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  1. #1
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    Exclamation Full Body vs. Split Routines - Which to Choose?

    Full Body Routines vs. Splits

    The question often arises, especially from beginners, about what type of routine to use. Your buddy told you to use a full body routine, but the muscle mags suggest a 5-day "bodybuilder" split. You don't want to start off on the wrong foot, but there is so much information out there that sorting through what to do can be difficult.

    This is some of my opinion on the subject, and maybe it'll help a few people out.


    Full Body Routines:

    In my opinion, this is the place for a beginner to start. I have many years of lifting experience, and have pretty much always used some form of bodybuilding split routine. However, if I had it to do over again, I would have begun with a good full-body routine, built around the compound lifts, done 3 times per week. When you are a beginner you don't generally have the muscular strength to work intensely enough, or with enough volume, to require as much recovery time as someone who is stronger or more experienced. If you are a young beginner, on top of that, you have very good recovery abilities due to high hormone levels. So, because you are recovered relatively quickly after each workout, you want to stimulate each muscle group more often to induce strength and growth.

    Another reason to start with a full body program is that this gives you the opportunity to learn and practice the basic lifts: squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, barbell rows, etc. Whether your goal is bodybuilding, strength athlete, sports, or just remaining fit, these really ought to form the basis of any routine. No matter what path you choose to "branch out" on later, these core lifts will serve you well.


    2-Day Split Routines:

    So the next question becomes: when should I think about split routines? In very simple terms, the answer is: when full body routines become too much. Usually, as you get stronger, it becomes very difficult to maintain enough energy to do squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc. all on the same day. You may also find that you want to add in a few isolation exercises to bring up your weak areas, or you may want to begin focusing more on each core lift. Another issue is recovery; as you get stronger, you are able to work out more intensely, and that means longer recovery times. So at that point, it makes sense to "split" things up by only doing a part of your previous full routine on any given day.

    A logical place to make your first split is into an Upper / Lower type routine. This will have you doing your upper body work like bench press, rows, overhead pressing on 1 day, and your lower body work like squats on another day. Another way to go would be a "push/pull" type split where you do all your pulling exercises (rows, deads) on one day and your pushing exercises (squats, overhead press, bench) on another day. Exactly how you do it is up to you, but the point is to divide the workload per session. This will give you more time (and volume) per body part, and also give you a bit more recovery before you work that muscle again. Most people will typically cycle through a 2-day split like these twice per week. So instead of every muscle being stimulated 3 times per week with the full body, now it's twice per week with the 2-day split.


    3+ Day Splits:

    3, 4, 5 (or more!) day splits come in when you again feel the need to divide your workload to match your recovery abilities, or increase the amount of work you want to do on specific muscles or lifts. Generally, these type of splits are mostly bodybuilding related, but even strength athletes may chose to split so they can work on speed lifts one day, strength work another, etc.

    At this point (speaking to bodybuilding) many lifters will only hit each muscle group once per week. This has the advantage of letting you really hammer a muscle group with a lot of weight and volume, and then give it plenty of time to recover while you're bringing the pain to the next group. Your full body effort is broken down into segments that are manageable from a workload, energy, and recovery standpoint.

    If you are an "experienced" (older) lifter with decreased recovery abilities (we all ain't as young as we used to be), this type of split often is useful for staying healthy due to the increased recovery time per body part. The kids might not think it's important, but your tendons might.

    There are so many variations of splits that I won't even attempt to detail all the possibilities. If you follow the advice in this post, by the time you need a multiple day split, you'll know your body, your goals, and have a pretty good idea of what you want to do.


    Final Thoughts:

    I believe it's a logical notion to start with a full body routine, and begin splitting only when you feel the need to increase your recovery or increase your volume. If you stick with the concept that you're trying to hit a muscle as often as you are able while still recovering adequately, and let that be your guide, you'll do okay.

    Hopefully, this gives some food for thought to help you decide what type of routine you should use. Ultimately, however, it's worth saying that you can do fine with any well-designed program even if you begin with a split routine right from the beginning.



    Repost from my thread in the Exercises Section...it's more applicable here.
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  2. #2
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    Agreed.

    Exactly what I did and I am 205lbs now up from 130 ( from 2 years ago ! )


    Full Body -> upper/lower 3x a week -> body split each muscle 2x a week


    : )


    Good post

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  3. #3
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    Originally Posted by SmallArms717 View Post
    Agreed.

    Exactly what I did and I am 205lbs now up from 130 ( from 2 years ago ! )


    Full Body -> upper/lower 3x a week -> body split each muscle 2x a week


    : )


    Good post

    would rep u if I had rep that was worth a ****
    First person to reply now banned.

    Lulz. Strong thread start.
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  4. #4
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    Nice.

    If people read stickies, we should sticky it. But we all know what happens to sticky threads...
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    Very nice ... rep to you.
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    didn't you post this many moons ago? perhaps this will strike a chord and become a sticky. nice writeup!
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    I'll Mod 'til I'm dead. ironwill2008's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by VoxExMachina View Post

    If you stick with the concept that you're trying to hit a muscle as often as you are able while still recovering adequately, and let that be your guide, you'll do okay.
    Quoted so it doesn't get missed.






    Hope I don't get banned for posting in your thread, Vox.
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    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by ironwill2008 View Post
    Hope I don't get banned for posting in your thread, Vox.
    No worries, Bill. I'm sure you are virtually un-bannable.
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    I'll Mod 'til I'm dead. ironwill2008's Avatar
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    Bumped to page one...............
    No brain, no gain.

