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I'm currently working out where I alternate between cardio and weightlifting, and on my weightlifting days I alternate the body parts I target. Doing this I work out everyday, the idea being since I'm working out different body parts on different days I'm giving each area the rest it needs.

I'm doing this because I find a habbit is easier to keep if its something that is manageable and done daily as opposed to weird rules (ie rest every 3rd day, or on weekends, etc).

Is there any problem with this? It seems like the reasons for taking a day off is to give the muscles time to heal, but if I'm working different muscles each day is it ok to work out each day?

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What type of weightlifting are you doing? I could expand/change my answer if I knew what your goals were. Is it strength? Bodybuilding? Are you doing primarily barbell exercises? Or isolation/machine work? –  user3085 Mar 8 '12 at 2:03
For cardio I alternate between HIIT on whatever cardio machine is open in the gym and distance running. For lifting, mostly free weight isolation but I use machines for motions you can't easily do with freeweights. I'm trying to drop weight. I've lost a lot of weight but struggling w/last 20 lbs and have been yo-yoing +/-20lbs. So I'm experimenting right now with different routines/diets. –  Dave Mar 8 '12 at 3:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If your body needs to devote resources to both doing new work and rebuilding from previous work, your rest is going to be less effective. Full rest days are better than partial rest (ie. resting legs while working on upper body). Your strength gains will suffer if you are doing cardio on days that could otherwise be rest days. It would be better to do cardio on the same day as you lift, leaving a full day off from any activity.

Also, it's very tricky to properly schedule a split routine like you're trying to do. From Mark Rippetoe's Practical Programming:

A common way to organize training among recreational lifters and bodybuilders is a "split" routine, where one body part or "muscle group" is worked each day, until the entire body has accumulated a workout. If "chest" is only trained once a week, even though training may occur several days per week, "chest" will not receive enough work to constitute overload, and optimal adaptation cannot occur. By the same token, "chest" will usually include triceps, since the bench press is the favorite chest exercise; if "shoulders" involves pressing, "arms" get their own day too, and "back" really means lats and therefore lat pulldowns or chins, it is possible to expose the triceps to four or more workouts in a week. This is an example of poor training organization producing a schedule that includes both inadequate and excessive exercise frequency.

Further, unless you are an advanced trainee, there's no need for complicated scheduling.

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The quote from Practical Programming makes a very good point. To be honest, splitting things up is how I'm going about it and the quote makes a good point about why it may be ineffective. I might give that book a try... –  Dave Mar 8 '12 at 15:48

I lift every day of the work week (take both weekend days off) and work out every muscle on every day. My current routine:

  • mon-fri morning (10-15 minutes) : bench press, pull ups
  • mon/wed/fri lunch (30-40 minutes) : Squats, dumb bell shoulder
    exercises, curls, weighted dips, calfs
  • tues/thurs lunch: max pull up set then 50 minutes of yoga
  • mon-fri afternoon a (10-15 minutes) : pull ups, military press, tricep extensions
  • mon-fri afteroon b (10-15 minutes) : rdls, bicep 21's with straight bar, chest fly (stretch mostly)
  • everyday (at home): pull up bar whenever I remember

Eventually, I should be rock climbing (primarily bouldering) several nights a week and during the day on saturday/sunday.

Here's my story: 6 month break from all exercise to recuperate from surgery to repair a labral tear (from rock climbing). I have been doing the above routine (basically, a little deviation) for the past four weeks and have been steam-rolling thought my recovery.

IMNHO rest days are only for people that over train a particular muscle to begin with due to obnoxiously long workout routines or through the use of steriods. Unless you fall into that category, focus more on quantity and worry less about going to failure or feeling a 'pump'.

Don't be afraid to try whatever and see how it works for you. To my surprise, this particular routine works best for my physiology and psychology: lots of short medium intensity lifting sessions and a tri-weekly session hard squatting/dead lifting.

=== Update/Clarification ===

I am trying to emphasize a more organic workout routine that is based on how my body feels throughout the day. During each of my 2-5 daily workouts I go in without a set plan (but with a base set of workouts and good idea of my current strength/weaknesses) and randomly pick an exercise. I then move to something else. Depending on what I am feeling strong or weak at, I'll then hammer away at that particular muscle group.


I go downstairs to my office gym around 10:45 AM. I start off with a quick easy set of wide grip pull ups. Then I grab some 45 weights and do a lap around the gym (farmer's walk?). I focus on how my body feels. Anything sore? If yes, then I'll make sure I don't overdue it when focusing on that that particular muscle group. If i feel somewhat fresh anywhere I'll try burning down that muscle group or do a compound exercise where it's the primary focus.

This particular morning I feel like my chest is a bit sore from yesterday. So I'll do a quick set of chest flies (using a machine), never going past 50% effort and for maybe 10 reps. After that, I notice that my shoulders are feeling a bit too fresh so I immediately start a tri-set of different dumb bell exercises focusing on my shoulder (front raises, side raises, bent over reverse flies). Then I do a set of pull up followed by a quick chest stretch for maybe a 1 minute. Back to the shoulders, immediately followed by another set of pull ups (probably narrow grip or chin up) and a 1-2 minute rest. On more set on the shoulders and then it's back up to my office.


It's all about the ebbs and flow. It's not a 'routine' per say, but a lifestyle. Without easy and frequent access to a gym it isn't viable. For me, it's effective and keeps me both mentally and physically engaged throughout the day.

One quick note: I don't recommend this routine for a novice lifter. This style of lifting requires years of experience in the gym to be used effectively and safely.

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oh, and I do abs intermittently. Trying to get back into doing ab ripper x, but meh. until i start cutting weight (by upping my cardio and reducing my yum yum intake) I think ab-centric exercises are a waste of time. –  Merritt Mar 27 '12 at 20:28
Rest days are for people that lift the maximum amount of weight they can lift for 3 sets of 5 reps, thus stimulating muscle adaptation that takes 24-72 hours to recover from, so that they can come back and lift more weight the next time. That's not overtraining and that's not because of steroids. –  user3085 Mar 27 '12 at 20:46
I totally agree with the "it works for me" sentiment, but I think that saying that rest days are bunk is overstating the case. –  Dave Liepmann Mar 27 '12 at 21:09
@Sancho I know what routine you are speaking about and I have done 5x5 and all sorts of variation. I've gotten up to doing 60+ lb weighted pull ups using such routines. However, my current believe is you can still exercise those same muscle groups on off days but using different techniques and focus. For instance, for bench I'll do 3x5 in the morning then 1x25 in the afternoon, and the next day I'll do 2x12 in the morning and then in the afternoon. Key here is fluctuating. I agree you can't 3x5 effectively everyday, but that doesn't mean you can't still work out that same group. –  Merritt Mar 27 '12 at 21:49
@Merritt. I agree that it is possible to workout on days that should be rest days, but you will build strength more slowly than had you rested on those days. Just saying that it worked for you doesn't mean that rest days wouldn't have worked better for you. –  user3085 Mar 27 '12 at 22:39

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