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Full Body vs Split Workout

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:41 pm
by Dr. Zoidberg
So after a quick search in the forum I didn't see the answer to this question.

Is it better (more effective) to do a full body workout twice a week or to split up the body parts and go three or four times a week?

Is there any real evidence either way or is it all anecdotal?

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:56 pm
by Dr. Zoidberg
Well I'm just a big fat liar, well maybe not fat... but I just found this thread which is dedicated to the topic...

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:00 pm
by lightningsix
Personal Experience.....
I'm still researching myself.

Honestly though, I think it only makes more sense to split your workout week to have mainly Upper body and Lower body days.

I've been doing Full Body workouts for years and only recently have I switched to doing Upper/Lower split. I have a few bodybuilder friends that are generous and well knowledged enough to give me advice to switch to a Upper/Lower body workout routine because it gives more focus.

Really, it is up to you but if you think about it....
Doesn't it make more sense that instead of exhausting all of your energy trying to complete a full body routine in one session that you focus all of that energy to a region of the body? I.E. Upper/Lower?

I noticed that when doing my full body routines in the past that I spent at least 1-1.5 hours in the gym. There are several thoughts and opinions whether spending so much time in the gym is good or bad but in the long run spending an extended amount of time on the gym can be pretty harsh on your body when it's craving for energy to keep you running. You have to remember that in an extended exertion 'session' that the body will eventually break down muscle mass to produce more energy to keep you going.

This is the main reason I switched to Upper/Lower recently. Spend less time in the gym, hit it hard and get out. Sometimes less equals more.

just my 2cents

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:07 pm
by stuward
In my opinion, there are benefits to both. Full body will give you the best results relative to the time and effort you put into it. However, you may get better results working out more often but 3 days a week is usually the max for whole body exercise. If you go more frequently than that, you should split it up (with minor exceptions). Recovery per body part is better with a 2 day split, as Matt said in the other thread. CNS recovery may not be. It all depends on the exercise selection and the individual. I like an upper/lower split better than push/pull because there is less chance of doing squat/deadlift/squat/deadlift all in one week. 4 days of CNS intensive exercises is very hard on recovery. If you do a 4 day 2 way split, do heavy/light in order to aid recovery. 4 heavy workouts/week should only be used occationally.

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:11 pm
by lightningsix
You also have to remember to keep your body guessing so it doesn't adapt.

If you've been following your full body routine for months/years then you may want to switch to an Upper/Lower split for a while just to change things up and keep your body guessing or just make some changes in your current routine.

Re: Full Body vs Split Workout

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:21 pm
by Stephen Johnson
Dr. Zoidberg wrote:So after a quick search in the forum I didn't see the answer to this question.

Is it better (more effective) to do a full body workout twice a week or to split up the body parts and go three or four times a week?

Is there any real evidence either way or is it all anecdotal?
You might be interested in this:
Functional training is indeed showing great promise in the research as being the most effective means to gain overall strength/power as it applies to normal movement. Functional training involves the use of multimuscle group exercise like the squat, deadlift, lunge, pulling movements like a row or latt pull down, movements which involve a twisting of the torso usually as part of another exercise like a squat with a twist, and pushing movements such as variations on the pushup. Functional movements training takes far less time and number of training sessions than traditional body building methods/target training. The author of the article Lou Schuler, has an easy to read book co-written with Alwyn Cosgrove called The New Rules of Lifting- Six moves for maximal muscle. I would suggest you read this book if functional training interests you. It is inexpensive, easy to read and contains full workouts etc...

Bodybuilders too are starting to incorporate some functional training into their routines but the majority of them still stick to the old targeted body part training such as the split routines you mentioned. There are so many ways to target train it's hard to tell you which is best. I prefer the split routine over the upper/lower split. I am refering you to work done by Tom Venuto the best known natural body builder. You can access some of his work at or simply search his name for his other websites.

Basically what it comes down to are what your goals are. Bodybuilders train specifically for mass/proportionality needed to pose for judges. If it is your goal to have this type of physique the train according to Tom Venutos principles.

