Split and Full Body workouts
What is the Split workout?
Split training means that only one or a few muscle groups are trained during one workout. This allows you to increase the intensity and volume of training for specific muscle groups. As a result, the potential for muscle growth can be increased.
To maximise the effectiveness of your workouts and avoid overtraining or injury – you need to plan your workouts in advance (when and which muscle groups will be trained), as muscles need time to recover and grow – about 48 to 72 hours. If this time is not given to the muscles:
- Muscles don’t “get stronger” – your work in the gym won’t get you the results you hoped for.
- You may experience overtraining syndrome and have to stop training for several weeks or even months.
Split workouts can be structured in many different ways. The three most common ways are:
- Push/Pull/Legs – workout routines are divided into three categories:
- On push day you train your “pushing” muscles such as the chest, shoulders and triceps.
- On Pull Day, you train your back and biceps.
- On Leg Day, you train your entire lower body and abdominal muscles.
- Upper/Lower split – the workout routine is divided into two categories:
- Upper body training days include training of the chest, back, shoulder and arm muscles.
- Lower body training days are for training the legs and abdominals.
- Four-Day Split – only one or two muscle groups are trained each day. For example, one day you train your chest and triceps, the next day – only your biceps, etc. This split maximises the workout intensity of each muscle group and can better promote muscle mass gain. However – it is also the most time-consuming and physically demanding split – so it is more suitable for experienced athletes.
Benefits of split workouts
- Dedicating an entire workout to one or two muscle groups provides targeted and effective stimulation, which is better for muscle growth and strength gain.
- Because the workouts focus on specific muscle groups, it is possible to perform more different exercises during the workout to stimulate specific muscle groups. This increases the number of muscle fibres involved, which in turn better promotes overall muscle growth.
- By dividing the workouts by muscle group, you can ensure optimal recovery time for each muscle group and reduce the likelihood of overtraining – while the muscles you trained the day before are resting, you can work out other muscle groups and optimise your overall workout performance.
- Split training allows you to create a highly flexible training plan and focus on weaker areas of the body, prioritise specific muscle groups or incorporate specialised training techniques to get the results you want faster.
- Split training allows you to spend more time and focus on learning specific exercises, techniques or movements, thus improving skill development and performance.
- By focusing on specific muscle groups, excessive strain on any particular area can be avoided, allowing the body to recover better and reducing the risk of injury.
- Provides an opportunity to mentally prepare and direct your energy to a specific area of your body, resulting in increased concentration and mind-muscle connection.
In other words, Split training, compared to Full Body training, provides a higher load on specific muscle groups, which in combination with the right workout structure (allowing enough time for muscle growth and recovery), can accelerate the rate of muscle growth.
Split training is, therefore, usually recommended if your goal is to increase muscle mass.
Disadvantages of split training
- Split workouts usually take more time than full-body workouts – you will have to spend more time in the gym – instead of 2-3 workouts per week, you will need 4-5.
- Split workouts usually involve working out every muscle group once or twice per week. For beginners, this means a lower increase in strength and slower muscle growth (compared to Full Body workouts).
- If training is not carefully planned, some muscle groups may receive more attention than others, which can lead to:
- Uneven development and increased risk of injury.
- Reduced performance and slower development (if muscles are not given enough time to recover).
- Over time, the body adapts to the load, which can lead to a plateau in strength and muscle growth. To avoid this stagnation, it is especially important to regularly increase the load and vary the exercises (progressive overload).
- Not suitable for people with weight loss or cardiovascular fitness goals because even though 1 or 2 muscle groups are stimulated more during the workout – the total energy expenditure is still lower compared to Full Body workouts.
- Not suitable for beginners. The load and intensity of Split training for specific muscle groups are great for building muscle but can also increase the risk of injury.
- Not suitable for people with busy schedules, as skipping a workout either misses training some muscle groups or significantly increases their rest time. In both cases, the result will be negatively affected.
What is the Full Body Workout?
Full Body workout means that during the workout, all the major muscle groups are engaged.
Unlike Split training, which focuses on specific muscle groups or body parts, Full Body training includes exercises that engage several muscle groups at the same time to provide balanced and comprehensive development of all the muscles in the body.
Full Body workouts are easily adaptable to virtually any need, regardless of your skill and fitness level – making them the best way to start improving your overall fitness and balance.
Benefits of Full Body Workouts
- By stimulating all major muscle groups in each workout, 2 to 3 workouts per week are enough to maintain or improve overall fitness. Every single workout may take a little longer, but you will need less time per week (compared to a Split).
- Faster muscle recovery. There are two reasons for this (compared to Split):
- The load on each muscle group is less.
- Less training and more rest days.
- Stimulates testosterone release better (especially leg exercises). The more muscles are involved, the more the release of testosterone is boosted, and – the higher the testosterone level, the faster the muscle tissue builds up.
- Less risk of injury, as training multiple muscle groups in a single workout will reduce the chance of putting a disproportionate load on one muscle or joint.
- Lower central nervous system (CNS) stress. Every workout is more or less stressful for the central nervous system. If you train 5 or more days a week (e.g., a 6-day split) your CNS may start to “fatigue”, which can manifest itself as feeling tired all the time, no matter what you do.
- No additional equipment is needed, so they are ideal for home training.
- Easy workout planning. If you have 3 workouts per week, you will always have 2 days free in between some of them. So if you have an urgent job or feel your body hasn’t fully recovered – you can move your workout to the next day without disrupting your training routine.
- Full Body workouts are ideal for reducing fat mass. Full Body workouts that combine cardio and strength training have been shown to increase fat loss (burn more calories) and improve cardiovascular health.
Disadvantages of Full Body Workouts
- Since Full Body workouts focus on the balanced development of all muscle groups, they may not provide the necessary load and intensity needed for maximum muscle mass gain.
- It can become difficult to continuously increase the load and create the progressive overload needed for muscle growth.
- Training all muscle groups can cause fatigue, which can affect performance at the end of a workout. Specifically, some muscle groups may develop faster and others slower due to underload at the end of the workout.
- In Full Body Training, a limited number of exercises can be performed for each muscle group (because the duration of the workout is limited and all muscle groups need to be engaged). This reduces the number of muscle fibres involved, and therefore the rate of muscle growth may decrease.
So, which is better – Split or Full Body workouts?
This has been debated for years.
Each type of workout has its advantages and disadvantages. There is no definitive answer as to whether Full Body or Split is better.
Therefore, the real question is not which type of workout is better but which one best suits your goals, your fitness level and how much time you can or want to spend on maintaining or improving your fitness.
Here are some suggestions that can help you decide which type of training is best for you:
- If you are a beginner, choose Full Body workouts, as balanced full-body training is the best way to start developing overall fitness and coordination and getting to know your body and what it can do. Build a solid foundation, and if you want to build your body in more detail later on, move on to Split workouts.
- If your goal is to improve your overall health, choose Full Body workouts to train your whole body evenly.
- If your goal is to increase muscle mass and develop strong musculature, choose Split workouts as an effective way to shape your body in a targeted way.
- If you can only work out two or three days a week – go for Full Body or HIIT workouts. This will be the most efficient use of your time.
- If you are recovering from an injury – choose Split training, as it will allow you to ” take care” of the injured parts of your body.
- If your musculature is not evenly developed, choose Split training and focus more on the weaker muscle groups;
- If your body is slow to recover after a workout – choose Full Body workouts and train no more than 2 to 3 times a week.
And remember that when it comes to shaping and improving your body and your health, 80% of success is made in the kitchen.