Split routines were made famous by bodybuilders back in the day like Arnold, who were on anabolics and could recover from that type of volume in a given session. For us regular folks, (ESPECIALLY starting out), it’s simply too much work in a given session.
The Muscle Building Signal
Every time you workout a muscle, you are sending a muscle building signal to the body to tell it to grow. It hits a peak threshold, and then over 24-48 hours that signal comes back down to baseline. So if we know after 48 hours that signal is pretty much gone, why would you only want to train a muscle once per week?
The reason it works for the pro’s, is because they are advanced and have been lifting for years. They’ve built up their work capacity to handle that kind of volume in a given session. The other catch is the enhancements they are taking are ALREADY providing that signal. Not only that, the use of those enhancements provides that signal 24/7. We don’t have that luxury.
Takeaway: Since the signal goes down after 48 hours, do 2-3 full body workouts in a given week to spread that volume out so that you are maximizing that signal. Since we don’t have the anabolics to do it for us, we need to use weightlifting to our advantage to optimize our bodies for growth.
Recoverable Volume and Work Effort
The other thing you have to keep in mind is realistically we can only accomplish so much quality work in a given session. Think of it this way. We know that if we can add 5lbs to the bar more than our previous session, we’re presumably increasing our strength and hopefully adding size. Let’s also say your chest workout was 3 sets of flat bench, 3 sets of incline bench, and 3 sets of cable flyes.
If you are truly putting quality effort into your workout, do you think you’d be able to put up more weight by the time you got to the flyes in that same workout? Or do you think you’d be able to push even MORE weight on flyes AND the incline bench, if you could save it for later in the week when you can hit your chest fresh again?
Takeaway: Set yourself up for success by allowing your body to attack each exercise as fresh as possible, to push as much weight as you can safely handle as possible. That’ll increase your overall workload towards each muscle.
The Full Body Workout
This is where the full body workout comes in. I love the full body routine for beginners. It takes everything we’ve mentioned above and maximizes your chances for growth. It allows you to hit EACH muscle 2-3 times a week maximizing the muscle building signal, while ALSO letting you hit each muscle fresh (or at least more fresh than trying to annihilate it all on one day which will make you progressively weaker and tired by the end of the workout).
It also makes your daily life more accommodating. By having three full body workouts, you have ample time throughout the week to get those workouts in. Let’s face it, life gets in the way. If we were to do a traditional body part split, and some life obligation came up and you had to skip your chest day, when would you be able to do it next? The following week? Now you’ve completely eliminated the signal for more than 7 days! Full body will make sure you’re still giving it an appropriate signal throughout the week even if you miss a day.
I hope this article helped clear up the idea of doing a body part split vs a full body. If you want to learn more about programming, feel free to check out my other articles on how exactly to program for your own body utilizing the appropriate intensity, sets, reps, and volume. If you aren't into program design, and want an even easier approach, check out any of our MAPS programs where we have done all that guesswork for you guys so it’s easy to follow and incorporates all these principles.