When trying to build muscle, the vast majority of people will turn to a ‘split’ routine. This is a routine that takes different body parts and focusses on a couple individually for each day of the week. A ‘split routine’ then might look something like this:
- Monday: Biceps and Lats
- Tuesday: Triceps and Pecs
- Wednesday: Day Off
- Thursday: Shoulders and Traps
- Friday: Legs and Lower Back
- Saturday: Abs and CV
- Sunday: Off
This type of training comes from bodybuilders who use it as the most efficient way to grow muscles in terms of size. They’re effective, because they allow you to focus on just one or two body parts for a whole 40-60 minutes, thereby ensuring that you can use every technique under the sun to get them aching and to stimulate growth. You’re then able to give them an entire week to recover, during which time they will be given the maximum amount of time to grow.
For a bodybuilder who is interested in entering competitions, split routines are probably the most effective tools for triggering growth and strength.
But for everyone else? Not necessarily. While these ‘bro splits’ have becoming incredibly popular, that doesn’t mean they’re the most efficient training method for those just looking to improve their health and build some lean muscle. These kinds of splits focus on isolating specific body parts, putting growth above all else and requiring huge levels of commitment in order to trigger growth. On the other hand, using a full-body routine is more convenient and practical for most people, it’s simpler for most people to follow, and actually it will yield results closer to what most ‘causal’ gym goers are looking for.
Let’s take a look at why you should reconsider using full body routines…
The Time Commitment
First of all, training with a full body routine requires a much smaller commitment of time in order to complete and is much more practical generally.
For a split routine to work, you really need to be training 4-5 times a week minimum. And if you miss a session of a full body routine, then this can throw your whole schedule out of whack and leave you unsure what to do next.
On the other hand, a full body routine will ensure that you have hit every major muscle group at least once in the week, even if you have a busy schedule. Thus, even a professional bodybuilder could potentially benefit from placing a full body routine at the start of their week or at the end so as to act as a ‘top up’ for their whole body.
The mono-diet is a diet that’s incredibly popular, despite being very dangerous. Effectively, this diet recommends eating only one type of food for several weeks in a bid to lose weight. As you might imagine, this leads to serious deficiencies and isn’t a healthy attitude to take towards food. Despite all this, these diets are popular because they’re simple. When we have just one set of instructions that we can follow in a straightforward manner, this gives us a very clear roadmap to attaining our goals. Full body routines are the same and this makes them ideal for beginners. Unlike mono-diets though, they’re also actually very good for you.
One problem with split routines, is that they require almost an entire week to recover each of the muscles. While this might not seem like a bad thing on the face of it, it means that you’re left with sore, weak muscles for an entire week following your training.
If you’re training for performance, then this just doesn’t make much sense. Especially if you play some sort of sport, you’re doing to struggle to do that if your arms hurt too much to move them. Being unable to lift a glass of water because your arms hurt so much the next day might seem like a badge of honour, but in reality it means you never actually get to benefit from the big arms you’re building. If you’re not entering a competition, then why be in pain for the best part of a week?
Meanwhile, training your whole body each day and recovering more quickly, means that you’re ready to go again sooner. If you’re a beginner, this then means you’ll actually make much more rapid progress. Simply, this means that you can now train your biceps three times a week instead of once a week and that means you’re likely to see faster initial gains.
Weight Loss and Metabolic Response
Training with a full body routine will also give you increased benefits in terms of your hormonal and metabolic response. That is to say that it will increase your metabolism more than a split routine and it will trigger the release of more testosterone and more growth hormone.
The reason for this is that you’re using more muscles in the session, which means that your body is working harder. Squats trigger a particularly large amount of testosterone and growth hormone release because they involve all the muscles in the legs (leg muscles being the largest muscles in the body) and because they are compound meaning you use multiple muscles groups in unison including your core muscles and back muscles.
When you do a full body routine you hit even more of the large muscles in your body and that triggers an event greater response. As a result you’ll burn more fat, you’re see greater hypertrophy and your metabolism will remain elevated for the rest of the day. If you’re trying to build a lean physique, then this is far preferable.
The power lifts such as the deadlift, squat and bench press still remain the most effective common lifts for triggering growth. Likewise though, you can also get similar benefits from some other lesser-known compound movements like kettlebell swings, clean and presses or one-handed presses. All of these exercises engage multiple muscle groups and get them to work together in a combined manner. This is how you use your muscles in real life, meaning that this type of training results in the most useful kind of strength and technique improvements for use every day. This is what’s known as functional training.
When you use a split routine, it’s hard to know where to fit in functional strength training or compound lifts which hit multiple muscle groups. On the other hand though, they fit perfectly into a full body routine and can be used either at the beginning or at the end (whereby the other exercises will serve as ‘pre-exhaust’).
A bodybuilder doesn’t care about functional strength that much, because their objective is to look good on stage. For the rest of us though, this is the kind of training that will result in you feeling healthier and more explosive in everyday life.
No matter how creative you get with your workouts, you’re going to struggle to keep them varied and interesting if you’re only focussing on one muscle part. Varying between bicep curls and hammer curls is hardly fascinating and really you’re just putting different spins on the same theme.
With a full body routine though, you can be doing completely different things every day. One day you might run up a hill then do some overhead presses. Another day you might train with press ups, pull ups and forms of calisthenics. And another day you might train with kettlebells.
Things stay fresh with full body routines, which means you can keep your own motivation and interest going longer, and which means that your body isn’t as likely to plateau.