While most exercise articles that I read online focus on specific exercises or how to train a particular muscle group, not as many talk about how to formulate a complete workout routine.
In this post I want to talk about two popular ways in which you can format your workout and arrange a complete fitness schedule to fit your goals, needs, and the amount of free time that you have. The two workout methods I will cover are split training and full body workout training. Let’s see what the differences are between the two, which seems right for you, and the pros and cons of both methods.
When a person works out according to a split schedule it basically means that they’re not working out on their entire body during the same workout but splitting their muscle groups between various workouts on a weekly basis. Often, this split divides the two major upper body muscle groups, the back and chest muscles, into different workouts. Then, the other muscles are positioned in either of the two workouts.
For instance, you can have a split in which you train the chest, triceps, and shoulders during workout A, and the back, legs, biceps, and abs on workout B. There are many ways to do split training so this is just an example.
Why do split training in the first place?
To understand this we need to figure out how muscles grow and develop. To make it simple, let’s talk about a 3 stage process:
- Training and breaking down – This is the first stage of muscle development. It occurs during your workouts as you strain the muscles.
- Feeding – The muscles, during the post workout period, are hungry for nutrients to rebuild and repair the “constructive damage” that was done to them during the workout. Without proper nutrition muscles can’t develop.
- Rest – To be able to make use of the food you provide them and rebuild to become stronger and bigger, the muscles need to have some rest in which to recuperate. This rest should be 48-72 hours long.
What this means is that you can’t train the same muscle group day after day, not if you want to develop it correctly. In fact, over training muscles can lead to injury.
However, there’s no reason why you can’t train different muscle groups on consecutive days. You can train the back on Monday and the chest on Tuesday. By doing split training, you’re able to do more workouts each week and train each muscle more times.
If also allows you to do more exercises for each muscle group. This is what bodybuilders and people who train for high performance ability want. This is why split training is so popular.
The downside to split training is that you need to do a lot of workouts each week. 4 is a minimum for this kind of training to be effective and some do even 5 or 6 workouts each week. So, it requires a degree of dedication and a lot of free time to pursue this kind of workout schedule.
Full Body Training
When you do full body training workouts you work the entire body, or almost all of it, during each workout. This, naturally, forces you to either do very long workouts or cut down the number of exercises that you perform for each muscle group. This is why bodybuilders will usually not choose this workout method.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do an effective workout this way. Especially if you do circuit training or a lot of upper body – lower body exercises you can do a full body workout which may not turn you into a muscular giant but will certainly help you to burn extra calories and lose weight.
Because your muscles need rest between one workout to the next, there is simply no way to do more than 3 full body workouts each week. This means that if you have little free time or you simply don’t want to go to the gym more than 3 times, these are the kind of workouts that you should be doing.
The downside is that you will likely not see massive muscle growth. Unless you do really powerful workouts, you will find it hard to compete against split training in this aspect.
An additional downside is that you will often find that you’re stronger during split training workouts. Because you’re usually fresher and you don’t have to train your entire body, each individual muscle may exhibit greater performance than in the later stages of a full body workout.
Which Should You Do?
I believe that this is a personal choice that should be made primarily on the basis of the amount of time and effort that you wish to dedicate to your workouts. In the past, when I used to be more interested in muscle growth I used to do 5 – 6 strength training workouts each and every week. Now I do 3 workouts each week, train my entire body in each but I still get an awesome experience out of it. Today my goal is to stay lean and fit so this is right for me.
You need to decide which is for you. Ask yourself what your goals are and what kind of workout schedule is right for you and your lifestyle. Once you have the answer, you’ll know whether split training or full body training is the best way for you to stay or get in shape.