Is Split Training Better Than Full-Body Training?
If you walk into any gym, there's going to be a wide variety of training types. You'll see people posting on Instagram with #legday, and you wonder why people target specific body parts.
Split training is simply a strength training methodology that goes back to Arnold Schwarzenegger's golden days. It's basically when you break your workouts throughout the week down to muscle groups or body parts.
You don't have to be a bodybuilder to enjoy the gains from split training.
In fact, the benefits of honing in on a specific muscle group can include anything from increased hypertrophy to an accelerated calorie burn.
But what's so special about it? Is it better than full-body training?
So How Does Split Training Work?
When you start a split training routine, you're looking at a week-long or month-long viewpoint.
Each day you train is broken down into "primary focus" areas — like legs, back, chest, shoulders, along with a secondary focus like abs, biceps, triceps.
In order to maximize split training, you have to systematically break down areas of your body you want to focus on each day. This helps avoid over-training, injury, and gives your body the amount of time it needs to recover.
Ideally, giving your muscles 48 to 72 hours to repair and grow back stronger, is recommended. If you aren't giving them enough time to recover, you're cutting your gains short.
Who Should Try Split Training?
If you are dedicated to the gym or you are an athlete, split training works well. You have to have time to work out five to six days per week.
Split training isn't recommended for beginner or recreational lifters. You won't be able to put in enough work to reap the benefits of split training.
If you are an avid lifter, bodybuilder, or another strength-related athlete, this type of programming could be for you.
What Does a Split Training Routine Look Like?
A split training routine takes a lot of time to set up and program properly.
Here's a sample split training routine with example exercises:
- Day 1 - Chest and Triceps - Bench press, incline dumbbell bench, chest flies, tricep extensions, dips
- Day 2 - Back and Biceps - Deadlifts, pull-ups, rows, rear delt flies, dumbbell curls
- Day 3 - Legs and Abs - Squats, lunges, stiff leg deadlifts, hanging leg raises, cable crunches
- Day 4 - Shoulders and Triceps - Shoulder press, military press, lateral and rear delt raises, skull crushers
- Day 5 - Biceps, Triceps, Abs - Hammer curls, dips, tricep kickbacks, crunches, kettlebell work
If you have a lagging body part, split training can be great. On the other hand, you need to train in alignment to your fitness goals, so you will need to put a lot of time into planning and programming.
What About Full-Body Training?
Full-body training is just that — training your whole body each session. You're going to hit your legs, arms, chest, back, and core at some point during your workout.
Many boot camps and HIIT classes utilize full-body programming. There's no universally agreed upon full-body workout, so this is great for someone who wants some variety and see what other exercises are about.
Full-body training could be referred to as "functional training." This means most full-body routines incorporate strength, mobility, endurance, and agility components to your workout. This works well to create a well-rounded athlete or improve your fitness levels.
For most people, full-body training is more transferable to real-life experiences than split training would be.
There's a catch about full-body training — you shouldn't be able to walk into the gym for five or six days. Full-body training hits all of your muscles and will adequately stress them to improve cardio and muscle growth.
In short, if you train full-body two days in a row, your body isn't recovering properly.
Which Type of Training Should I Perform?
Both types of training have their place. There's always going to be someone who is defending one side or the other, but most professionals recognize both can be part of a well-rounded and healthy workout routine.
The question you should be asking is "what works best for you." This will force you to think about your goals, time constraints, and current fitness level.
If You're New
If you're just setting foot into a gym or starting to exercise, full-body training may be the best route to go. This will help you develop overall balance, body awareness, and improve your fitness levels.
Split training would be used to build on this foundation you build.
If You Want Gains
If you are trying to get a ticket on the gains train, split training is where it's at. It's effective at targeting and shaping muscles to build a specific physique.
If you're simply trying to improve your health markers or just started strength training, try full-body for now.
If You're Short on Time
Regardless if you train full-body or split, if you're short on time, full-body wins.
Split training is best for those who can consistently workout for a decent bit of time. If you are limited on time or you can only train a few days per week, full-body will make better use of your time.
If You're Injured
While you can train around injuries in a full-body workout, it can be tough.
If you're coming back from an injury or want to pick up a "lagging body part," split training may be best. You can train around an injury in split training or train a specific weak muscle group more.
Wrapping It Up
It all comes down to your goals, experience, and time you can spend lifting.
There is no "single best training method." There is no one size fits all answer.
Assess your goals, take into account how long you've been lifting, what do you want to achieve, and how much time to you have to dedicate to training.
Full-body training is great for creating a solid strength base, while split training can work off of that base.