If your goals are to build mass/strength with less time/workouts and train for functional movement (strength that will help you in everyday activities and sports) the use Lou's and Alwyns methods. For most people, I would recommend the functional training over the body building regimes as it has been shown to increase strength, mass and has the added benefit of functional training. You simply may sacrifice a little of the proportionality bodybuilders strive for for their "posing".
And this:
Alwyn Cosgrove doesn't claim to be a muscle scientist. But, in a sense, he's become one by default. Since Cosgrove opened his gym, Results Fitness, in 2000, he's kept a detailed account of every single workout session that's been conducted there. "Clients pay for the fastest results," he says. "So to compete with the gym down the street, I had to find out what works best." And that meant collecting workout data on a large number of ordinary men who were using a variety of training methods.

Unlike commercial health clubs, Cosgrove's facility -- located in Santa Clarita, California -- offers only semiprivate training, meaning each workout is designed, monitored, and recorded by a member of the staff. Consider that in a typical week, it hosts 400 workouts, providing feedback on 20,800 sessions a year. To equal those numbers, a regular guy would have to work out every day for 57 years. In effect, that makes Cosgrove's gym a bona fide research laboratory and his gym-rat clients, it seems, human lab rats.

To explain his real-world findings, he's tried to bridge the academic research of men like Caiozzo with the practical application of exercises, sets, and repetitions. "A 19th-century English biologist named Thomas Huxley once said that 'science is nothing but organized common sense,' " says Cosgrove, "which is what training should be."

The end result of Cosgrove's human experiment is a muscle-building plan that's not just gym proven, it's supported by science. And because it shatters nearly 40 years of bodybuilding dogma, it will probably surprise you.

Understanding this process provides you with a logical rationale for how often you should train your muscles. In multiple studies, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have reported that muscle-protein synthesis is elevated for up to 48 hours after a resistance-training session. So if you work out on Monday at 7 p.m., your body is in muscle-growth mode until Wednesday at 7 p.m. After 48 hours, though, the biological stimulus for your body to build new muscle returns to normal.

On paper, this supports Cosgrove's first assertion: "Performing total-body workouts three times a week is the most effective way to gain muscle." Unfortunately, that advice directly contradicts what most guys actually do. That's because almost everyone subscribes to a leftover from the Stay Hungry days of weight lifting: what Cosgrove calls "body-part training."

The idea is to divide the body into specific muscle groups, or body parts, and dedicate an entire session to working each individually. For example, you might perform exercises for your chest on Monday, your back on Tuesday, your shoulders on Wednesday, and so on. Even though you're training daily, each muscle group is targeted only once a week. So, in essence, those muscles grow for just 2 days out of every 7. With total-body workouts, though, you work each muscle more often. "When you train a muscle three times a week, it spends more total time growing," says Cosgrove.
My own feeling is that most splits tend to be dominated by upper body work, particularly of smaller body parts like the arms. These splits are easier to perform but ultimately less results-producing than routines that include a lot of leg, hip and lower back work.

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:35 pm
by Dr. Zoidberg
Thanks for the articles and thoughts,

For what it's worth I also found this

Basically lists pros and cons of each type.

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:57 pm
by lightningsix
Dr. Zoidberg wrote:Thanks for the articles and thoughts,

For what it's worth I also found this

Basically lists pros and cons of each type.
I really liked that article.

So I'm thinking that it would be very beneficial to switch between split and full body routines every so often, they key question I guess would be when to switch back and forth?

I would assume a good 4-6weeks but I'm not sure.
I always loved my full body workouts but I was always told that I was doing too much volume so I switched to a Upper/Lower split.

Given that I have recently switched to upper/lower I am not going to switch again so soon without at least giving it a try, but this makes me definitely want to think about switching from upper/lower to full body routines every few weeks or months.

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:59 pm
by Stephen Johnson
Dr. Zoidberg wrote:Thanks for the articles and thoughts,

For what it's worth I also found this

Basically lists pros and cons of each type.
Like the article said, you don't have to be joined to one type of training for life. Most training programs end either due to boredom or injury. By changing workouts periodically, you can avoid both. But to use the examples given in the article, Arnold was notorious for his marathon training sessions, while Mentzer was out of the gym before you could blink. In today's time pressured world, which protocol is more likely to be followed?

