Which is Best: Full Body Workouts or Body Part Split Routines?
A common argument among fitness professional is between full body workouts and body part split routines, and which one is better for producing results.
The truth is they both work great; however, like financial advice, the program that is most suitable for you will depend largely on your personal situation, your over all goals, and how you like to workout.
Benefits of Full Body Workouts
Full body workouts are a fantastic way to train and are best for individuals who are interested in training for overall health, aesthetics, and building a strong lean body. Full body workouts are also great for individuals with limited time for the gym.
For example: a busy Dad with three kids who can only make it to the gym a couple times a week, is better off stimulating every muscle in the body twice a week using a full body routine, than trying to follow a complicated split routine that requires multiple days in the gym.
Because full body workouts engage the entire body, they also tend to burn more calories and train more movement patterns and systems. This is another reason they tend to be better for those that are training for general overall health.
“The Only Bad Workout Is the One That Never Happens.” - Unknown
The draw back to full body workouts is they may not be the best way to train for strength and hypertrophy due to the low volume put on each individual muscle. That said, they are still great for building muscle, getting lean, and building a base level of strength.
You just probably won't get HUGE doing them. However, a meta-analysis conducted by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld disagreed with that theory and even concluded that full body workouts could produce equal gains to body part split workouts.
Though, at this time body part split workouts are still believed to be king for building large muscles and hulk like strength.
Benefits of Body Part Split Routines
Body part split routines are workouts where you focus on only 1, 2, or 3 muscle groups per workout, thus providing a greater stimulus to the body parts being trained.
In a body part split routine each muscle group is typically trained once per week. This is okay because in a typical body part split workout each muscle gets hit from multiple angles and the extra recovery time is necessary to avoid injuries and over-training.
Serious athletes, bodybuilders, and other training specialists tend to benefit most from this type of training as body part split routines are believed to produce the greatest gains in muscle growth and strength.
In terms of time, body part splits require a much greater time commitment, as they require more workouts to cover the whole body.
A typical body part split usually requires a minimum of 3 to 4 days committed to the gym, which is why they are too much of a time suck for most average people.
That said, if you have the time to train and your goal is to focus on building a lot of muscle and strength, body part splits are probably your best bet.
Conclusion: Full body workouts and body part split routines are both great ways to get in shape. One really isn't better than the other. What is right for you will depend on a lot of factors, most importantly, your primary fitness goal.
If your goal is general fitness and health, then a full body routine is probably best. If your goal is to rip your shirt every time you tie your shoes, then a body part split routine is probably best.
Want to learn more? Check out this quick video on the topic by Coach Kevin.
References and Additional Reading
Schoenfeld BJ et. al. "Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and eta-analysis." Journal of Sports Medicine November 2016, Volume 46, Issue 11, pp 1689–1697.