When we look at most articles, and old bodybuilding magazines, the usual type of workouts we see are body part splits. Naturally, we think this is the workout we need because why not, the pro’s are doing it.
Natural vs Enhanced
It’s not that we CAN’T do a body part split workout. Like any other program it's a tool that can be used when you’ve been sticking to any other type of program for awhile. However, as a beginner, it’s probably not the most ideal workout to start out with.
The reason a pro level bodybuilder may be doing a body part split is because of recovery. When you are enhanced, you are able to handle a LOT more volume than a natural lifter. Therefore, you can hammer more sets per muscle in a given session. Also, by taking anabolics, you are keeping your muscle building signal elevated 24/7.
A natural lifter on the other hand isn’t. In fact, our lifting session is how we boost our muscle building signal. Every time we do a workout that signal is elevated for 24-48 hours and then the signal drops back down. In order to get that signal back up we need to train that muscle again. So knowing this then, if we did chest only on Monday, and the signal goes back down after 48 hours, we’d be waiting 6 days before we ever sent the signal to our chest to grow again. Clearly this is not ideal.
The Benefit of a Full Body Workouts
Enter the full body workout. Now keep in mind, we aren’t taking away volume. You will still be doing the 8-10 sets you did on chest day for your chest, but now you get to spread that volume over 2-3 days. This allows you to maximize triggering that muscle building signal. Not only that, in a body part split, we are usually pretty dead by the time we get to our last 2 exercises. By spreading it out over 2-3 days you get to hit those exercises fresh, allowing you to potentially use heavier weight or do more reps. The only thing that matters when it comes to muscle growth, is progressive overload so this is exactly what you are chasing!
As a beginner lifter, you also want practice on each lift. The reason our strength goes up so quickly when we first start out, is because we are grooving neuromuscular movement patterns. Our central nervous system is becoming more efficient at performing the major lifts. If we can practice that over 2-3 days, we increase the chance of grooving that pattern vs just one day.
Not Missing A Workout
The other often forgotten component of a beginners workout plan is their adherence. If you follow a body part split and forget to go to the gym one day it throws your whole plan off. Now you’ll have gone 1-2 weeks without hitting an entire muscle group! By utilizing a full body plan, even if you miss a workout, you’ll still be hitting it 1-2 more times that week. It allows you to be a lot more flexible with sticking to a great workout plan without fear of missing the workouts.
The last factor as to why a beginner should start with a full body program, is we only need the minimum effective dose. This stimulus is going to be so new and fresh for a lifter in their first year, that there is no need to do so much. The reason pro’s do so much volume is because of their advanced level. They need that much more volume just to see a tiny bit of growth. A beginner will grow off 8-10 weekly sets per muscle. An intermediate will be closer to around 12-15, and an advanced will most likely need 15+ sets. As tempting as it may be to want to do more sets there just isn’t any need. You run the risk of doing junk volume, and adding more work without the additional benefit.
This is just a sample workout. There are many ways you can construct this, and if you want a full workout plan I suggest checking out the Mind Pump MAPS Anabolic program. It’s the perfect workout for beginners.
Frequency: 2-3x a week (keep 1-2 days of rest in between to recover)
Length: 4 week cycle with one week deload
Sets & Reps: 2-5 sets with 3-6 reps per exercise (rest up to 3 minutes between sets)
Day 1 -
Barbell Squats 4x5
Bench Press 4x5
Weight/Assisted Pull-ups 3x5
Barbell Curls 2x6-8
EZ Bar Skullcrushers 2x6-8
Day 2 -
Overhead Press 4x5
Seated Row 3x5
Dumbbell Shrugs 3x3-6
Dumbbell Hammer Curls 2x6-8
Day 3 (only if you aren’t sore and are recovering from Day 2) -
Romanian Deadlifts 4x5
Incline Bench 4x5
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3x5
Lateral Raises 3x6-8
Preacher Curls 2x6-8
Tricep Pushdowns 2x6-8
Ideally you should be deloading, and eventually phasing your workouts, and making slight changes after 4-6 weeks. If you’d like additional help with taking care of all that programming be sure to check out our MAPS Anabolic Program where all the guesswork is taken care of. Also check out my article on the What Is A Good Resistance Training Program for a Beginner.