Full Body Vs. Splits: Which Workouts Are Better?

Akash Sehrawat

6 min read | May 24, 2018

Both types of workout routines: Full Body and Split, can be useful for trainees based on their training level i.e. whether they are beginners, intermediates or advanced, and their goals—fat loss or muscle gain or both.

 

Both are just different approaches and have pros and cons. You need to decide what your training priority is. No one is better than the other! Let’s define each type of workout routine:

Full Body Routines

 

A Full Body Workout Routine will incorporate your entire body in a single training session.

 

Usually, one start’s from top to bottom:

 

Shoulders

Chest

Back

Arms

Legs

 

A Full Body Workout can take easily an hour to complete and may even take more than 2 hours to complete depending on the number of exercises and sets you to perform for each muscle group.

 

The training frequency is two to three workouts per week.

 

On the other hand:

Split Routine

 

A Split Workout Routine will only target one or two (sometimes three) body parts in one session.

 

A very common bodybuilding split used is:

 

Monday: Chest and Back

Wednesday: Shoulders and Legs

Friday: Biceps and Triceps

 

Usually, a split routine will allow a trainee to train at least four times per week with different combinations of muscle groups.

Benefits Of Full Body Routine

 

I absolutely love the ‘Golden Age of Bodybuilding,’ and no, it’s not the 70’s but rather the 40’s & 50’s when bodybuilders like Steve Reeves and John Grimek used to work out using full body routines 3 times a week.

 

Just pick up a copy of The ‘Classic Physique by Steve Reeves, and you’ll come across his 2-2.5 hours full body routines that he did throughout his bodybuilding career, which allowed him to win the 1950’S Mr. Universe title.

 

No doubt, Steve had superior genetics, and coupled with his charming personality and great looks, he made it big as a Hollywood star too!

 

In case you are wondering, Arnold Schwarzenegger build his main bulk using full-body routines and only once he had enough bulk he moved on to split training to perfect it. Full Body Workouts can (& should ) have a place in your training schedule.

 

Here Are Five Benefits That Will Accrue To You When You Incorporate Full-Body Workouts In Your Training

 

1) Full Body Workouts Allow You To Train Every Muscle Group 2-3 Times A Week.

 

While training intensity and overall volume (sets* reps) are the key factors when it comes to building muscle, a systematic review done just recently in the year 2016 has shown that training a muscle group 2 times a week is superior to training your muscle group only once a week! 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27102172

 

But when it comes to split routines, it is very rare if a muscle group comes up at least twice a week.

 

2) Full Body Workouts Are Ideal For People Who Are Very Busy

 

No matter how hard you try, when on full-body workouts, it’s very tough to train more than three times per week. For busy professionals, it’s a foolproof way to train their entire body and only commit a couple of hours while reaping great benefits.

 

3) Full Body Workouts (In My Opinion) Should Be Mandatory For Any Beginner

 

For a beginner, these things are super important:

 

-Establish a solid foundation for more years to come

-Prevent over-training

-Understand and learn the important skill of how to perform key compound exercises properly i.e. motor learning.

-Not overtaxing your nervous system

-Accelerate your body recovery abilities that allow you to build a good amount of lean mass

 

All these are possible more with full-body workouts (provided they emphasize mainly compound lifts and are low in total volume, you can check out the beginner’s workout I have created here).

 

Related Article: Best Beginner Gym Exercises

 

By the way, most top fitness professionals will agree on this point too! So if you are a beginner or haven’t worked for a very long time, my suggestion is to start off with these workouts instead of a split.

 

4) Full Body Workout Ensures That You Don’t Miss Any Muscle Group In Any Given Week

 

This ensures a balanced and proportionate fab body. Let me briefly explain.

 

Say you are performing a split that requires you to train your Chest every Monday, Shoulder every Tuesday and so forth. Basically, each body part is assigned a day. What happens when you go to a party on Monday night and can’t make it to the gym the next morning to do your shoulders?

