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Full Body Training vs Training Splits

Full Body Training
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You’ve got a full body and it’s probably a good idea to train all of it: nobody wants to be accused of skipping leg day or lacking in the ‘guns’ department.

There’s been a lot of debate surrounding full body training, how to do it, and whether or not you should. Today we’re going to drop some knowledge bombs on you so that you can train for your goals and do what’s right for you.

Grab a protein shake, strap in and prepare to learn some stuff.

Basics: Full Body Training vs. Training Splits

You can’t talk about full body training without comparing it to training splits. Training splits are pretty much everyone’s first way of training and they basically break the body down into movements or body parts to train each day.

Splits are a hallmark of old-school bodybuilding and there are a whole bunch: upper/lower, push/pull or even assigning a body part to each day (can’t forget serratus anterior day, bro). They’re used for comparison because they’re so popular and so different from full-body training.

A training split might look like this:

Monday: Chest/Tris

Flyes (Slow): 3 sets of 12

Bench Press: 3 sets of 8

Decline Press: 3 sets of 8

Seated DB Incline Press: 3 sets of 12

Skullcrusher: 4 sets of 12

Cable Tricep Extension: 4 sets to failure

Tuesday: Back/Bis

Romanian Deadlift (slow): 3 sets of 6

Deadlift: 2 sets of 5

Pull-Up: 3 sets to failure

DB Row: 4 sets of 12

Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 15

Straight Bar Curl: 4 sets of 21s (7 bottom-half/7 top-half/7 full curls)

Wednesday: Legs

Squats (Slow): 3 sets of 3

Squats: 2 sets of 8

Lateral Squat: 3 sets of 6

Bulgarian split squat: 4 sets of 8

Single-Leg Leg Press: 4 sets of 15

Thursday: Shoulders/Abs/Calves

Superset – Overhead Press and Lu Raises: 4 sets of 10 (each)

Seated DB shoulder Press: 4 sets of 10

Calf Raises: 4 sets of 15

Deadbug: 3 sets of 5

Plank: 3 sets of 15 seconds (squeeze harder!)

Weighted Pike: 3 sets of 12

V-Up: 4 sets to failure

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Chest/Tris

Flyes (Slow): 3 sets of 12Bench Press: 3 sets of 8

Decline Press: 3 sets of 8

Seated DB Incline Press: 3 sets of 12

Skullcrusher: 4 sets of 12

Cable Tricep Extension: 4 sets to failure

Sunday: Back/Bis

Romanian Deadlift (slow): 3 sets of 6

Deadlift: 2 sets of 5

Pull-Up: 3 sets to failure

DB Row: 4 sets of 12

Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 15

Straight Bar Curl: 4 sets of 21s (7 bottom-half/7 top-half/7 full curls)

Benefits of Full-Body Training

This is what you’re here for: why full body training is awesome.

 

1: Time Waits for No Schedule

To start off with, I’d love to be able to train 6 hours every day and never run out of money or get injured. However, these are two of many reasons why training time is limited. Full-body training is great because it allows you to get a lot of bang for your buck.

If you have time commitments – studies, family, work, bee-keeping – then you need to make your time in the gym count.

Full-body workouts mean you can perform 4-5 exercises and get a huge effect, whereas training splits are going to have you perform a whole bunch of exercises for just one body part.

If you’re a professional bodybuilder this might not matter, but most of us aren’t and full body training makes it possible to see huge results with comparatively little time. Stack your full-body training with plenty of big compound movements:

  • Squats
  • Bench or Overhead Press
  • Hip hinges (like deadlifts and good mornings)
  • Pulls (rows, pull-ups and cable stuff)

These use muscle groups, not single muscles, and you’ll see comparable results with less time.

2: Strength and Technique

While you might see more muscle-size gains if you give biceps 2 days a week, what you’re not going to see is appreciable strength or technique progress.

If you’re looking to get strong and develop great technique on key lifts (like the squat or bench), training them once a week just isn’t going to cut it. These are complicated movements and you need to learn the technique.

Practising once a week on a body part split isn’t going to be as effective at improving your movement patterns or strength. You can make good gains with them, but the full-body program is going to prioritise practice and progression on these movements.

This also means progressing your strength lifts more quickly and sustainably. If you’re squatting 3 times a week, you can add a little bit of weight each session and improve rapidly, but once a week is going to mean slow progress at best. The alternative is trying (and failing) to take big jobs once a week – not a good way to train!

3: Being Able to Walk

If your split has you training certain muscles once a week, you’re going to experience some serious soreness. We’ve all heard the stories of leg days that left you with wobbly legs, or ab sessions that turned your core into searing lava-jelly the next day.

The reason this happens is because you’re not training the muscles (or movement patterns) often enough. You learn to deal with exercise-stress by doing it and recovering from it, so your body gets better – just in case you feel like doing it again.

If you only train once a week your body doesn’t adapt to the stimulus and you start de-training. Full-body training helps you acclimatise to these training stresses and reduces your DOMS but this doesn’t reduce results!

(Disclaimer: we still love training splits but it’s about what works for your needs!)

This is an example of a traditional 2-day Full-body training program, where you alternate sessions every other day (e.g. – day one, rest, day two, rest, day one, etc.):

Day one

Squats: 6 sets of 6

Bench Press: 6 sets of 6

Deadlift: 2 sets of 6

Bicep Curls: 4 sets of 12

Day two

Paused Squat: 4 sets of 3

Dumbbell Row: 4 sets of 10

Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets of 6

Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 12

Full Body Training vs. Training Splits: Which is Best?

That heading is probably dishonest: they’re both great but what’s best for you depends on your goals. Just like everything else in health and fitness. But we’re here to provide some clarity and dodge the useless clichés.

Full-body training is better for you if:

  • You’re new to training
  • You’re trying to get better at certain lifts
  • You’re chasing strength more than physique changes
  • You don’t have much time to train

While a bodybuilding split is going to be much better for you if this sounds familiar:

  • You’re an experienced bodybuilding/physique enthusiast with weak points you want to improve
  • You’ve got a million hours of spare time to spend in the gym
  • You want to get a severe pump on and you’re willing to do 10 different types of curl to get it

Final Thoughts…

The important part here is that you keep your own goals and needs in mind. The way that you train needs to aim you right at the outcomes you’re trying to achieve.

When you’re looking at progressing your training, it should move from general to specific. This means that you want to start with a full body training program no matter what your goals are, but from there it’s going to depend on whether you’re chasing strength/power or specific physique goals.

If you’re just here to look good and get healthy then they’re both appropriate as long as you stay healthy, focus on technique and put the hard work in. Otherwise, pick what works best for your goals and give it everything you’ve got.

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