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40 yr old male, been working out for a few years, generally decent fitness level. Not looking to get big, just looking to stay fit and have enough energy to chase my 2 year old around. I exercise about 4-5 times a week alternating between cardio and lifting, so I lift either 2 or 3 times a week.

My question is it better to target just one muscle group per day? So for example do maybe 4 sets of chest on Lift Day 1, 4 sets of arms on Lift Day 2, etc. Or, would it be better for the 4 sets to target different muscle groups, so Lift Day 1 maybe 1 set chest, 1 set back, 1 set arms, 1 set legs, etc. Then do the same on Lift Day 2 maybe vary the actual exercises.

Thanks.

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If you do concentrate on one muscle group, it would be helpful if you work the antagonist muscle of that group. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antagonist_(muscle) –  William Andrus Dec 9 '11 at 22:34

2 Answers 2

The answer to your question has to do with your personal goals. Do you want to focus on strength or aesthetics? There is a difference, both in programming and in the approach to training.

Focus on Strength

Check out an Intro on Strength Training I did a while back. It provides some information what that entails. The quick info as applies to your question is:

  • Focus on compound lifts such as squats, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press
  • Lower reps per set improve the top weight you can lift
  • Programs are full body training of varying weights.

Focus on Aesthetics

This would be your bodybuilders. The "ideal" body has your muscles in certain ratios to each other so that you achieve a balanced physique. There's a couple distinctions between building muscle for strength and looks:

  • Focus on isolation exercises to build mass where you want it, and not where you don't
  • Higher reps per set improve sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (size)
  • Programs tend to be split routines focusing on one muscle group at a time

Jim Wendler's Twist

Wendler was once a power lifter, and has devised a program (5/3/1) that can really be tailored to your end goals. His program is designed for advanced lifters, meaning someone who can only make strength increases once a month. However, there are some underlying philosophies that can be very useful depending on your current set of goals:

  • Every successful program should have a strength component, a hypertrophy component (size), and a conditioning component.
  • You simply vary the proportions of each to address your current goals; similar to the way you balance work, family, and play.
  • Training sessions should be limited to about an hour.

Conclusions

Focus your training on what you want to do. For me, I am concerned more with strength and conditioning, but I still need that hypertrophy component to help the support systems in my muscles to sustain the heavier lifts.

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Can you please give references to Jim Wendlers programs. This makes a lot of sense. Add strength + size routines together, this would give very good results. –  Geek Nov 30 '12 at 17:09
    
Check out jimwendler.com and the link to his book is amazon.com/Simplest-Effective-Training-Strength-Edition/dp/… –  Berin Loritsch Dec 1 '12 at 3:24
    
If you just want to punch in numbers and get the program template for you check out strstd.com –  Berin Loritsch Dec 1 '12 at 3:25

From everything I read, the question to ask yourself regarding doing a full body routine or split (focusing on various muscles during any one day's workout) is: Can I fully push/tax my various muscles in order to gain strength, size, etc. (dependent on your goals) at the same time OR do I need to focus on one major muscle group (chest, back, glutes/legs) at a time to get my results?

So, if you're happy with your progress with a full body routine, stay with it. If you've maxed out your time/effort in a single workout and not seeing progress, either change what you're doing by adding weight or exercise or FOCUS (split).

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