Finding the ideal workout split for your goals, your workout preferences, and your lifestyle can be a little bit tricky. There are so many fitness authorities using different methods, all yielding great results. So how do you choose what to follow? By picking what works for your schedule and what allows you to maximize intensity in the gym, and recovery outside of it.
Right now, IFBB bikini pro Tawna Eubanks says the split that hits that dual sweet spot most for her is a four-days-per-week regimen, alternating upper and lower body. Having three full days off from the gym might sound like a lot for a competitor, even in the offseason, but Eubanks says it has some unique benefits.
"Lots of rest and recovery days means I'm working full force on those training days," she says. "Because I'm only doing two upper-body days per week, my goal [on those days] is to just hit the total upper body. I can get the most out of these workouts because I don't have to hold anything back," says Eubanks.
No matter if you're accustomed to a full-body approach, or a split routine, this could be a welcome change of pace. Try Eubanks' upper-body routine and you may become a believer!
Most of the sets in this workout call for 12 reps, which is right in that hypertrophy (muscle building) range. Select weight that makes these 12 reps difficult, but not impossible. The last couple reps of each set should be tough, but not impossible.
If you grab a weight that's too light and you cruise through all 12, your muscles won't get the appropriate amount of stress to elicit strength gains. If you use a weight that's too heavy, you probably won't be able to complete the desired amount of repetitions. Take the time to find the happy medium!
Incline Bench Press
The incline press is a great way to hit your upper chest, triceps, and front delts. If you have shoulder issues doing a flat bench press, using an incline can also alleviate some of that pain.
You don't need to incline the bench very far—just 15-30 degrees will do. Any more than this and you'll hit your shoulders more than your chest, which is not the purpose of this movement.
If you don't already have a chin-up in your bag of tricks, this is a great way to work your lats, as well as gain the necessary strength to achieve a bodyweight chin-up.
Pull a box or a bench under the chin-up bar and attach a dip belt with weight to your waist. Stand on the box and jump yourself up so your chin is over the bar. Then, slowly lower yourself down. Go slow and count 5 full seconds before you reach the bottom with arms fully extended. Jump back up and repeat.
This should feel tough but doable, so select your weight accordingly. If it's difficult enough without weight, then you can just use your body.
Two-Arm Cable Lateral Raise
This is a great movement to hit your medial (middle) delts. You'll need both sides of a pulley system for this exercise. Set the cables at the very bottom setting and attach a handle. Step back and cross the cables in front of you.
Then, raise the handles up to shoulder height with a slight but not severe bend in the elbows. Try not to let your hips or lower back do any of the pulling—just use your shoulders. You won't need a lot of weight to feel the burn.
Dumbbell Front Raise
Eubanks likes to do these hammer-grip style, which means her hands are in a neutral position, with the palms facing each other. Hold both dumbbells at your sides. Raise your right arm until the dumbbell is at shoulder height, then lower it. Repeat with the left arm and alternate for 12 reps.
As with the cable raises, try not to let any other part of your body move. Concentrate on using your shoulders to lift the dumbbell. If your body is squirming around, it means the weight you're using is too heavy.
Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
This exercise is one of the best ways to hit your rear delts, an oft-neglected part of the shoulder. Bend over and keep your back as flat as you can. Bring the dumbbells together with your arms fairly straight under your chest.
Bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells up and out. Think about pulling your elbows to the ceiling and concentrate on using the back of your shoulder to move the dumbbells.
Sit on the cable row machine with your knees slightly bent. Keeping your upper body as straight as you can, pull the cable toward your chest. Maintain an upright upper body as you straighten your arms.
Repeat the movement, thinking about pulling your elbows toward the wall behind you. Try not to allow your torso to move as you lift.
Biceps Curl 21s
This is one of those old-school bodybuilding techniques that's really fun, and really hard. Use an EZ-bar; you probably won't need to load it much. Start with the bar at the bottom of the lift at your thigh, then curl it up until your elbow is at 90 degrees. Do 7 reps at this range of motion.
Then, bring the bar to the top of the movement, (bar at shoulder level), and lower it until your elbow is at 90 degrees. Do 7 reps at this range of motion. Finally, do 7 reps at the full range of motion. This is a burner!
Push-ups are generally thought of as a chest exercise, but if you bring your hands in and keep your elbows pinned to your sides, you'll feel a lot more triceps activation.
To start, lie on the ground and place your hands at about the chest line. Squeeze your butt and your abs and press into the ground to lift yourself up.
Lower yourself back down while maintaining that straight line through your entire body. After all the work you've done, it won't take many reps of these to make your triceps scream. Just 2 sets, and you're done!