Why do they make this mistake? Simple, it is what is presented to them in every magazine they read, and website they click on. However, novice trainees lack the neuromuscular coordination that is required to stimulate enough muscle fibers that would require a week of rest. Not only that, but a total body workout composed of compound exercises will stimulate a greater hormone response in the body than any split routine cut out of a magazine. I have witnessed and talked to many trainees that frequent the gym with nothing to show for it. Quite simply, they are working out all wrong. A three day per week total body workout can produce more lean body mass than any split routine when utilized correctly.
A total body workout should be set up from largest to smallest. This means you train the largest muscle groups first, and your smaller muscle groups second. Your largest muscle groups include your legs, chest, and back. Shoulders, triceps, biceps, calves, and abdominals are your smaller muscle groups. For instance, triceps play a secondary role in all pressing movements. If you were to train your triceps first, your strength on bench press, or shoulder press, would be drastically reduced. Same goes for biceps. Training your biceps before your back will hinder your strength on all pulling exercises ,such as pull ups and rows. Remember, largest to smallest.
Next, you want to put your most physically demanding exercises first. Squats, deadlifts, and bench press are the big three. These are exercises that require the most energy and focus. This is not to say that squats cannot be done at the end of a workout, but you will severely limit the effort you can put into them if you do. As a result, your overall progress will be limited, too.
Example Workout #1
- Squats (3 sets x 10 reps)
- Hamstring Curls (3 sets x 12 reps)
- Bench Press (3 sets x 10 reps)
- Bent over Barbell Rows (3 sets x 10 reps)
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 sets x 15 reps)
- Barbell Curls (2 sets x 15 reps)
- Triceps Pushdowns (2 sets x 15 reps)
Example Workout #2
- Deadlifts (3 sets x 8 reps)
- Hamstring Curls (2 sets x 12 reps)
- Incline Bench Press (3 sets x 8-10 reps)
- Pullups (3 sets x Failure)
- Lateral Raises (3 sets x 15 reps)
- Alternating Dumbbell Curls (2 sets x 15 reps)
- Overhead Triceps Extensions (2 sets x 15 reps)
Notice the layout on both of these examples. The most demanding exercises are done first, with lower rep schemes. The lower reps for the first exercises are chosen because they will help build strength and lean body mass. The higher rep schemes towards the end of the workouts are more for muscular endurance. It would be extremely taxing to do heavy weights, and lower reps, on every exercise, which most novice trainees cannot recover from.