Full-Body vs. Split Workouts: Which is Better?
So, you’re geared up and ready to start a new workout plan, but now you’re not sure which way to go: should you start with a full-body workout, or should you go with a body part split workout? While they’re both solid plans in their own rights, one type of workout may be better for you than the other. Let’s explore why in our full-body vs split workout face-off.
What are Full-Body Workouts?
A full-body workout is, as it sounds, a workout that addresses all the areas of the body during the same workout. So, for example, you might do pushups for chest, shoulders, and triceps; then do pullups for back and biceps; and round out your workout with squats for legs and crunches for abs. Or, you may prefer to do one single exercise per body part in a circuit training style.
Whatever plan you choose, it will address every body part during every workout, so you’ll want to take a break between workouts and not train on consecutive days. Instead, space your exercise out so you have at least one full day of rest between sessions.
What are Split Workouts?
A split body part workout divides the body into areas and has you work one or more areas exclusively during a workout. The aim is to focus more intently on each area and allow for a greater volume of exercise to be directed to specific muscle groups. This also allows for the muscles not being worked to rest, which means you can work out more often during the week since parts of your body will always be “resting.”
What are the Benefits of a Full-Body Workout?
A full-body workout is beneficial for everyone now and then, but it’s especially beneficial for beginners and folks with busy schedules. A full-body workout lets those new to lifting get accustomed to the various exercises and body parts. It’s also ideal since you can use the same exercises for different body parts as your nervous system gets used to the movements. Here are just a few benefits of a full-body workout:
- Great for beginners—as these workouts allow your body to create new neuromuscular pathways as you learn the exercises.
- Ideal for a fast-paced fat-burning workouts—if you train HIIT style (that is, with high-intensity intervals), you can perform your repetitions, rest for a short period of time, and move right on to the next exercise). By increasing your intensity levels, you can also burn lots of calories and fat.
- Great recovery time—the full day of rest in-between workouts lets your body relax and heal.
- Less days at the gym or spent working out—if you don’t want to commit to what may feel like the equivalent of a part-time job spent at the gym, a couple of full-body workouts per week may be just your style.
- Central nervous system—(CNS) with more time off from the gym, your nervous system has time to recuperate in-between workouts, so when you do get back into the gym, your body is fresh and you’re ready to go.
- Easy to fit into any schedule—even the busiest of busy can fit in two to three quick workouts a week. A full-body workout gets it done for you multi-taskers and on-the-go types.
- >Great for at-home workouts—a full-body circuit type workout is perfect if you’re working out at home.
What are the Benefits of a Split Workout?
- More frequent training—you can train on back-to-back days.
- Allows you to focus on weak body parts—you can work more intensely on body parts you need to improve with added sessions or more volume.
- Good for rehab—if you’re nursing some injuries, a split workout will allow you to go lighter on areas that may be healing while still hitting it hard on the other fully healthy body parts.
- Better for intermediate or advanced lifters—this type of a workout allows lifters to focus on two to three muscle groups.
- Better muscle recovery—because you’re working the particular muscle group only every few days or less, your body has a better chance to recover and heal between workouts.
Popular Split Workout Plans
Examples of body-part splits:
This workout split is divided into sections that “push”: i.e., chest, shoulders, and triceps, and “pull”: i.e., back, biceps, followed by legs and abdominals. This type of training helps you isolate muscle groups as it lessens “overlap” (when secondary muscles help with the lift). For example, if you were only working chest during a workout, your shoulders and triceps would “help” with the workout, thus the overlap.
You can also do less workouts per week with this type of workout as you’re hitting the whole body in three workouts. This can also give your body time to heal between training sessions, build copious amounts of muscle, and allow you to focus on areas that may need special attention or different types of training.
This is your typical bodybuilder split:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Shoulders and Calves
- Friday: Arms (biceps and triceps)
You may have heard of “international chest day” or Fridays being devoted to arms before going out to the bars. This is your quintessential bodybuilding workout plan.
If you pay attention the next time you’re at the gym, you’ll see a lot of folks following this pattern. This is a good program to follow, but the drawback is that this means all the equipment you want is going to be busy. You can solve that problem by moving your entire schedule backward or forward by a day, so your needed equipment is more likely to be available.
This is fairly straightforward. Work upper body on day one (chest, shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps) and hit lower body (glutes, hamstrings, calves, and abs on day two).
This kind of training separates the body parts into opposing muscle groups. For example, working your chest and your back on the same day or working biceps and triceps together would be antagonist training.
The advantages to this type of training are that you get equal work on both sides of the body. Plus, it increases your strength across the board and improves overall body balance.
Full Body vs. Split Workouts
So, which is better? Full body vs. split workouts? Yes, I’ll say it again. It depends. It depends on you, your schedule and the amount of time you can commit, how much muscle you’re trying to build, and how often you like to train. Whether you choose a full-body workout or a split workout, you can still get a great results-producing training session.