Here’s my current workout routine and split (2023-). I will also mention the process I use to track and analyze my workout sessions to monitor progress.
Training frequency Link to heading
I work out 4-5 times a week (4.89 times /week on average according to my Google sheet) - not counting special days where I don’t have time/access to a proper gym so I just do whatever exercises I can like squats, push ups etc). I try to hit the same muscle group twice each week.
Workout split Link to heading
I’ve experimented with different splits in the past year, regular PPL and variations of it, bro split and eventually this below is what ended up with recently which accommodates my current work schedule and other sport activities (and importantly, it’s very simple):
- Day 1: Shoulder + triceps
- Day 2: Back + biceps
- Day 3: Chest + legs
This is the default schedule, but in reality, I often modify it slightly if necessary. For example, last week I was supposed to do chest + legs on Thu, but I already had an acro training that day that can be pretty heavy on your legs so I don’t see the benefit of training legs in the gym as well right after. So I just switch legs with abs in this case.
I also sometimes do this variation (again, only if I train my legs outside the gym, I’d never skip legs, but I’m okay with skipping abs if I’m busy):
- Day 1: Shoulder + abs
- Day 2: Back + biceps
- Day 3: Chest + triceps
I also sometimes do only 2 workout days followed by 1 rest day if I feel like I haven’t slept enough or if I’m really sore.
Exercises per muscle group Link to heading
Over time I realized that instead of doing many different exercises, it makes more sense to focus on a minimal amount of exercises that you like doing and that are effective at training the targeted muscle. This is my set of exercises at the moment (it will probably change soon, leaving out unnecessary movements or simplifying them). Note, that I don’t do all of the exercises for the muscle group during each session, I pick 3 of them for shoulder/chest/legs and 2 for biceps/triceps/abs and do 3 sets + a little. So that adds up to 5-6 different exercises and 15-18 sets per workout session.
- Anterior delts: dumbbell shoulder press (sometimes shoulder press machine if benches are busy)
- Side delts: lateral raise machine (I used to do with dumbbells but I had a hard time going until or beyond failure so I don’t do it anymore) and upright rows
- Posterior delts: deltoid fly machine (I only recently started training this part of my shoulder actively, my mind-muscle connection needs to improve but I love it so far).
I used to do face pulls for posterior, but with heavy weights it became uncomfortable in my shoulder. I also switched from dumbbell lateral raises to machine lateral raises because the constant pressure that the machine provides is just so much better than the dumbbells. It’s also easier to do drop-sets to really kill the muscle.
- Upper chest: dumbbell press on incline bench, super incline bench press machine, super incline chest press machine
- Lower chest: dumbbell press on flat bench, super horizontal bench press machine, pec fly machine I don’t do the typical barbell bench press or smith machine bench press. I’m not a fan of barbells because of the shorter range of motion, also these spots are often taken by high schoolers in the gym haha.
- Quads: hack squat, power squat, leg extension
- Hamstrings: leg curl
- Calves: standing calf raises
My leg workout is still experimental at this point.
When it comes to back muscles I only do exercises that are supposed to target both the latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles. I sometimes hear conflicting advice from experts regarding what exercise targets what in the back so at this point I just do a mix of these: lat pulldown (with wide grip, or with a medium-sized tryon handle - I love the tryon handles), seated cable row with both narrow and wide grip, dumbbell rows, and finally super rowing machine with one hand at a time.
I also tried doing assisted pull-ups but for some reason the mind-muscle connection just wasn’t there and I kept feeling my biceps after 10 repetitions. (maybe my form was not the best idk)
I used to do so many different bicep exercises it was so unnecessary. Now I just do bicep curls and EZ bar curl.
Pretty much any handle that I can quickly find near the cable machine to do pushdown with. And the triceps machine.
Tracking progress Link to heading
I find it extremely important to track progress (not just in the gym, but in other areas of life as well). I’ve had a few iterations over the process of tracking my workouts (I even developed my own app to do this a last year - not worth the effort). Eventually, I gave in and started using Google Sheets, forcing myself to properly learn VLOOKUP and all those Excel goodies analysts love talking about.
