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What Are the Best Muscle Groups to Train Together?

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

When it comes to weightlifting in the gym, there are countless possible ways that one can train. I see lots of people asking questions on Quora and Reddit such as: can I train chest and biceps together?


Or, can I train legs and shoulders together?


And this inspired me to make a post about the most common practices when it comes to grouping muscles together into the same session, as it seems many people are still a little confused by this.


In this post, I'll be going over what the most common practices are when it comes to training several muscles on the same day, and explaining why they are or aren't effective.



Strong and muscular man doing pull ups on an outdoor bar to build strength and muscle in his back and biceps during a pull workout

NOTE: This is quite similar to picking workout splits. The muscles that you pick to work together on the same day will determine the workout split that you choose. If you would like to read more about workout splits, we have an article on that too!


Grouping Muscles by Movement Pattern


The first, and probably most common practice when it comes to grouping muscles together is simply to look at the basic functions of each muscle group and assorting them together that way.


For example, you've like seen the Push, Pull, Legs split. This is a classic bodybuilding split that allows for loads of workout volume, as well as the ability to train each muscle group twice a week and pretty hard each session. Your muscles each get a two day break in between sessions as you work the rest of your body.


This is an example of grouping the muscles by their basic functions. For example, on 'push' day, you work your chest, shoulders and triceps. All of these muscles are responsible for your upper body pressing movements, such as the bench press, overhead press, cable pushdown, dip, and so on.


This makes it easy for you to work all three muscles on the same session, as the compound movements will work all of these muscles together at the same time.


You get the most bang for your buck, and work all the muscles that you're trying to hit with fewer exercises. The bench press works the chest, shoulders and triceps all to a pretty large degree. So does the dip. The fact that these muscles all have 'pressing' functions makes it easy for us to work them together.


And of course, on a 'pull' day, you'd work your upper body pulling muscles, such as your back, rear delts and your biceps. You would do this through pull ups, lat pulldowns, deadlifts, rows, etc, which are all pulling movements.


On a leg day, you hit the legs. It doesn't get simpler than that. And while different parts of our legs do have different functions, it's simple to work all the muscles of the legs together as most leg exercises such as the squat, deadlift and leg press do work much of the lower body at once.


However, you don't have to stick to a traditional Push, Pull, Legs split either. You can further divide this up if you can only 4 days a week, and run a Push, Pull split instead. You no longer split the upper body and lower body up. Instead, you work all of your pulling muscles (back, biceps, rear delts, hamstrings and glutes (depending on exercise choice).


Then, you would work all your pushing muscles at once, meaning your chest, shoulders, triceps, quads and calves. This is an effective alternative if you can only train 4 days a week, as you're still grouping the muscles together by a general movement pattern.


For example, during a deadlift, all of the puling muscles outlined above are engaged pretty heavily (aside from biceps).


Grouping muscle groups by their general movement function is a simple way to effectively determine which muscles you should be working together on the same session.


Grouping Muscles by Location


Very large and muscular bodybuilder sitting in front of a barbell preparing to do a bench press

Another popular way to group muscles is going to be simply cutting your body in half, and working sections of your body together at once. For example, an Upper/Lower split. This is where you work your upper body on one day, and your lower body on another. You then repeat this once or twice throughout the week depending on your desired volume.


This is another great and common way for people to split up their body across several sessions. This is because, you won't have too many exercises that work the upper body and lower body at once. You can pick your exercises effectively and not have muscle groups overlapping.


Working sections of the body together like this also makes it easier for us to manage things like supersets, as well as warmups. With agonist and antagonist muscles, dynamic stretching and supersets becomes that much easier. For example, doing cross body arm swings to warm up and loosen the back will do the same for the chest and delts at the same time.


And for something like a bicep curl and tricep overhead extension superset, you can do these two exercises on the same cable setup, with similar weights as well. Or maybe you're supersetting pull ups and dips on the same pull up station. It makes it that much easier.


Working the Entire Body


Full body workouts are also a popular option for many people, especially beginners looking to build up their foundational strength and learn proper form on the main compound exercises.


Working the entire body in the same session is a great way for us to be able to accumulate volume for each muscle group throughout the week, and provide the body with a new challenge and new stimulus for growth.


Many intermediate and advanced lifters have reported that switching to a full body split for the first time was what they needed to stimulate new gains, when they'd previously felt like progress has been stalling.



Working the entire body also tends to be more time efficient and more effective at burning calories, as you're primarily doing large compound exercises that work much of the body at once under heavy loads.


Full body splits are definitely another great way to group muscles together. Especially if you can only make it to the gym a couple days a week.


Body Part Splits


This is the first method that I wouldn't recommend you use. Working just a single body part in a session is a proven to be a less effective means of building muscle by science.


Studies show that each muscle group should be stimulated at least twice a week in order to achieve the best results. However, if you just work a single body part each session (by using a Bro split), you're only able to work each muscle group once a week. Already, this is less effective.


Strong and fit man doing cable chest flyes to isolate his muscles and target each one in a bro split

You'll also end up doing too much volume for that single muscle group, and either waste your time or limit your gains. Exercising causes microtrauma and muscle damage. this is what causes our muscles to grow.


However if we are doing too much volume in a single session, to a point where the muscle is absolutely destroyed already, any extra volume in that session will bring about very little gains, if any at all.


It's generally not recommended that you train a single body part each session.


Randomly Grouping Muscles Together


This is what I see many people asking about on Quora and Reddit. I see many people asking things like: can I work my chest and biceps together?


The chest and biceps share almost nothing in common, aside from the fat that they're both located on the upper body. However, if we were to group muscles that way, it would be preferable to simply work all the upper body muscles at once.


Randomly assigning muscle groups to training days is not a very effective way to group them together and get the best results. Instead, you should look to be smart about your planning and do your research first. Otherwise, you'll risk wasting time or leaving gains on the table.


So try not to group muscles together if they share absolutely nothing in common. For example, working legs and shoulders on the same day makes little sense. Instead, pick something else on this list.


Conclusion


Overall, figuring out which muscles to group together seems to be one of those things that beginners are often pretty confused about. However, if you just look at the options on this list, pick one that suits your preferences and availability in the gym!


And pick one that you enjoy doing. There's no point trying to stick to something that you don't enjoy doing. It's simply going to lead to a lack of motivation and slower progress.


If you're still unsure, you can try and experiment with everything and find something that you both enjoy and can get good results with.


This is a marathon, not a sprint. You don't have to have it all figured out at the beginning. Adapt as you go and you'll be well on your way to achieving your goals.


If you found this post helpful, remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people! At Gympulsive, we're trying to help as many as possible reach their fitness goals.

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