Methods of effective training are constantly being debated
in the fitness world. Each individual
who partakes in fitness wants to know the most effective way to train their
bodies to achieve the goals that they set forth for themselves. Two methods
that have survived through time are full body exercise and body part split
training. Much like any debate, each
method has its pros, and each method has its cons. Through analytical research of each method we can understand each
technique, and choose for ourselves which is the correct path to take.
Full Body Training
Let's look first at full body training. Full body training is self-explanatory when
looking at the big picture of the method. You're going to work each muscle
group every time that you partake in your training. Generally this equates to
three or four times per week. The main
pro for this method is that you're going to use each muscle group more
frequently. However, many people will
argue that each muscle group doesn't get hit enough. Additionally, with full body training you can run into joint
issues from overuse.
A typical workout for full body training could include all
of the following:
Standing Calf Raises
While you don't see the majority of bodybuilders utilizing
this method still, full body exercises have been used by famous bodybuilders,
Reg Park: known for his 5x5 full body workouts
Arnold Schwarzenegger: believe it or
not, Arnold used full body training earlier in his lifting career. He then transitioned to split training as he
progressed in his career.
Vince Gironda: known for his 8x8 full body workouts
Full body workouts are well suited for individuals who are
just starting out in fitness, as you can see from Arnold's reference
earlier. This helps with beginner
muscle development and what are referred to as “noob gains.” When you start lifting you have the ability
to grow more and make quicker strength gains than someone else who has been
lifting for a while. Your body isn't
used to training and can adapt quicker to the new stress it's under. So, full body workouts are beneficial to
utilize this adaptation to gain strength and size quickly.
Split training, also referred to as the Bro Split, is the
workout routine that consists of splitting up each day for a different body
part (or 2). An example of a normal
split routine would be:
During these workouts you are able to focus on each muscle
group and really maximize intensity and hypertrophy. While you may only do one or two exercises for a muscle group
during full body training, you are able to do 4-6 exercises for the muscle group
you are training each day. The negative
side to split training is that you only hit each muscle group once per week. In
theory this leads to a lot of downtime for each muscle group where they could
That being said, splits still utilize other muscle groups
during each day inadvertently. For
example, on chest day you will be activating your triceps and shoulders on most
exercises. On back day, you're
activating biceps in the same manner.
Which do I choose?
As we've gone over, there are advantages and disadvantages
to both exercise styles. Both have
their merits, but which is best? This is where I throw you a bit of a
curveball, because in my personal opinion the best method is a hybrid of the
two. I would recommend either the Upper/Lower Split or the Push/Pull/Legs
Method (or PPL).
Upper/Lower split is a method where you do upper body on one
day and lower body on another, generally with a rest day after completing
both. Since that is a 3 day cycle you
have two options. You can add an additional
day for abs and cardio or some other exercise to make a weekly regiment of 2
upper, 2 lower, 2 rest, and 1 additional day. Or, you can just have a six day
cycle and not worry about lifting the same muscle group (or resting) on the
same day of each week.
While an Upper/Lower split divides your exercises into two
groups, PPL divides into three. Push
day works out your chest, triceps and shoulders. Pull day takes care of back
and biceps. Legs day obviously is for
its namesake. You can take one rest day
per week and do two cycles of PPL, or you can have two rest days and turn it
into an 8 day regiment.
Both of these hybrid methods take the benefits of both and
try to eradicate the disadvantages. You
are hitting each muscle group more than once, unlike the bro split, and you're
getting more exercises each session, unlike the full body workout.
Remember, however, that every individual's body is
different. You may respond better to one method than another, which is why I
always recommend trying different methods to see which fits best for you. Are you doing full body training now? Try a
bro split. Have you been doing PPL for
a few months and want to try something new? Do an upper/lower split. Sometimes the act of mixing it up in itself
is great for the body. So hit the gym
and find what works for you, and watch the gains roll in!
About the Author: Nathan Robinson is a former competitive
power lifter that has a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science and is certified
by the American College of Sports Medicine. You can view his website here