Full Body Or Body Part Split Routine: Which is best for you?
The two main workout planning methods – Full Body & Muscle Group Split – both have their pros and cons.
How can you tell which one is best for you?
Check the detailed pros and cons or skip to the summary at the end of the article.
Full Body Training Routine
Quick definition: Workouts based on targeting all major muscle groups. Usually 3 or more times per week.
Balanced body - Full body training makes sure that you are equally targeting all muscles. It's usually focused on more functional moves because it doesn't aim to isolate a certain body part.
Burns more calories - When a large amount of muscle is targeted the energy expenditure increases. While it may be hard to place enough load on a specific muscle group, it will burn more energy overall.
Time-saving - For those who don't have much time to workout, full body workouts give the best amount of benefits in the least possible time. 3-4 times per week is enough to stay in shape.
Can't focus on specific muscles - Obviously, no specific improvement in the strength or shape of a certain body part or movement can't be achieved with general full body workouts.
Higher metabolic load - Trying to fit challenging exercises for all muscle groups into one workout usually results with a higher metabolic load. If the workout is fast-paced it can even be considered pure endurance or cardio.
Possible overtraining - Although it's not easy to really stress all muscle groups in one workout, a frequent, high-intensity full body workout schedule can lead to overtraining. As opposed to a body part split routine which makes sure that each muscle group is well rested before the next session.
Body Part / Muscle Group Split Routine
Quick definition: Workouts divide per bigger muscle groups (Upper/Lower Body) or by specific muscles (Push - Arms, Chest etc.). Each group is usually trained 1-2 times per week.
Specific body shape improvement - You can't escape your genetics. But you can really improve your body shape by focusing on the specific parts that are usually being underdeveloped. Whether it's calves, chest or forearms, you can make it bigger and/or stronger with specific targeting.
Greater muscle loading - One muscle group per workout gives you the chance to really load the chosen muscles. For both, weighted and bodyweight only training.
More strength gains - Greater load + longer recovery = better strength gains. Body part split training doesn't only stress your muscles harder, it also gives them a better chance to recover which is optimal for gaining more strength.
Can't skip workouts - If you skip a workout the whole schedule needs to be rearranged to make sure that each muscle group gets equally trained in the following days. Otherwise, a muscle imbalance is risked.
Possible muscle imbalance - Skipping or emphasizing one body part in your training over a longer time period causes muscle imbalance. Besides looking very unattractive, it increases the risk of injury in all activities.
Less overall calorie burn - An arm-focused workout will (in most cases) burn fewer calories than a full body workout.
So...Which workout planning method is best for YOU?
Full body is best for you if :
- You are a beginner
- Your muscles will respond well to any kind of stimulus, so there's no need to worry about specific training in the beginning. As soon as you stop seeing progress you can move on to an upper/lower body split. If needed, you will then further divide your workouts based on even more specific goals (triceps, calves...).
- You are busy
- If you can't find more than 3 days in the week for your workouts, it's best to choose the full body routines for better, but less specific results (example: get in better shape, lose some weight, see some more muscle tone etc.).
- You want to burn more fat
- Full body routines, especially HIIT workouts work best for losing fat.
Split routines are best for you if:
- You want to focus on strength
- Full body routines can't include enough exercises to efficiently load all muscles for strength gains (unless you plan to train for hours which doesn't make much sense).
- You want to improve your aesthetics in a specific way
- Bigger biceps, calves or any other muscles take time to build. But not just any time, it's the time under tension that matters. To increase the stress on the muscles it's best to keep your workout focused on specific body parts.
- You hate cardio
- Want to be in shape but hate the fast, jumping and sweating workouts? A good split training routine will keep you active throughout the week while minimizing the cardio. It's still advised to do one full body cardio workout per week for other benefits (cardiovascular endurance, active rest, energy expenditure etc.