It pays to divide your body into halves when you train. Here’s why.
BY PAUL ROBERTS
Forcing your body to pump blood to alternate hemispheres of your body gets twice as much work done in the same amount of time.
An old-school bodybuilding split looks like this: chest and back one day; biceps and triceps another; legs on another; shoulders on another; repeat. Splitting a routine up like this allowed bodybuilders to cram a lot of volume in for a single body part to help build it up, and since you’re not working that body part again for another four or five days, there’s ample recovery time. The other major benefit: When all your exercise choices focus on the same area, blood rushes to that area of the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. Some of the old-school splits combined shoulders and legs for time’s sake, but serious bodybuilders split these up; if you’re trying to get big shoulders, you don’t want your legs syphoning blood away.
But if your goal isn’t to get big, what do you do? Specifically, if your goal is like many—to lose weight—how should you structure your workout? It turns out that you’ll want to do the exact opposite of what a bodybuilder would do—send blood rushing from your upper body to your lower body, back and forth, for much of the workout. This forces your heart to beat faster to keep up, adding a cardiovascular training element to a traditional weight routine.
To take things a step further and build greater strength, try independently training the right and left sides of your body. For example, alternate dumbbell curls, left and right, and do single-leg moves like split squats, pistol squats, and single-leg leg presses. When using any plate loaded (Hammer Strength) machine, try doing all your reps for the weaker side of your body (If you’re right-handed, try doing all reps for your left side first).
When the left and right sides of your body work in tandem with their combined strength acting upon the same object—as in a barbell curl, bench press, or barbell squat—the weaker side of your body can be “carried” to some extent by the stronger side of your body. Working left and right sides independently can help diminish the strength discrepancy between the left and right sides of your body, if not eliminate it altogether.
DIRECTIONS: After a five- to ten-minute warmup, perform the following workout as a circuit, resting for only two minutes after completing the Russian twist. Do three circuits total.
EXERCISE X REPS
Dumbbell Split Squat X 20
Left-Right Dumbbell Press X 20
Dumbbell Lunge X 20
Left-Right Hammer Row X 20
Dumbbell Step-up X 20
Left-Right Bench Press X 20
Left-Right Calf Raise X 20
Left-Right Dumbbell Curl X 20
Dumbbell Kickback X 20
Russian Twist X 50
DUMBBELL SPLIT SQUAT
Hold a pair of dumbbells and stand with your back to a bench or plyo box. Set one foot on the box; your back leg will reach behind you; the top of your shoe will be resting on the bench or box. Bend your front knee and squat low to the ground. Drive through your front heel to stand back up. Complete ten reps on one side, then ten reps on the other.
LEFT-RIGHT DUMBBELL PRESS
Stand and hold a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders. Press the right dumbbell overhead, then slowly return to the start. That’s one rep. Then press the left dumbbell overhead. Continue alternating reps until you’ve hit twenty.
Stand holding a pair of dumbbells and walk forward, lunging with each step. Your front leg should form a ninety-degree angle as you descend toward the floor; your back knee should touch the ground. Continue until you’ve hit twenty reps, moving forward with each step.
LEFT-RIGHT HAMMER ROW
Sit in a Hammer Strength (plate-loaded machine) and perform rows, one arm at a time. You can do all ten reps for one side and then switch, or you can alternate the whole way.
Stand in front of a bench or plyo box holding a pair of dumbbells. Step up onto the box, driving through your front heel. Step down and switch sides. Continue until you’ve done twenty reps.
LEFT-RIGHT BENCH PRESS
Lie down on a weight bench holding a pair of dumbbells at your chest. Press up, one side at a time. You can do all ten reps for one side and then switch, or perform twenty alternating reps.
LEFT-RIGHT CALF RAISE
Lie down in a leg press machine and set your left foot on the platform; your toes should be the only part of your foot touching the platform. Flex and extend your ankle, pushing the platform with your toes. Do ten reps on your left side, then ten on your right.
LEFT-RIGHT DUMBBELL CURL
Stand up straight holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Perform curls, alternating sides for twenty reps. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the movement.
Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and bend forward at the waist, keeping your back flat. Brace yourself with your right hand against the weight rack or a bench. Keeping the upper portion of your left arm parallel to the ground (you can pretend that your elbow is bolted to your side) extend your elbow, lifting the weight until your entire arm is parallel to the ground. Squeeze hard in the peak position, then slowly return to the start. Do ten reps on your left side, then switch sides to do ten on your right.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent, your heels on the floor or hovering just above it, with your toes pointed up. Sit up straight holding a medicine ball or weight plate in your hands, extended slightly away from your body. Turn to your left side, keeping your chest up; touch the ball/plate to the ground near your left hip, then turn to the right, touching the ball/plate to the ground near your right hip. Continue for fifty reps.