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Full Body or Split Workouts?

What's the best workout for your goals?
What's the best workout for your goals?

Workout routines can usually be classified as one of two types. They’re either a FULL BODY workout of some sort of SPLIT ROUTINE. A full body routine is one that tries to hit every muscle in your body. Throughout the workout, you’ll use your arms, back, chest, legs and shoulders.

A split routine (also called splits, training splits or body part splits) only targets specific muscles, muscle groups or movement patterns.

  • There are many variations, but a typical split can be done over three days with programs that might hit back and biceps on Monday, chest and triceps on Wednesday then wrapping up with legs and shoulders on Friday.
  • More refined versions have PUSH (targeting chest, shoulders and triceps), followed by PULL (back and biceps) and finishing off with LEGS (calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads.)
  • Some splits hit all UPPER body muscles in one workout, then all LOWER body muscles the next.

Full Body Workout Advantages

Burn more calories. Working all the major muscle groups in a single day creates the greatest “afterburn” when you’re finished, because you’ve stimulated everything during the workout.

Missing a workout isn’t such a big deal. To stimulate muscles you should work them at least twice a week. If you’re doing three full body workouts a week, skipping one still gives your muscles the minimum necessary stimulation. You can also shift your workout a day and get the minimum two workouts in without throwing off the following weeks schedule.

Easier to balance muscle growth. A full body routine always works all the muscles, so there’s less chance of imbalances.

Fewer workouts. You only have to workout two or three times a week if they’re full body programs.

Split Routine Workout Advantages

Target individual muscles and make up for deficiencies in specific areas. If your legs are underdeveloped, you can add additional leg training days to catch them up. 

You lift more because you’re less fatigued. At the end of a full body workout, you may not have a lot of strength to do proper curls. But if you’re just concentrating on your biceps the entire workout, you can move more weight when you begin.

They’re less metabolically challenging. No workout is easy, but splits tend to be more manageable. This is especially important if you’re someone who gets nauseous easily. If a full body workout causes you to break into a cold sweat, drains the blood from your lips and makes you want to throw up, you might need to focus on splits.

Workouts are easier to design. Changing routines is easy as picking from the exercises that target the specific muscles you’re focusing on that day.

Individual workouts tend to be faster, but you’ll need more of them each week. Instead of three to four hours a week, splits could easily take five hours or more. 

Who should use a full body program?

Beginners should use the time to learn proper form for things like deadlifts, presses, pull-ups and squats before progressing onto more intense and targeted workouts. It’s perfect for people who can’t do strength training more than twice a week. It’s also great for people trying to lose 50 pounds or more because of the intense fat burning effect.

Who should use a split routine?

Fitness models and bodybuilders who need to exercise great control over how their bodies are shaping up. They’re also appropriate for people trying to fix imbalances in the physique.

In the real world, you don’t have to choose between one or the other. You can use any combination that helps move you forward. For example, if you have three days a week to workout, you might concentrate on upper body Monday, lower body Wednesday and then complete a full body workout on Friday. Each body part gets a minimum of two days training but spread over three workouts. Fill in a couple of the empty days with interval cardio and you’ve got a complete fitness schedule.

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