The Best Workout Split For Women

When it comes to weight training for women, there’s tons of conflicting and confusing advice which can create fear around what to do at the gym, when to do it, and how often. This can lead some women to avoid weight training completely, overtraining, or not seeing results from the training they do.

Having a structured training plan is the best way to get started, avoid overtraining, and see results. In this blog, Personal Trainer, Dale Wallace, explains how workout splits can help to create a structured program that works with your lifestyle.

Most of my female clients come to me having done group fitness classes and cardio for years but are no longer making any progress, or they want to start lifting weights but don’t know where to start. My aim with this blog is to show you why structured weight training is so beneficial and help you to find a workout split that works for you. Everyone has different responsibilities, and the amount of time one person can put aside for training each week is different to the next. Finding a workout split that matches the time you can put into the gym will mean you make the best use of your valuable time and see the most progress possible.


Before I dive into what workout splits are, it’s useful to understand why you should move away from random workouts and start structured training.

There are two main problems with performing random workouts. The first is that it’s difficult to monitor if your performance is improving, which can have an impact on motivation. Motivation is often highest when you can see progress; without progress, exercise can quickly just become a means to an end (often weight loss).

The other problem is that, for most people, progress and results will inevitably slow down when only doing random workouts or group fitness classes. Progressive overload is key to long term changes and without a structured plan in place, it’s hard to consistently increase the challenge.

Both the lack of results, and difficulty monitoring progress, can lead to frustration and low motivation, and I often see people throw in the towel as they question whether it’s worth all the effort.

So, what are the benefits of moving to structured weight training?

  • It’s more efficient

If your gym workouts consist of endless cardio or working through random exercises aimlessly, you’re unlikely to see a return on the time you put into the gym. Having a structured workout format means you can maximize the time you have in the gym as you know exactly what you need to do, and are confident that these exercises will create results.

  • Reduces plateaus

Having a structured workout routine dramatically reduces the number of times your progress plateaus. There are a few reasons for this; the first is that you are able to actually monitor your progress as you have a log of your past performance, so when a plateau does occur you can identify why and work through it (rather than being unaware for long periods of time). It’s also easier to push for a personal best if you know what you’re aiming to beat, which can lead to weekly personal bests. This continual progress leads to higher motivation, as workouts are no longer just about weight loss – it’s about seeing how much weight you can lift, or how many reps you can do. People are goal-orientated, and our brains are wired in a way that we feel the most motivation when we are making progress towards something. Structured weight training gives us this.

  • Progressive overload

Progressive overload essentially means to make your workouts harder over time. This ensures the muscles are continually challenged, so that they grow stronger and bigger. Progressive overload is also the best way to prevent plateaus.

There are many ways we can do progressively overload but increasing the weight you lift is one of the easiest ways to implement it, and a structured workout program is great for doing this. Keep the exercises constant for a period of 6-12 weeks and work within a similar rep range (e.g., 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps), and gradually increase the weight over time.


Workout splits are a way to follow a structured workout program and make sure you hit each muscle group twice, as this is what is recommended for both hypertrophy and strength. Even if your goal is to lose weight, you want to stimulate the muscle tissue enough so that you don’t lose muscle mass instead of fat.

If you work out 5 times a week, doing full body workouts is way too much and can lead to overtraining, poor recovery, and injuries. However, if you can only workout twice a week, doing one leg session and one upper body session, won’t get you the best results.

Here, I’ll look at three workout splits and what routine I would recommend for clients on these.


If you can only commit to working out 3 days a week, this women’s 3-day split workout plan will help you to get the best results.

For a 3-day split, I recommend starting with 5 minutes of warm up exercises, spending 60 minutes lifting weights, and end with 10-15 minutes moderate intensity cardio.

  • Monday: Upper body
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Lower body
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Full body
  • Sunday: Rest


For 4 days of training each week, I recommend a women's upper lower split workout plan. As with a 3-day split, start with a warm up and finish with steady state cardio. I encourage clients to spend 50-60 minutes lifting weights for a 4-day split.

  • Monday: Upper body
  • Tuesday: Lower body
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper body
  • Friday: Lower body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest


It’s rare that I’d recommend a women’s 5-day split workout routine for beginners, as this level of training can cause under-recovery and hamper progress, as well as lead to reduced energy. However, for intermediate and advanced lifters who are already training 4-5 times a week, a 5-day split can be a great way to drive progress as it allows you to really target each muscle group.

With a 5-day split, I’d recommend just 5-10 minutes cardio at the end of a session, at a slightly lower intensity.

  • Monday: Quads and shoulders
  • Tuesday: Back and biceps
  • Wednesday: Chest and triceps
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Glutes, hamstrings, and calves
  • Saturday: Back, chest and shoulders
  • Sunday: Rest


When choosing a split, the main thing to consider is how much time are you able to dedicate to training each week. There’s no point choosing a 4-day split if you can only make it to the gym three times!

For beginners, I recommend starting with a 3-day split as this will be easiest to stay consistent with, while still seeing good progress and allowing for enough recovery. For intermediate lifters, the 4-day split is a great option, and for advanced lifters, the 5-day split can work well if you are able to commit to this each week. However, everyone should be able to see great results with a 3-day split as long as they progressively overload.

If you love the buzz of exercising but find going above 3-4 weight training sessions each week is too much, you can always consider adding a cardio or mobility workout to your weekly routine, or heading to a low impact class like yoga or Pilates.

If you want more help creating a structured workout program, speak to a Personal Trainer who can help to create a workout plan that is tailored to your goals.

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