 

Let’s say you are a committed guy. But your performance will falter. The point I am getting at is this:

 

Most trainees usually skip that body part, especially when it is related to your posterior chain, like legs and back, and prioritize the chest and arms. This creates an unbalanced physique. With full-body workouts, the probability of you not training a body part is virtually Zero.

 

5) Full Body Workouts Are Best For People Who Mostly Prefer Compound Lifts

 

If given a choice of only 3 exercises, which ones will you choose?

 

I’d go for:

 

Trap Bar Deadlifts

Military Press

Pull-ups

and just by adding:

Incline Dumbbell Press, you almost cover your entire body!

 

Related Article: Trap Bar Deadlift: The Definitive Guide

 

People who prefer compound lifts and wants a functionally strong body, and really don’t care enough to hit their muscle from every angle (which means they could care less about building a perfectly chiseled and bodybuilder physique) like to train their body through these compound lifts few times a week.

 

Full-body routines do not necessarily mean that you need to isolate your arms every time. During chin-ups, your biceps get worked out, and when you sweating out on a heavy standing military press or perhaps an incline bench press, your triceps get a good beating.

 

With all these benefits of Full Body Workouts, is there anything left for split routines?

 

Let’s find out.

Benefits Of Split Training Routine

 

1) Spilt Routines Are Great For People Needing More Volume

 

Total volume is set * reps. If you want to know everything about how much volume you should perform for every muscle group, then I highly recommend this article.

 

Related Article: Weight Training Volume: How many reps per muscle group per week?

 

For now, know this: As you progress from a beginner to an intermediate and into an advanced trainee, you will need to increase your overall volume. And when you do, a full-body workout will take at least 2 hours to finish. And doing that 3 times a week will be virtually impossible.

 

Note: Inspired by Steve Reeves’s workout, I actually did have a phase and did long full-body workouts for a couple of months. I will probably explain the details in another post, but for now, it was a big failure as my body cannot handle that much volume!

 

2) Split Routines Are Almost Mandatory For People Who Take Part In Physique Competitions

 

Physique competitions have become very competitive. And that means perfection:

 

-Great proportions

-Every muscle fiber worked on

-Extremely low body fat percentage

 

This kind of physique is only possible by training almost every day, sometimes twice a day!

 

3) Lastly, Split Routines Are Ideal For People Who Simply Like Going To The Gym Almost Every Day

 

I know many people, who go to the gym not just to workout, out but to make friends and socialize. For some, that’s the highlight of their day (no pun intended).

 

In fact, one of my personal coaching clients was one such guy, and when I recommended him my 3-day FBX hybrid split, he told me to modify it to at least 5 times a week. Sure he could have done cardio/HIIT on the remaining days, but somehow he wanted to weight train every day. In the end, I did modify FBX training for him!

 

You see the total volume for a given part (set* reps), your exercise selection (compound or isolated), free weights or machines and the weight that you lift (should be between 70-85% of your 1 rep max for best results) are the key factors when it comes to building a good physique.

 

If you do exactly the same workout based on the above parameters 3 times a week or 5 times a week,  I feel that makes little difference.

 

Having said that, I still strongly believe weights should be done only 3 times a week.

Conclusion

 

So there we go, the benefits of full body vs split routines. If you noticed, the common theme in this article is the fact full body or split matters not so much as long as the following parameters are in accordance with what I have suggested in the respective articles:

 

Weight Training Volume: How many reps per muscle group per week? 

 

Free weights or Machines: Which is better?

 

Compound Exercise Vs Isolation Exercises: Which is better?

 

What do you think about this post? What kind of workout do you do? Have any doubts or anything to say? Let me know in the comments below!

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About Akash Sehrawat

Akash is a creator of 25+ programs and certificate courses in which more than 200,000 students have enrolled both on Udemy and Fabulous Body's native platform. Akash is also an author of three books that can be found on Amazon. His answers on Quora have gathered more than 12 million views in less than a year.

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