Should you train like a bodybuilder and lift five or six days a week, hitting just a couple muscle groups per workout? Or can full-body workouts help you get in better shape, burn fat, and build muscle?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. Which is better? Split training or full-body workouts? It depends.
The Truth About Split Training
If you’re aiming to carve out a physique like a bodybuilder or fitness model, split training makes the most sense. This training approach allows you to focus on just a couple body parts per workout.
For example, one day you train your back and arms. The next day is legs. You hit the gym again to train your chest. And you rotate through five or six different workouts to train each body part or muscle group a couple times a week.
It’s a highly effective way to build muscle, shred fat, and sculpt a better-looking body. And it’s what I recommend for many of my clients. But it does require a serious commitment to training, and it’s one reason full-body workouts work better for some people.
The Benefits of Full-Body Workouts
If you don’t have the time to train five or six days a week, should you just give up on your goal to lose weight, get six-pack abs, or build muscle? No. Don’t do that, OK.
There’s more than one way to achieve your health and fitness goals. And for some people, (like beginners, busy people, and cardio fans) full body-workouts can be a smart alternative to following a split training plan.
Instead of training a couple muscle groups per workout five or six days a week, you’ll train every muscle group per workout on just two or three days a week. And you can still achieve amazing results when you combine a smart diet with this training strategy.
Here are some of the benefits of full-body workouts:
1. Less time in the gym
One of the biggest benefits to full-body training is the fact that a typical plan only requires hitting the gym two or three days a week, instead of five or six on a split training plan. Perfect if you’ve got a crazy-busy schedule and not a lot of time to train every day. Or if you miss a workout, it’s not a big deal when you only need to get to the gym two or three days a week.
2. Better recovery between workouts
Ever show up to the gym the day after a back-training session or heavy legs day and still feel sore? That’s sometimes the way it goes when you’re training every day. Full-body training gives you more recovery time between workouts on a three day split. So you work hard on your training day, take a full rest day, and come back ready for more.
3. More time for other fitness activities
If you like cycling, running, swimming, surfing, or rock climbing, more than lifting weights, you’d probably rather be doing that. However, weight training can help you improve performance, strength, speed and agility. Try full-body workouts just a couple of days a week, combined with your other fitness activities and see what happens.
4. Boost in testosterone from compound movements
Most full-body workouts focus on compound movements that work all the major muscle groups in a single workout. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, and other push-pull exercises are a staple of full-body workouts. Training this way damages more muscle fibers per workout than split training, and gives testosterone levels a boost for muscle repair and growth.
5. Room for variety of exercises
If you’re following a split training plan, you might do five chest exercises in a single workout to hit your pecs from every angle. But in a full-body workout, that you can complete in under an hour, you’ll only do a couple exercises per body part. And that means you’ve got a lot of options and different exercises you can use to keep your workouts interesting and avoid a plateau.
6. Reduce fatigue
If you’re lifting weights every day, you’re bound to show up to the gym at some point in time and feel weaker, lift less weight, and feel low on energy. It’s a sign your Central Nervous System needs more time to recover between workouts. A day off between full-body workouts can make a big difference.
7. Adaptable workouts
What happens if you can’t get to the gym for arms day training? You’re kind of screwed, unless you’ve got an arsenal of equipment at home. But that’s less of a problem with full-body workouts. With just a set of dumbbells, or even bodyweight exercises, you can hit every major muscle group in a full-body workout.
8. Fat loss
There’s more than one way to trigger a metabolic response to stimulate fat loss. A combination of strength training, cardio, and dieting works best. I prefer split routines to maximize results. But full-body workouts offer fat loss benefits too, because you typically train at a slightly higher intensity level than split training to help burn extra calories and fat. And the full rest day in between workouts helps avoid overtraining, which can have a catabolic effect on muscle.
9. Muscular symmetry
We all probably know someone who has big guns, a huge chest, or massive legs. You know, the person who focuses on training one body part more than anything else. It’s more common for those who follow a split-training plan. Full-body workouts help you develop muscular symmetry, which looks better, but also helps improve muscle function and movement.
10. Maintaining strength
If you took a week off of training, you might not notice a difference in your lifts of muscle strength on your next workout. But what if you took a month or more off of lifting? You’ll start to lose those strength and muscle gains. Full-body workouts, just a couple times a week, challenge your muscles enough to help you maintain strength, so you don’t have to give up gains, even if you’re training less.
Need help figuring out a training plan that fits your life? Check out my customized plans designed to help you shred fat, build muscle, and transform your body.