    You can't out-train bad nutrition.

    "The fitness and nutrition world is a breeding ground for obsessive-compulsive behavior. The irony is that many of the things people worry about have no impact on results either way, and therefore aren't worth an ounce of concern."--Alan Aragon

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    Wish I would have read this 18 months ago when I was first starting out. I'd be at least a year ahead of where I am now...
    Now cutting: Got a little more squishy than I wanted, heading down to 160lbs and seeing how things look.

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  11. #11
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    great thread
    I always rep back!

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  12. #12
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Singe03 View Post
    Wish I would have read this 18 months ago when I was first starting out. I'd be at least a year ahead of where I am now...
    I always find it odd that people usually don't have a solid reason for picking one program over another. They will spend more time comparing the latest "UFC" workout vs. the "Warrior Workout" vs. the "Mr. Olympia" workout, without ever considering what fundamental aspects are best suited to their level of development. Some famous guy used it, so it must be perfect for them.

    They rarely consider that splits are really more about managing recovery and time in the gym than they are about developing a certain physique.
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  13. #13
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    Maybe combine with a push/pull commentary and get this batch stickied!
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    I don't care what body type you have. If you do one of the training routines from the pre-steroid era, (30's,40's,early 50's), You're going to get big plain and simple. That's because they new the golden rule. Lift heavy ass weight!
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  15. #15
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    Best thread in this forum.
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  16. #16
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    What everyone else have said, really good and informative thread.
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  17. #17
    Mod Squad VoxExMachina's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by hammerfelt View Post
    Best thread in this forum.
    Originally Posted by Jaybrahh View Post
    What everyone else have said, really good and informative thread.
    Thanks guys.
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  18. #18
    Registered User Singe03's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by VoxExMachina View Post
    I always find it odd that people usually don't have a solid reason for picking one program over another. They will spend more time comparing the latest "UFC" workout vs. the "Warrior Workout" vs. the "Mr. Olympia" workout, without ever considering what fundamental aspects are best suited to their level of development. Some famous guy used it, so it must be perfect for them.

    They rarely consider that splits are really more about managing recovery and time in the gym than they are about developing a certain physique.
    Actually I talked to a personal trainer right after I got my gym membership and got a "custom program to help me cut fat and gain muscle" but made next to no progress until I got a membership here and started reading and learning to sort through the bro-science to get to the basics.

    In May I trashed more than 3/4s of what he had to say, did my best to educate myself, made my own diet plan, focused on compound lifts, dropped 35lbs then started on Starting Strength a couple weeks ago to build my strength up. I've pretty much figured out that the only things helpful about talking to that PT were learning how to adjust the seats on the machines.
    Now cutting: Got a little more squishy than I wanted, heading down to 160lbs and seeing how things look.

    5/24/13 176lbs
    5/31/13 174lbs
    6/06/13 172.5lbs
    6/14/13 172lbs (? :/)
    6/21/13 170.5lbs
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    Definitely a sticky, 90% of the posts from newbs on this forum end up trying to explain this and you've done a better job than most.
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    definitely wish i had known this when i started. Pushups, bench press, curls, a few row machines, and tricep pushdown machine was my daily workout for many many months when i first started ^_^
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  21. #21
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    Originally Posted by bloodriotiori View Post
    definitely wish i had known this when i started. Pushups, bench press, curls, a few row machines, and tricep pushdown machine was my daily workout for many many months when i first started ^_^
    Hey bloodriotiori, work legs. Doesn't matter as much if it's full body or splits.
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  22. #22
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    Another fantastic post from Vox; brief and to the point. Hopefully people read this basic but highly important info.
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    I'll Mod 'til I'm dead. ironwill2008's Avatar
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    No brain, no gain.

    You can't out-train bad nutrition.

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  24. #24
    Registered User Quo's Avatar
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    The full body routines ar meant only for the basic lifts learning?Can you grow with them like with a ''bodybuilding split'' if you are a beginner and if your diet and resting are ok?
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    Thanks for the info OP, repped
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  26. #26
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    Originally Posted by Quo View Post
    The full body routines ar meant only for the basic lifts learning?
    Not at all. Depending on your goals, a full body routine may be all you ever need. Don't think of the basic lifts as "basic", think of them as "fundamental" - meaning they should always remain the core of your program.


    Can you grow with them like with a ''bodybuilding split'' if you are a beginner and if your diet and resting are ok?
    You can use the fundamental lifts however you want. They are the best "bang for the buck" exercises and therefore make sense to keep in pretty much any type of program. Isolation exercises are generally added when you are trying to shore up your program to meet specific goals or improve certain body parts.

    Again, splits are not some magic "advancement". They are merely a device for managing workload and vs. your recovery. Begin splitting when you need to add workload or get extra recovery.
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  27. #27
    Registered User Quo's Avatar
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    I hope I am not annoying but can something like babylover's SS be a good starting workout for a teen beginner,especially if he is weak?What is your opinion on working/growing on something like that?
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    Bump for New Year Resolutioners
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  29. #29
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    I like this because hardly anyone talks about splits. I suppose thats because most people really are just beginning and aren't ready for body split routine. Otherwise they can be really useful depending on your goals and recovery needs.
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    Originally Posted by heavyliftset View Post
    I like this because hardly anyone talks about splits.
    Because many people who utilize splits have no real idea why they are doing so. They just picked up a magazine and started with whatever program looked "cool".
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