weight if you are struggling, or alternatively with a spotter who can support you.
Leg press: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Lying leg curls: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Leg extensions: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Standing calf raises: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Workout #3: Back, Biceps and Forearms
Deadlift: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
You should ideally perform this in front of a mirror so that you can make sure that your form is correct; it is very important to keep your back straight as you lift the weight to prevent back injury.
Lat pulldown: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
You can use either a wide-grip if you want to place more focus on widening your back, or alternatively grip the bar with your hands together and your palms facing inwards to exercise your biceps and inner back more.
Seated row: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Barbell curls: 3 sets of 4-12 reps
Change the type of bar you use from a barbell to an EZ bar if you want to hit your biceps from a new angle and stimulate greater muscle growth.
Zottman curls: 3 sets of 4-12 reps