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Should You Train Full-Body or Split Training?

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Read Time: 7 minutes

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Spend some time watching how other people train at the gym. There is a good chance that people are doing many different training styles. You most likely have seen #legday on social media or a guy training upper body for the fifth time this week. 

While there are countless ways to train, a full-body workout split and isolation split where you target specific body parts are common in the gym. 

Split training is a type of strength-training methodology that Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized in the 1970s. It involves dividing your workouts into separate sessions for different muscle groups or body parts. However, just because you are split training means you have to bodybuild. Some people enjoy the style of training.

Numerous studies have shown that focusing on a specific muscle group can increase hypertrophy and accelerate calorie burn.

There are several benefits to full-body training over traditional weightlifting exercises. Full-body workouts provide more overall muscle stimulation, including activity strength and size gains. Additionally, full-body workouts require less time to complete than conventional weightlifting exercises, which makes them a better option for busy people. 

So, how should you train if you want to change up your workouts? Let’s look a bit deeper first.

How Does Split Training Work?

You should begin a split routine by considering the time you’ll be training. You’ll start looking at week-long or month-long viewpoints for workouts. 

Each training day is divided into “primary” and “secondary” focus. Think of the major muscle groups like legs, back, chest, and shoulders as primary and the secondary focus single joint muscles like biceps, triceps, and abs (we add abs here to make it easier for programming). The secondary focus muscles typically complement the primary—more on that in a few.

To maximize split training, you need to break it down into specific days for each area of your body you want to work on. This will help prevent overtraining and injury and give your body the time it needs to recover.

If you don’t give your muscles enough time to recover, you will cut short your training gains. Usually, the same primary muscle focus is given around 48 to 72 hours between training.

Who Should Try Split Training?

If you are dedicated to the gym or an athlete, splitting your time between working out five to six days per week, a split training style can be a successful way to stay in shape. However, the amount of time needed is why many do not prefer this training style. 

Split training is not typically recommended for beginners or recreational lifters, as it takes more effort than traditional training to reap the benefits.

If you are looking for a structured, controlled program to help you achieve your fitness goals, this type of programming may be for you.

What Does a Split Training Routine Look Like?

A split training routine requires a lot of time to set up and program appropriately.

Here’s a  base sample split training routine:

  • Day 1 – Chest and Triceps 
  • Day 2 – Back and Biceps 
  • Day 3 – Legs and Abs
  • Day 4 – Shoulders and Triceps 
  • Day 5 – Biceps, Triceps, Abs
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If your body part is lagging behind others in your training, splitting the session can help. However, you will need to put a lot of time into planning and programming if you want to train in alignment with your fitness goals. 

Typically, there will be three to four primary muscle exercises and one to three for the secondary focus muscle. In the example of day 5, you would treat the day as all secondary exercises. 

What About Full-Body Training?

Training your body as a whole is the key to success when it comes to fitness. During each workout, you’ll work your legs, arms, chest, back, and core.

Full-body workouts are popular among boot camps and HIIT classes because no one agreed-upon full-body workout exists. This allows people to try different exercises and find what works best.

Functional training, also known as full-body training, incorporates many different components to create a well-rounded athlete or improve your fitness levels. This can be done through strength, mobility, endurance, and agility exercises.

Most people find that full-body training is more transferable to real-life experiences than split training. A risk associated with the full-body activity is that you should not be able to walk into the gym for five or six days. Full-body training will stress all your muscles, improving your cardio and muscle growth. If you train your entire body two days in a row, it isn’t getting the proper amount of rest. This could lead to an imbalance and less effective workouts in the future.

However, that is not to say there are no advanced workout programs that you can train your full body every day and still make gains. However, in full-body workouts, typically, there is a rest day between full-body workouts. Three to four days a week is regular for full-body training. 

Which Type of Training Should I Perform?

Both types of training can be helpful in a well-rounded workout routine. People will always defend one training over the other, but most professionals agree that both can be part of a healthy workout routine.

The most important question is, “what works best for you.” This will help you consider your goals, time constraints, and fitness level.

When considering what workout to do, it’s essential to consider your goals and what would work best for you in terms of time and fitness level. Try different types of workouts until one that fits comfortably into your schedule and allows you to reach your desired results.

If you’re a beginner

Full-body training may be the best route if you’re just starting to exercise. This program will help you develop balance and body awareness and improve your fitness levels.

While many people start with split training when they first start weight training, recent research has shown beginners make significant progress with a three-day-a-week full-body program. 

If you want gains

If you are trying to get a ticket on the gains train, splitting your training into multiple sessions each week is a great way to target and shape muscles.

For those just starting, it may be best to stick with simple exercises such as squats or lunges for now. For more experienced exercisers, full-body workouts are an excellent way to increase health markers and continue developing muscle strength.

If you’re short on time

Regardless of your training style, if you have limited time, full-body workouts will be more effective than split routines. You can do it three days a week or even two days if you are short on time.

If you’re injured

If you’re returning from an injury or want to improve a muscle group not as strong as others, splitting your training routine into separate days may be the best way. You can still train around your injury in split training or focus on working for a specific weaker muscle group as you recover.

Last Words

Instead, it all comes down to your goals, experience, and time you can spend lifting. There is no single best training method. Instead, it depends on what you want to achieve and how much time you devote to working out.

It is essential to assess your goals and consider how long you’ve been lifting and what you want to achieve to determine how much time you will need to dedicate to training.

Full-body training helps build a strong foundation of strength, while split training can be tailored to work off that strong base.

Editor’s note: The content on Base Strength is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns. Please also see our disclaimers.

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