Finding an optimal workout plan and structure is crucial to build the body you want and get the results you desire. Full body workouts engage all of your muscle groups in one training session and can take many forms, such as HIIT, HIFT, and full body resistance training programs as opposed to split workouts, which target specific muscle groups divided from one another on specific days. Split workouts are designed to maximize muscle growth, by optimizing recovery time and efficiently working each muscle group effectively 2-3 times per week. Emphasizing specific muscle groups, on specific days, can help fully engage and isolate those muscles for maximum gains and performance benefits. But which one is better split workouts vs full body. But, like most things strength and conditioning, it's just not that simple.
Split Workouts Vs Full Body
Like most debates amongst strength and conditioning, there is no right answer, whether or not split workouts vs full body workouts are better than one another. The answer simply depends on your goals, how much time you’re willing to dedicate to meet those goals, and environmental factors. There are a ton of different ways to do things, but structure and adequate recovery time are key in deciding on which training routine to follow.
When you’re deciding on which workout structure to follow, there are a few key life variables to consider.
- Time: How much time do you have during the week, to dedicate and commit to training? 3 days per week, for 45 minutes per day? 5 days per week? Or maybe just 1-2 days depending on your schedule. If you can remain consistent and time is not a significant factor, a split workout structure, is going to be the best choice for maximal performance. If you have increased variability in your schedule, and you can’t remain consistent, a full body workout is probably a better choice.
- Goals: Defining your specific health and fitness goals, will help determine if a split workout, is a better choice than a full body structure. If you’re an endurance athlete and your focus is running, cycling, and swimming, then full body workouts, with specific emphasis on muscle groups, which need more strength will be the best option. On the flip side, if your goal is to build more strength, maximize muscle growth, and havea defined physique, then a bodybuilding split workout, is going to be the workout structure for you.
- Weaknesses: What are your weaknesses? Do you need to be in overall better shape? Do you want to lose weight at a rapid pace? Maybe you have specific muscular imbalances you need to address? Perhaps you want more functional strength, to move better, improve mobility and reduce minor aches and pains. Whatever your weaknesses may be, hybrid programs, designed to improve strength and burn body fat, such as HIIT, HIFT, or HIFB, are great options to improve all aspects of performance and functional strength. A split program, paired with a cardio component would also be a great option. Again, that depends on your time and your goals.
Full Body Workout Benefits
Full body workouts routines are perfect for those that want to build more strength, and who are not concerned with building more muscle mass. Head to head studies have shown that full body workouts vs split workouts, full body workouts still produce significant strength gains [R].
2. Time Efficient
Full body workouts will help maximize the number of muscle groups you can work within one training session, which can be extremely beneficial if you’re limited on time.
3. Body Composition
High intensity full body workouts, can help maximize the amount of body fat you burn within that allotted time frame you’re so limited on. Circuit training, Tabata training, HIIT, and HIFT workouts can support your weight loss goals, while improving cardiorespiratory endurance and strength.
Split Workout Benefits
Split workouts have many benefits when it comes to optimal strength, recovery, and muscle growth, as compared to full body workouts. Split workouts can take on many different variations such as push-pull splits, 4-day splits, 5-day splits, and lower and upper body splits
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A meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine analyzed the effects of resistance training frequency on muscle growth and strength. The analysis concluded that training muscle groups 2-3 times per week, resulted in significantly more muscle hypertrophy and strength as compared to once per week [R]. A 2018 study in conjunction with Texas Tech University replicated these results, demonstrating that working each muscle group twice per week, resulted in increased muscle size and improved body composition [R].
Training 2-3 muscle groups at one time, as opposed to all of your muscles, in one training session, will help maximize your effort, increase training load, and optimize your focus, utilizing more exercises to maximize strength and gains.
2. Muscle Hypertrophy
By utilizing a split workout, you’ll inevitably build more muscle mass since your body has more sufficient time for recovery, generating more lean muscle mass, especially if training frequency is 2-3 times per week.
3. Body Composition
Although full body workouts will also help improve body composition, if you want to build more muscle mass, while burning more body fat, then a split workout is going to help you gain more lean muscle mass while also dropping body fat.
Split Workouts Vs Full Body: Takeaway
Like I said, when it comes to choosing a specific split workout structure, it really depends what you want from your training. Both split workouts vs full body have their place dependent on your schedule, commitment level and goals. If you don't really care about having six pack abs and just want to maintain, stay in shape and fit in your jeans, then full body workouts might be for you. If you want a well defined physique then maybe a split workout would be the ideal choice. Define your goals first and go from there.
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