One requirement that I had, which was super important for me, was to be able to select an exercise from a dropdown list (organized by targeted muscle and whether it’s a dumbbell or machine exercise) and see the sets/weights/reps for the given exercise from the most recent workout. This is useful because you’ll instantly know what weight you’re supposed to start with in your current workout session.
If people are interested in using this template let me know and I can share an empty version on Google Drive, for now here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:
This might seem complicated at first, but it’s actually pretty simple. The sheet lets you record the exercise you’re doing and the last 3 Sets for that specific exercise. The fun part is, something you cannot see on this screenshot unfortunately, is that once you select an exercise in an empty row, the Set1/2/3 columns will populate with data from the previous workout, so you don’t have to scroll up to see what weights and reps you did last time.
Finally, you can also check progress on the right-side columns to see the change in weight (W) and reps (R) since the last workout. There should be positive improvement over time (so you see positive percentage values) but in reality it’s not possible to lift increasingly heavier weights day after day, some day you will stall or even regress - at least for me.
The other important benefit of tracking your sessions is that later at home you can analyze them in a lot of ways. For example, here’s a chart that shows my shoulder press machine progress.
The blue line shows the average weight used during the workout, the green line shows the average reps. According to my goals, the blue line should go up over time, and the green line should stay between 8-14.
Context matters Link to heading
Very important to take these “insights” with a grain of salt and understand what you really see. For example, here you can see how the blue line drops on the right-side of the chart (shows the most recent workout session). So you could think that you haven’t progressed in the past couple of weeks (which technically is true). But at the same time, I remember that during that last workout session, shoulder press was my 3rd shoulder exercise that day, while on almost all other days I do shoulder press as my 1st exercise (or I don’t do it at all). The last time the shoulder press machine was taken and I don’t like waiting (and for this specific machine it’s inconvenient to work in with someone else) so I just skipped this part of the session and did the exercise that was supposed to be 2nd that day. Which resulted in my shoulder being already exhausted before I got to the shoulder press machine. In this context, seeing that blip on the chart makes sense in my opinion. But even if everything goes right other factors can still make you less strong, for example being in a calorie deficit.
Session-to-session improvement Link to heading
Another interesting pair of metrics that you can monitor is your average progress session-to-session (in terms of weights lifted) correlated with your body weight. In theory, often in practice as well, if you are on a calorie-deficit diet and you lose weight you also lose some of your strength and won’t be able to improve in the gym - or even be forced to use lighter weights.
Here the blue line shows the average weight progress session-to-session, while the green line shows my body weight on the given day.
I haven’t been monitoring my body weight for so long so I don’t have many data points. At this stage I see some level of correlation between lifted weight progress and body weight but I want to give it more time to say for sure.
Furthermore, it’s not easy to compress your total gym progress into one single metric - this is what this chart is trying to do using a metric that you might call “session-to-session weight delta” or something like that.
I’ve seen other people use other metrics. Instead of calculating the average weight lifted, they calculate the sum of all weights lifted (weights * reps). I decided not to use this approach because I don’t really care about repetitions. I mean I do want to stay in the 8-14 range most of the time but that’s about it. So whatever weight I’m using in the given set I know the reps should be somewhere in the 8-14 range (again not always, but in most cases). If I can do more than 14 I increase the weight - and that increase will be visible on this chart above.
Be aware, diet and nutrition heavily impact your workout sessions and performance so, again, context matters when it comes to analyzing this kind of stuff.
Resources Link to heading
Here are some of the fitness influencers that I follow to learn about working out, proper nutrition, and general fitness (in no particular order):
- Greg Doucette https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLqH-U2TXzj1h7lyYQZLNQQ
- Krisztian Bereczki https://www.youtube.com/@krisztianbereczki
- Jeff Nippard https://www.youtube.com/@JeffNippard
- Andrew Huberman https://www.youtube.com/@hubermanlab
Muscle and exercise directory: https://exrx.net/Lists/Directory