Full-Body vs. Split Workout Plans: Which Is Best?
Find out if full-body or split workouts are best.
Weights vs. cardio. Carbs vs. keto. Volume vs. load. There’s no shortage of controversy in the fitness industry, and one of the biggest ongoing debates is whether a full-body or split workout plan brings the most gains.
A full-body workout involves exercising your entire body and stimulating overload in all muscle groups within one workout. Examples: A one-minute on, 30-seconds off circuit workout wherein each minute of work targets a different muscle group, or a strength workout consisting of full-body compound movements, such as thrusters (squat and overhead press).
A split workout, on the other hand, involves isolating muscle groups and movement patterns. For example, you might work out your back and biceps on one day and your lower posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes and calves) on another day.
The thought process behind split workouts is that isolating muscle groups allows you to target them more intensely and induce more muscle growth, but it doesn’t always work out that way in real life. Here’s why.
Benefits of full-body workout plans
Tire flips are a great full-body workout.
Most people will see more success with full-body workout plans simply because most people don’t have five to eight hours to work out each week.
Take a gander at some of the benefits of full-body workouts:
- They’re efficient. You can burn more calories in less time.
- They’re highly effective. You practice major movement patterns and work your largest muscles.
- They’re quick. You generally don’t need to spend much time in rest intervals.
- They’re functional. You’re kind of forced to focus on compound movements (like squats) because of the time factor and, let’s face it, there are few real-life opportunities that involve triceps cable push-downs anyway.
- They’re forgiving. If you miss a workout, it’s no biggie, because you’re not neglecting an entire muscle group by missing that workout.
Benefits of split workout plans
Isolation exercises have unique benefits compared to full-body exercises.
A select few will see tremendous success with split workout routines. These people tend to have their fitness very dialed in and can commit to a plan, reducing their risk of neglecting muscle groups by missing split workouts.
Here are some benefits of split workout plans for those who can stick to them:
- They’re customizable. You can fine-tune your workouts to concentrate your efforts and strengthen any weaknesses.
- They’re specific. If you have a specific strength goal, you can tailor a split workout routine to help you meet that goal. For example, if you want to master the single-leg squat, you can spend more time doing unilateral leg strength exercises.
- They’re very adjustable. If you get injured, you can still follow a split workout routine. Simply adjust it to avoid aggravating your injury.
- They’re structured. If you thrive with structure and routine, you’ll thrive with a split workout plan.
- They’re (also) effective. Split workout routines are highly effective for building mass and improving body composition.
Should you do a full-body or split workout routine?
The best workout plan for you depends on how much time you have (and your goals).
You’re probably tired of hearing this, but… It depends. For the vast majority of people, full-body workout routines provide the most benefits and the best results because most people simply don’t have the time to fully commit to a split workout routine.
A full-body workout plan ensures you exercise all of the important movement patterns and muscle groups, even if you only have two or three 30-minute workouts each week. Conversely, to reap the benefits of a split workout plan, you need to dedicate several hours each week to working out—and avoid missing workouts or adjusting your routine when you do.
Need help deciding which type of workout routine is best for you? Stop by your local World Gym to see how a personal trainer can help.
References/Links for More Information
- The effects of two equal-volume training protocols upon strength, body composition and salivary hormones in male rugby union players
- Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength