Best Workout Split for Women: 2024 Guide for Female Lifters

What's the Best Workout Split for Women?

Resistance training benefits everyone, but exercise programs designed for women tend to be somewhat distinct from what's prescribed for men (particularly bodybuilders and powerlifters). Though many women share similar exercise goals as their male counterparts, such as building muscle mass, gaining strength, and losing weight, the training style for women can differ slightly based on preferences and physiological reasons. 

That’s why certain workout splits, such as a "Push-Pull-Legs" routine, may be superior to others. However, we should clarify that there is no unanimous "best workout routine" for women or men. The "best routine" is the one that fits your specific goals, level of experience, and preferred training schedule.

With that in mind, read on as we explore three different types of workout splits that help add different amounts of volume, intensity, and rest intervals to a workout. 

What Is a Workout Split?

A "workout split" refers to a style of training that defines how and when you’re exercising every week. Every style of workout split helps plan which muscle groups are being used in a given training session.

Benefits of a Split Workout

Building a weight-training program around a specific workout split can benefit you in many ways. 

  1. Workout splits keep you on track to achieving your goals

No matter if your goals are to burn calories to lose weight or elevate intensity to build muscle, a split workout helps you clearly define your daily goals and allows room for growth as the weeks progress.

  1. Workout splits help you stay accountable 

Having a set workout split gives you the opportunity to train more efficiently and intentionally. This can help boost motivation to stay on track every workout and remain accountable to your weightlifting goals. Not to mention, doing the same exercises in the same order with every workout can make progress tracking much easier. 

  1. Workout splits add a layer of safety to your exercise routine 

Another benefit of a split workout is that you’re able to train different muscle groups with high volume and intensity at an appropriate frequency (i.e. with adequate rest and recovery) to minimize the risk of overtraining or injury. As a result, you’ll be guaranteed to train all major muscle groups which can minimize your risk for developing muscle imbalances. 

How to Choose a Workout Split

Now that we have discussed the important details as to why a split workout may be beneficial, it’s time to decide how to choose the right split for your goals. 

Different workout splits are used to prioritize different muscle groups to help promote muscle growth and strength gains. That being said, a workout split for women can depend on individual preferences, goals, and schedule availability. 

Before deciding which workout split is right for you, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is my availability and what can I consistently accomplish every week? (i.e. 1 hour for 5 days per week, 30 minutes for 3-4 days per week, etc.) 

  • What workout split fits my experience level? (i.e. beginner training schedule should be at a lower frequency and intensity than that of a moderate or advanced weightlifter) 

  • What muscle groups am I looking to develop more? (i.e. full body workout, lower body dominant, upper body dominant, glutes, back, abs, etc.)  

After you have an idea about what your availability, experience, and workout preferences look like, it’s time to decide between our top workout split for women recommendations.

Top 3 Split Workouts for Women

One of the main reasons why men and women follow different workout splits is that women generally prefer to focus on building their glutes, legs, and back, while most men focus more on building their shoulders, chest, and arms. 

Hence, our recommendations for the best workout split for women are catered towards, well, women! In addition, these training programs can be adapted to all fitness levels. 

1. UPPER/LOWER SPLIT WORKOUT 

The upper/lower split workout is an excellent workout routine for most intermediate-to-advanced weightlifters. The purpose of this type of workout split is to isolate the upper-body muscles from the lower-body muscles to optimize strength gains across all the muscles of the body without overtraining. For this reason, upper/lower split workouts give you the opportunity to dial up the intensity. 

Most upper/lower workout splits for women involve four workouts per week, comprised of two upper and lower body workouts (each). 

Here is a sample program for this: 

  • Monday: Lower body workout A

  • Tuesday: Upper body workout A

  • Wednesday: Rest

  • Thursday: Lower body workout B

  • Friday: Upper body workout B

  • Saturday: Rest

  • Sunday: Rest

One of the top benefits of performing an upper/lower split workout is that it’s both straightforward and highly effective. With plenty of time to recover after training each major muscle group, this workout program helps stimulate better muscle growth [1]. 

However, a downside to the upper/lower split workout is having to train all the major muscle groups in your body or lower body in one workout. For example, on upper-body days, you’ll need to train your back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and core all in one session. This can make for a long and exhaustive workout. As such, it's generally best to follow this split only if you have at least an hour, if not closer to 90 minutes, to train four times per week.

2. PUSH-PULL-LEGS WORKOUT SPLIT

The push-pull-legs (PPL) workout split is similar to the upper body/lower body routine we just discussed but divides each training session by functionality (e.g. exercises that involve pushing the resistance) instead of specific muscle groups. In other words, a PPL workout split for women is designed to emphasize all working muscles in the upper body involved in both pushing (e.g. chest, shoulders, and triceps) and pulling (e.g. back, traps, and biceps) exercises. This is followed by an isolated lower-body workout (which may technically involve pushing and pulling exercises). 

Here is a sample beginner's push-pull-legs workout split for women that only requires three workouts per week: 

  • Monday: Push

  • Tuesday: Rest

  • Wednesday: Pull

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Legs

  • Saturday: Rest

  • Sunday: Rest

This type of split helps you achieve maximum overlap of compound exercises in the same workout (e.g. seated rows, lat pulldowns, and shrugs) to optimize muscle and strength gains

Research has found that women are able to recover their strength faster after a difficult workout compared to men [2]. This means women can utilize a higher frequency or volume workout split (more training sessions per week or more sets/reps per workout) to build strength. Depending on your fitness level, a PPL workout split can accommodate this.

3. FULL-BODY WORKOUT SPLIT

Full-body workout splits for women are quite a common approach to weightlifting. As mentioned earlier, women can recover faster and benefit more from higher-frequency training programs, and full-body workouts help capitalize on this! 

Rather than splitting your program into either an upper-body or lower-body workout, a full-body workout split targets each major muscle group in one training session. and can be adjusted to your schedule every 3 to 5 days per week. This means you'll hit the same muscle group multiple times per week, but the number of sets and reps you do for each muscle group will be low enough that you can recover properly between workouts.

Another advantage of full-body workout splits is that you don't need to get too fancy with your exercise selection; just the basics will be fine (squats, presses, rows, etc.).

Here is a sample full-body split workout: 

  • Monday: Full-Body

  • Tuesday: Rest

  • Wednesday: Full-Body

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Full-Body

  • Saturday: Rest

  • Sunday: Rest

Though the full body split has a beneficial component of high training volume, many lifters risk overdoing their workouts which can lead to overtraining and injury. For this reason, it’s important to track each exercise moving from compound to isolated.  

Many women prefer the full-body split as a way to burn calories, gain lean muscle, and lose excess fat. 

Since there is the need to train more muscle groups in one session, a great way to save time without compromising on your goals is by utilizing a range of metabolic exercises. A metabolic workout includes various compound movements in a short, intense period of time. High-intensity interval training (HITT) is a form of metabolic conditioning [3].

Key Takeaways

Workout splits are an ideal way to stay focused, accountable, and intentional during your weightlifting journey. For women, workout splits can be used to target specific muscles to help build lean tissue and strength. We recommend the upper/lower, push/pull legs, or full-body workout splits for women because they each offer a unique approach to training with an increased focus on frequency, volume, and rest.

Last but not least, remember that your progress in the gym depends largely on how you're nourishing yourself. If you don't eat a generous amount of protein, your body won't have the necessary "building blocks" for muscle growth and recovery. Taking a scoop of Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate after each workout can help kickstart the muscle-building process thanks to its rapid absorption and complete profile of essential amino acids. (Even better, it won't trigger your gag reflex and contains virtually no lactose.)

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