Posted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:48 pm
by TimD
My thoughts haven't changed since the original thread. I'm just going to interject that your goals play an important part of what you decide to do as well. O lifters focus on total body lifts, with some basic strength moves thrown in for good measure, so their workouts are full body. Powerlifters focus on specific lifts, so they usually go with splits based on the BP, Sq and DL with assistance for each thrown in, so they split. Most programs geared to general fitness or athletic training are usually several varied full body routines stung together, with different emphasis' thrownin for each session, but yet still full body, and those pursuing bodybuilding might do well to alternate full bodyand/or upper-lower strength routines with specific bodypart training splits.

Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:39 am
by Jungledoc
There is a compromise option that others have hinted at, but not stated explicitly. That's to do basically a whole-body routine, but divide it into two parts, done on separate days. I don't think that's really the same as a split. I do some upper, some lower, some push, some pull each w/o. It's not a complete w/o until you add up two subsequent days.. I do this with a 3 day-a-week schedule, but you could do it over 4 days as well.

I plan to switch to a true split when I'm not making progress with this system, or when I can't recover adequately. When and if I lift a lot heavier, I may need to only work a particular body part once a week.

Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:39 am
by lightningsix
That's probably the key if you ask me.
Switch it up once you stop making progress sounds good

Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:05 pm
by Stephen Johnson
During several training cycles, I did a hybrid routine over three days per week: one full body, one upper body and one lower body. On the full body day I used lighter weights than on the split days. That allowed me to hit the muscles twice a week - once hard and once light.

Posted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:04 pm
by caangelxox
it depends on what activities you also do on your training days. I have body conditioning class + 20 minutes of it at the end is lifting weights, so on Monday and Wednesdays I focus on upper body/scap work. On Tuesday and Thursdays I have a weightraining class in the morning and softball practice in the late afternoon, so I do lower body work and core stability work (also kneeling one knee lift/chops) on tuesday thursdays. I tried to mix things up those 4 days I lift, but doing upper body on a day I have practice made my arm tired and stiff faster from throwing.

Because I play softball, I do upper body mon/wed and lower body/core work tue/thurs. I work on fridays, saturdays, and sundays (at ralphs as a bagger), so no lifting on those days.

I had to get into classes at school in order to motivate myself to work out this semester at my college, and its working well.

On the other hand, if you are not playing any activities (sports or whatever) on days you are lifting (after you lift at anytime on that day), then you choose yourself what kind of workout you want. Experiement and see if you want a full body or split routine. one week try full, one week try split.

Re: Full Body vs Split Workout

Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 11:52 am
by ListaniMontan
Dr. Zoidberg wrote:So after a quick search in the forum I didn't see the answer to this question.

Is it better (more effective) to do a full body workout twice a week or to split up the body parts and go three or four times a week?

Is there any real evidence either way or is it all anecdotal?
my last post of the day as i am getting tired of sitting at home on bed with lap top,

As for your question in my experience with lifting i found that lifting heavy weight with full body workouts twice a week is better than lifting singles 3 to 4 times for a very good reason. Number the body needs a lot of time to rest after lifting so try to lift monday and thursday. split workouts keep demanding your nervous system to fire up every day so you might eventualy over train hit a plataue. While doing a full body workout try to keep exercises to the point like mabe one exercise per body part with as high enough weight as you can but still being able to do good reps from 6 to 12. For me the main exercises are dead lift, squat, benching, dumbell press, bar curl, military press, and of course lat pull downs. if you wanna do abs make sure to keep reps at a good value as in dont do over 100 of anything on abs which is why you should ass wieght to whatever ab exercise you do, for forearms, calves, and neck ( i usaly do these muscles once every 2 weeks) Do reverse curl, calf rises on squat bar, and hang weights on your neck and lift slowly. of course those are my exercises but the key thing is to not overtrain with doing more than 1 or 2 exercises per body part since you realy dont need to