I’ve had a lot of clients asking me if they should be doing a full body routine or a split routine. For some general knowledge, a split routine is usually when you separate each muscle into their own workout days (back day, leg day, etc). A full body routine would involve hitting every muscle in one workout.
Old School Knowledge
Body part split routines became famous during Arnold’s day when all the top bodybuilders were doing it. It’s not WRONG to do a split routine. You can very well make great gains from lifting that way. But is it the MOST optimal for all natural lifters? What about lifters limited on time?
It really comes down to practicality and adherence. Regardless of what I recommend the rest of this article, ultimately choose the workout style that excites you the most! The decent program followed consistently is always better than the perfect program never followed.
The Muscle Building Signal
For an all natural lifter, the muscle building signal is one of our most important tools. When we workout a particular muscle, we send a signal to that body. 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 ideal goal would be to elevate that signal after it comes back down. This is where a full body routine can be more advantageous. By doing, say, a 3 day full body split, you are constantly sending a maximal signal to the full body to grow. There’s no reason to hit your chest once, let it fully recover in 2-3 days, and still arbitrarily decide to wait an entire week just to hit it again.
Maximizing Your Potential
There is also the matter of effort in the gym. Ideally, we’d want to be adding more weight or reps over time right? If you did ALL your chest exercises in one day, how much effort would you realistically be able to put into that final exercise after hitting it all workout with 3-4 chest exercises before it? You’ll probably be pretty spent by then. Instead, why not spread that chest volume over 2-3 days where you can feel a little fresher going into those exercises and thus, give yourself a better shot at getting more reps and/or weight.
You also want to keep in mind recovery. We want to stimulate the muscle to enhance that signal. If we can achieve that with 3-8 sets (as the research shows), what added benefit is ANOTHER 3-8 sets on top of that? If anything, you might be overworking that muscle on that particular day, and doing junk volume, and thus not allow proper recovery to grow.
Real Life Application
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. It gives you way more flexibility during your week so that, even if you miss a workout, you haven’t thrown off your entire workout.
If you’ve been doing a body part split for awhile now, I highly recommend you try a full body routine. It’ll be a new stimulus for your body (which will also cause growth), and it will maximize frequency for the anabolic stimulus, fresher workouts, and allow you to push harder. Try a 3 day full body routine for 4-6 weeks and see how you feel, and compare it to your previous workout program. You might just see some new changes.