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My current workout schedule is 5 straight days. 3 days upper body weights, 2 days elliptical and abs, alternating days. I was reading up on how alternating sets is best if you want to increase the weight you lift because you work more muscles at high energy, and I was wondering if that principle applies to working the same area over multiple days.

For example, on weight days, I currently do (all dumbbell) bench press/one arm rows, lying flys/triceps kickback, shoulder press/bicep curls, and lateral raises/upright rows. On ab days I do flat and side planks, mountain climbers, reverse crunches, trunk rotations and glute lifts.

Would my workout benefit if I switched it up and alternated the weight training days to do some upper body weights and some abs 3 days a week instead of upper body 3 days and abs 2?

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    I must be reading it wrong. Where in the week are your squats and/or deadlifts? The only marginally passable leg exercise I see are glute lifts, which... No. – Alec Jun 25 '15 at 10:33
  • @Alec I'm very heavy, and squats are hell on my knees. That's why there's cardio twice a week.Another reason I'm thinking of spreading the upper body workouts over more days is to give myself more energy for deadlifts. on one of the days. – 9Deuce Jun 25 '15 at 11:11
  • I would absolutely recommend deadlifts. I personally don't squat a lot either, save for when I'm taking breaks from deadlifts. You definitely need to work one of them to develop your lower back to deal with the strain of the other exercises as you progress. A strong core is 100% crucial for your safety, but also it literally helps you in every other exercise you could ever do. On top of that, you could do leg presses to further develop your legs too. – Alec Jun 25 '15 at 11:13
  • Quadricep exercises, will give you a 'massive' testosterone boost, which will help muscle growth. So I'd recommend you to try and find an exercise that targets them but is easy on your knees. Doing squats however is probably the best exercise ever due to the number of muscles targeted, so if there is any way in which you could improve you knees, I'd definitely recommend you start trying them. – Tarius Jun 25 '15 at 22:38
  • I would try leg machines, but I've read those can be bad for your joints. – 9Deuce Jun 25 '15 at 23:10
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How alternating sets is best if you want to increase the weight you lift because you work more muscles at high energy.

I believe progressive overload is the key to be able to lift more weight. Whether you increase the weight / reps / sets, that is progressive overload.

With that said, to answer your main question :-

Focus on body part hard on one day, or spread it over multiple days?

This should depend on the user himself/herself. The reason is, some people prefers doing full body for 3 times per week and some prefers splitting up their work, doing legs on Monday, doing pushing (chest, triceps, shoulders) on Tuesday and so on. That being the case, you may want to play around and find which method suits you the most.

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  • I think what I read about alternating sets is that, since you switch between 2 workouts instead of going through 1 then another like straight sets, you have more energy and less fatigue to do 2 workouts. If you alternate bench and bicep curls instead of doing straight sets of bench then straight sets of bicep curls, your biceps are less fatigued at the start of the bicep curl. – 9Deuce Jun 25 '15 at 1:55
  • Ahh, I see. Instead of having rest in between sets, you will do another exercise. In any case, if you want to improve your lifts, you should either progress in terms of reps / sets / weights. Meaning, if you train with 30 kg dumbbell for your overhead press, doing it 5 sets of 5 reps, then you can choose to either increase the set / reps / weight the next time you do your overhead press say, 32.5 kg for 5 sets of 5 reps. – Aizul Jun 25 '15 at 3:41
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Interestingly enough, there is a large difference between how power lifters train and how body builders train.

Most body builders do splits of some sort, it's more common among power lifters to do whole body sessions every time.

There aren't really very many good scientific studies, boths ways definitely work well. Personally, I just started a 3-split (push+abs, pull, legs+lower back) where I start with the heavy compound lifts and end with isolation exercises. My experience is that it's easier both mentally and in terms of energy to focus on one group at each session. Doing squats+deadlifts+bench press in the same session is too much.

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