Are Full Body Workouts Good? Full Body vs. Split Workouts

Jason is 21 years old and has lifted weights without a dedicated workout program for 6 months. He’s managed to add some muscle and lose 10 pounds. He’s 6′ tall, weighs 175 pounds and has 12 percent body fat. He’s decided he wants to get serious with adding muscle. He ideally would like to build up to 200 pounds in weight with 8 percent body fat.

Jason works a fairly sedentary job, has a gym membership and can attend the gym 4 days a week for 1.25 hours per visit.

Jason’s primary goal is building muscle, preferably lean, dense muscle in the long run.

Should Jason do a full body workout or a split routine?

Because Jason is relatively new to weight lifting (he’s never done a serious regimen), a full body workout may be good for 2 to 3 months. However, he should restrict working out his full body with weights to 2 to 3 times per week (depending on how intense his workouts are). He could easily incorporate cardio during his other gym visits to help burn his unwanted fat.

After 2 to 3 months, assuming his goal remains the same, Jason would be well served to swtich to an intense split routine. Because he can go to the gym 4 times per week, a 3 or 4 day split would work perfectly. He’d even have some time for some HIIT post weightlifting workout.

Are full body workouts good?

The big picture answer is yes because working out is good.

However, in order for this question to make sense, it must be narrowed down to whether it’s good for a particular fitness goal.

Are full body workouts good for packing on muscle mass?

Yes and no.

They are great for beginner lifters and as a way to radically mix up a workout regimen for veterans. However, in the long run, as a staple workout schedule, they aren’t the best for building muscle mass and a ripped physique. In order to add some serious mass, the muscles must be worked out progressively and to exhaustion. Splits are better at doing this because more time is dedicated to a muscle per workout session.

Are full body workouts good for creating a lean physique and/or losing weight?

Absolutely. If your primary goal is not to build serious muscle, but instead want a leaner physique or to simply get rid of fat, full body workouts are excellent. You can include resistance training to all the muscles twice a week leaving plenty of time for other fitness activities such as cardio, sports and/or stretching.

Full Body Workouts are good for the following situations:

1. Beginner weight lifters

For anyone brand new to weight lifting, full body workouts 2 times per week are an excellent way for the body to acclimatize to lifting weights. A beginner isn’t going to hammer any particular muscle group with 12 sets to failure. Instead 3 to 5 sets per muscle is a great start … and this volume can easily be done twice a week.

2. People unable to go to the gym more than 2 to 3 times per week.

Sometimes life gets busy. At the end of 2011 my wife had a baby. Talk about insanely crazy. I couldn’t get to the gym for a few months. After that for a while the best I could do was 2 times a week. In this situation full body workouts were terrific. They also were a great re-introduction to lifting after a few months off.

If you can only get to the gym 2 to 3 times per week, a full body workout each visit is a good way to incorporate a resistance training regimen in your life.

3. After a long break from weight lifting

If you’ve taken 2 months or longer off from the gym, a full body workout for a couple of months is an excellent way to get your body back into resistance training. If it’s been 4 months or longer, you don’t want to stroll into the gym and hammer your muscles with 12 failure sets. You probably won’t be able to move the next day (I’ve done this … am speaking from stupid experience).

4. Building muscle isn’t your primary goal

If you simply wish to add some resistance training in your workout regimen and aren’t concerned about building massive slabs of muscle, full body workouts are good. They’re good because you don’t need to spend as much time in lifting weights and can dedicate more time to other fitness activities such as sports, running, cardio, yoga … whatever your fitness priority is.

Split workouts are good for the following scenarios

1. Your primary goal is to build muscle (mass or lean).

In other words, you want to create a very muscular physique (either mass-focused or cut). Splits provide the time and exercise variety to progressively exhaust and isolate muscles sufficiently for creating your ultimate muscular physique.

For example, suppose you’re like me where you easily develop your triceps, legs and back, but lack in upper chest and bicep develop, you can create a split routine that places a little more emphasis on upper chest and biceps to create a more balanced physique.

2. You have 3 to 5 days to go to the gym

If you do splits, you must be committed. If you’re on a 4 day split, but routinely only get to the gym 2 days a week, the split workout won’t work all that well.

Can beginner weight lifters do split weight lifting workouts?

In my view, yes. That’s how I started and they worked very well for me.

Obviously you aren’t going to incorporate advanced lifting techniques. Instead focus on the basics. The basics are compound movements complemented by isolation exercises. Set volume per muscle should be limited to accommodate a beginner weight lifter (6 to 9 sets per muscle).

How are splits scheduled?

Splits range from 2 day to 5 day splits. Some people may do a 6-day split, but that’s not common.

Are splits appropriate for circuit training?

Yes. You can easily design 2 or 3 day circuit training splits. A good circuit training split would be a 2 day split where day one is upper body and day 2 is lower body.

Are splits okay for supersets?

Absolutely. I’ve done many phases that were supersets and I almost always scheduled my superset workouts across 3 to 5 day splits.

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