There are both positives and negatives to split exercise routines and full body work outs. I understand how confusing and frustrating this question can be, especially for someone who is just starting in on their workout journey. There are a ton of smart trainers that I know who have great physiques and center their strength training workouts into split routines–yet they still train every one of their clients with full body workouts!
Why is there any contradiction?
A full body workout means that you are exercising your entire body with all of the muscles being stimulated in one workout. Where as a split routine (training by splitting up your different body workout routines), you separate your muscle groups, or movement patterns on different days.
For example, if you are working out three days a week, you can complete chest and back exercises on one day, legs on another day, and shoulders and arms on the third day, which is a type of a split body workout.
Full Body Workout: Pros & Cons
Balanced Body: You will be able to build a well balanced body by hitting all muscle groups in one workout, which is more natural and more closely mimics your real life. Many physiologists think of the body as one muscle because all muscles are connected to each other, so splitting up the body each workout may not make sense functionally.
Miss A Workout, No Biggie: If you normally workout two time per week and you happen to miss a workout, you have already worked out all your muscle groups with just one workout. Not a big deal.
Maximize Calorie Burn and Fat Loss: When someone has thirty pounds to lose, I like to keep them on their feet with their legs moving, so full body workouts can work very well. Most trainers out there will train their overweight clients with full body workouts two or three times per week. Regarding muscle building, a full body workout can debatably create a more powerful hormonal response to help build muscle, but it is more difficult to fully stimulate a muscle with sufficient volume to spur growth.
Can Be Difficult To Focus On A Given Muscle Group: It is difficult to hit a given muscle group, or movement pattern very intensely–especially the legs–because the intensity can be too tough to handle along with the lengthy recovery time after a workout.
Can Lead To Overtraining: If you like lifting weights three times per week, then doing full body workouts each workout can lead to overtraining if not structured properly. Hitting each muscle group too hard will likely cause a damaging response. A muscle that has been worked with heavy weights thoroughly (six or more sets,) can take five to six days to heal. If you really want to do full body workouts three or more times per week, then you need to change up the movement patterns, lift lighter weights and do circuits, and take down the number of sets per muscle group.
Intensity Can Be Hard To Handle: Intensity of full body workouts multiple times per week can be tough to sustain, especially as you become more advanced and start lifting heavier weight.
Body Part Split Routine: Pros and Cons
Superior For Body Shaping: You have more control over the targeted development of your physique. If you want to spend a little extra time on increasing the width of your shoulders, then you can do that. There are only a handful of natural bodybuilders and fitness models who do full body workouts consistently, while the vast majority use some type of training split.
Very Manageable/Easier: Lifting weights should never be easy, but if you like lifting heavy, it will be more manageable if you are only focusing on two or three muscle groups at a time–or less! It is less metabolically challenging.
Easy to Switch Up Workouts: Switching up your workout routine can be as easy as changing your body part split so you focus on different body parts on different days (which is what I’ve been doing as of recent,) or simply substituting different exercises for a given split.
Less Overall Calorie Burn: If you are doing an arm workout, the calorie burn will be less than a full body workout. On average, full body workouts burn more calories and sometimes a lot more.
Muscle and Strength Imbalances: Have you ever noticed the guy who has arms that are four times as big as his calves? My guess is that guy is not doing full body workouts, but a body part split routine. If your workout routine is not structured properly, it is pretty easy to overdevelop certain muscle groups at the expense of others and develop muscle imbalances from both from an aesthetic and strength perspective.
Cannot Skip A Workout: You can skip a workout, but it’s problematic. With most training split routines, you are going to hit each muscle group once per week. If you miss a workout, two weeks will go by before you hit that muscle group again.
Make sure to stay on top of your workouts no matter if you decide to go with a split routine or a full body workout. As long as you are comfortable and pushing your body as far as it can for optimal results, then you will have fun and be successful in your work outs!