I’ve spent more time than I would care to admit pondering this question and I’ve spent years of my life experimenting with various full body workouts and split routines.
I understand how confusing and frustrating this question can be. For example, some trainers I know who have great physiques focus their strength training workouts on split routines. But yet they train every one of their clients with full body workouts!
Why the contradiction?
Just so we’re on the same page, a full body workout means you are exercising your entire body with all muscles being stimulated in one workout, where as a split routine (aka training split, or body part split) you separate your muscle groups, or movement patterns on different days. For example, if you are working out 3 days in a week, you can complete chest and back exercises on one day, legs on another day, and shoulders and arms on the third day, which is a type of body part split.
The following will teach you about the pros and cons of full body workouts and split routines so you can decide which type of routine is right for you.
Full Body Workout: Pros & Cons
Who should do a Full Body Workout?
Body Part Split Routine: Pros & Cons
Who should use a Split Routine?
What If You Could Get All The Benefits of a Full Body Workout Without The Negatives?
Well, that’s along the lines of what I did with the 12-Week BuiltLean Transformation Program I developed and how I personally workout. Intuitively, you want to maximize calorie burn while keeping muscle mass and creating a favorable hormonal response, so the first month of the BuiltLean Program uses full body workouts 2 times a week, with one day of high intensity interval training, then the second month switches to a routine that is more focused on specific muscle groups and movement patterns during each workout completed 3 times a week, but is still technically full body because every muscle is used (HIIT conditioning is completed at the end of each workout).
I did this because shifting from basic full body workout to full body workouts that are more targeted allows for a great progression, changes up the workouts, and I wanted you to try both styles to see which one you like more so you can sustain the workouts for the long haul.
At the end of the day, like most of these intractable fitness questions, a full body workout vs. split routine really depends on your goals and what you enjoy. We’re all different. You can effectively build muscle, or lose fat with both types of workouts if you train hard, have a sensible routine, and focus on nutrition. With that said, I do think full body workouts is the way to go for most people to help you develop the most lean, strong, and well balanced body possible.