There’s so much talk about it on the internet. Even holy wars. What’s better: full-body routines or splits? What’s better for muscle gain? What’s better for fat loss? Some people say full-body workouts are the ultimate way to train. Others begin to throw crap at the former and start arguing and proving their thoughts with some obscure research. Then the full-body fans say that all old-school bodybuilders used only full-body routines. Split fans say that all the modern bodybuilders use split routines. The debate goes nowhere and everybody stays unconvinced no matter what. That’s how the internet works (:
My take is simple. It’s not a secret that there is no “ultimate” or “one-fits-all” approach to this subject. Different approaches don’t work the same for different people. Some people do better with full-body routines, some do better with splits. You need to find something that works for YOU. I know, it may be boring, hard, even frustrating. But you need to figure it out. How?
You have options. You can experiment and track things precisely. Or you can hire a professional and let him do this job. You can check out my personalized program design services here.
In my experience (as a personal strength trainer and self-trainer) people do better on full-body routines. I’m not saying that it’s “full-body routines forever!” and “splits are crap!” I’m saying that me and my clients have made decent progress mainly on full-body routines. And here’s why.
Here are some reasons why I prefer full-body routines and why I find them so effective.
1. You work your body as one unit.
It’s quite obvious but it takes time to understand this. Our bodies were designed to work as one unit. There’s more than enough evidence for that. If you still don’t believe just look at your daily activities (besides sitting in front of the computer or lying on the sofa and watching TV). You walk and use your body as one unit, you run and use your body as one unit, you jump and use your body as one unit, you grab and lift something from the floor and use your body as one unit, you carry suitcases or heavy bags and use your body as one unit. Heck, you drive a car and still use your body as one unit. You can’t run or jump just using your legs. It contradicts human physiology. Here comes the next reason:
2. You can’t totally isolate bodyparts when exercising.
You just can’t. You’re working every muscle in your body to some degree during any exercise. I strongly believe that there’s no such thing as isolation exercises if you use decent (appropriate) poundages. Yes, for example, you can isolate your biceps to some degree on preacher curls with a dumbbell attached to a rope tied to your wrist (to take grip and forearms out of equation) but think again: “Is it worth doing? Will your biceps grow bigger from a set of this crap or from a set of weighted chin-ups?” You get the idea. Squats are not only for legs, deadlifts are not only for the lower back, presses don’t work only chest or shoulders.
3. You’ll have no time for isolation movements.
Think it’s bad? What about your favorite curls and triceps kickbacks? Forget them, man. Who needs isolation? Everybody knows that compound exercises build muscle, strength, endurance, even if your goal is fat loss you should go with compounds. But it seems that nobody wants to do them. The best training advice I was given in the beginning of my training was: “Dude, why are you doin’ all that curls and stuff? You should do only presses, squats and deadlifts for 5 years to be ready for curls”. I regret that I understood that advice a bit later. So don’t repeat this mistake. Isolation won’t build anything if you have no foundation. You have to be a minimalist when you doing full-body routines. You should pick the most effective exercises that work your whole body (which are squats, deadlifts, presses and rows, nothing new). Some isolation is still acceptable for those who just don’t believe that their biceps will grow without curls. But it should be very restricted.
4. You will build tremendous work capacity.
This a very important reason. One day my friend asked me what am I doing to get such results, what’s my training program, etc. You know the deal. I said that I do full-body routines, squats, deadlifts, presses, rows. No secret exercises or routines. Everything that worked for millions of athletes and proven through time. And he said: “Squats and bench in one session. Oh no. It’s too hard”. The funny thing is that it’s hard only for those who is used to train a bodypart once a week on dead split routines that are used by professional bodybuilders. Pros use this split for their own reasons. The biggest mistake a natural trainee can make is to follow these routines. If you don’t inject what pros inject, why do you keep on using their routines? A reasonable question that nobody seems to ask themselves. Splits are a no-go for me because I simply don’t feel that it is a workout. After so much full-body training I really don’t understand how is it possible not to press and squat in one session? Work capacity is through the roof.
5. You will improve your recovery abilities.
Full-body routines demand greater recovery abilities from your body. And your body responds by increasing your recovery speed. Usually you are training your whole body 2-3 times per week on full-body routines. So every body part is worked 2-3 times per week which means greater anabolic response (if you support it with a calorie surplus) and greater strength gains (because strength training is actually a skill that you need to train and support) on full-body routines.
6. Unconventional tools mix better with full-body routines.
Sandbags, kettlebells and bodyweight exercises mix much better with full-body routines rather than with splits. It’s all about setup. You can do lots of accessory work with these tools. I mean stuff like all the cleans and shouldering. No matter what your goal is, you better do full-body routines with these tools.
7. Old-timers used full-body routines almost exclusively.
Remember what I wrote at the beginning of the post. (: Anyway, those guys undoubtedly knew what they were doing.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for part two where I’ll explain how to make your own full-body routine.
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