Ditch the Split? Why Full Body Workouts Are Best
Full body training is pretty self-explanatory – you train every major muscle group in a single session.
As you need to hit each muscle group, the number of sets and exercises you can perform in one session is limited. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.
Related: The Huge Gainer Full Body Workout
Full body workouts allow you to train a muscle more frequently, due to the limited amount of stress applied in that single session. You will perform 1-2 exercises per muscle group each workout, with a maximum 6 sets per group. This plan is designed to have you in the gym 3 times per week.
Who can benefit from a full-body routine?
Everyone. There was once a belief that full-body training was designed solely for beginners, but this is far from the truth.
When you first begin weight-training, stimulating a muscle three times a week (rather than once) will help your nervous system become better at recruiting muscle fibres. Motor units – fibres which supply muscle cells with nerves – will respond well to this increased frequency, resulting in more efficient muscle contraction over time.
The benefits aren’t limited to newbies, though.
If I’m not a beginner, how can it work for me?
The longer you’ve been weight training, the more efficient you are at recruiting muscle fibres. As you become more experienced however, you will consistently need to place the body under new stresses in order to signal growth. Increasing the number of times you hit a muscle in a week is a great way of progressing.
Full body workouts allow you to stimulate a large quantity of the body’s muscle mass – more than any other routine can in one single session. In response, the body releases more natural testosterone and growth hormone than it would when training fewer muscle groups. These compounds are absolutely crucial for gaining size – as you were probably aware.
What other benefits are there to full-body workouts?
Efficiency: You are stimulating target muscle groups three times per week, but you’re only in the gym on three occasions. If you have a busy work or social life, this could be useful.
Variety: Consider each week to be a ‘mini-cycle’. You can train heavy with low reps one day, a moderate, 8-12 rep range the next, with even higher reps on the third day. Research by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld has shown a mixture of rep ranges to be most effective at growing muscle tissue.
Fat loss: No use gaining muscle mass if it’s just going to be covered in fat, is there? Generally-speaking, when you exercise, cellular processes work in a way that fires up your metabolism. By training your whole body in one workout, you increase the number of these processes ongoing at one time. Your metabolic rate will be boosted, helping you to burn calories even when you’re out of the gym.
If full-body training is so good, why do professional bodybuilders train a muscle once per week?
Think of it like this. When you train a particular muscle, it grows after you’ve finished training due to muscle protein synthesis (MPS). The effects of this last for 24-48 hours post-workout.
The vast majority of professional bodybuilders will take anabolic steroids. Steroids ramp up the effects of muscle protein synthesis across the entire week. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if a bodybuilder trains their chest once only – it will continually grow for this reason.
If you’re drug-free, your muscles will need training again once those initial hours are up – so protein synthesis can take hold.
Are there any alternatives?
Of course. Upper and Lower splits are still very common. These typically involve training the upper body one day, lower body the next. You will then take a rest day before completing the upper-lower pattern again.
One of the most popular examples of this program is Westside for Skinny Bastards, drawn up by strength coach Joe DeFranco. DeFranco, who has trained WWE superstar Triple H, used this routine when helping athletes prepare for the NFL Combine.
Compared to full body training, this split allows you to target a particular muscle group with more exercises in one single session. In that sense, it could be seen as more intense. However, muscle mass increases largely due to volume. Training a muscle twice a week provides decent volume, but three times provides more.