T Nation

Full-Body Workouts vs. The Split


An arguement with a gym partner: which is better? A 4-day full body plan per wek (1 day max-effort, 1 day dynamic, 2 days repitition, etc.); or, a split workout (day 1 legs + core, day 2 chest + back, day 3 rest, day 4 arms + shoulders, day 5 legs, etc.)?

I've been wrestling back and forth with two programs like these for the last 3 months, and am wondering what do y'all consider the better approach?

Let the debates begin.


from a bodybuilding perspective, I think (for beginner and intermediate lifters) both full-body workouts and split routines work...

what's more important, IMO, is the intensity level of your workouts, your nutritional strategy, and getting adequate rest/recuperation...

if you make it to the stage of advanced lifter, you will have learned what works for you and not worry about 'routines'...


Training goal?


Goal or no goal I agree with DPH. There is no one-size-fits-all program out there. You will have a hard time winning an arguement where both answers are equally right for everyone.

Also- keep in mind it is possible to do both types of workouts- and there is evidence that is more beneficial than just sticking with one. So technically you're both wrong as well.


Well, right now I'm cutting weight (currently 170 lbs. @ 5'6") but have really only changed my diet & supplementing to help me lose while keeping up my muscle mass.

I was just wondering everyone's personnel preference, and why they chose such, not just help for me.


I love the full body workout 3 times a week, even as a relative beggginer.

The practice, the form, the mental aspect of practizing your art 3 times a week for every muscle is great for me.

It really solidifies a learning process for me, its making me see gains in strength and power, and with all the compount lifts,I'm working my weak spots now.

I feel like im building a strong foundation and can mix it up later.

My 2 cents


You can make either one work if you do it right. It's like deciding between dumbbells and barbells - unless you're nine it's a pointless debate?


You're comparing apples to oranges here. Full-body vs. Splits is rather academic, i.e. they both work. However, the full-body program you list here has weekly periodization, i.e. max-effort day, dynamic day, etc. That'll probably have greater strength gains than a non-periodized full-body or split program. Given that, I'd go with the full-body program.

Some of the research I've read about basically says that muscles respond well when stimulated 2-3 times per week, thus a 3/4-days a week full-body routine is probably better than a once-per-week body-part split. Most lifters on this site tend towards non-body-part splits, i.e. a push-pull split, or a lower-body/upper-body split, and will do each split 2 times a week.

Keep in mind, the very best program would be to alternate between full-body and spits every 12-18 weeks or so. That will keep you body from plateauing.


Good article on that very topic here:



I'm a big fan of full body because it allows me to really focus on a weakness. My squat sucks relative to my bench and deadlift, so by doing tbt, I can squat everyday I'm in the gym, and squat first. This places the priority on the primary movement.


Why not incorporate both and alternate between full and split workouts every couple of weeks. This has worked for me.


I've done both in my 5 years of serious lifting. I like both. I started on a bodypart split,then went to full body for a year or so now I'm back to splits. I really like doing just one bodypart a day and being out of the gym in under 40 minutes.

The key is finding what you like. Trust me when I say which ever you like the best is going to be the most effective for you. Your not going to get decent results from a training program that you have to "make" yourself do. Its whatever keeps it fresh and fun for you.


I love full body routines, but the problem I find is that my intensity wavers. For example, I just switched from a WSB type routine to full body. Last night I started with heavy rack pulls, followed that with heavy barbell rows, and then tried to do som RDL's and squats, but the intensity just wasn't there to go as heavy.

So do you full body guys just alternate what exercise you focus on (i.e. Day One Squats are heaviest, Day Two Bench, Day Three Cleans, whatever)? Curious...


Yup I alternate the group. Somedays chin ups are first, some days bench...
or based on how I FEEL, I'll mix it up..If I feel fatigued maybe I'll move calf raises in the middle, and then go for a heavy bench press or squat instead of foing squats deads and chin ups back to back..some days i can others i cant...its as much as listening to your body as anyone who posts here.

One thing im adapting to is the perscribed time. I got a stop watch finally and am adhering to TBT's rest cycles...it has brought me to a whole new level of intensity....

Also with full body sometimes it takes a few weeks to adapt.. By week 3 of TBT i hit my groove and didnt get fatigued. (Surge HELPS)


I've done something like that before, i.e. do all the Big Lifts first, then toss-in a couple other lifts depending on the day. I.e. do some extra benching or dumbell-flys, more chin-ups, whatever.

I think of it as a booster-shot for whatever muscle-group I want to develop more.


As others have mentioned, both can be productive. However, my wife an I prefer total body workouts. We feel more sufficiently worked and have both seen steady gains since switching over a few months ago.

Either way, keep up the intensity.



I'm considering to s split routine because time is limited and I figure a good upper or lower body workout is better than a half-assed full body workout that takes the same amount of time.

Right now I'm considering just alterating upper and lower body workouts. I won't have regularly scheduled off days, but they will happen as I balance the time demands of work, family and relationship. I'll go ahead and take a rest day after working out four days in a row (upper/lower/upper/lower), and I'll try not to take more then two consecutive off-days. That provides good flexibility to balance workouts with other responsibilties while still making gains from workouts.


Personally, I love full body routines. I feel as if I have worked a lot more. I usually do a full body workout 5-6times a week. Currently kind of sort of following the 24rep schemes by Chad Waterbury in his HFT program.

Usually I hit legs first everyday, either squatting or deadlifting and then pressing and pulling, then some sort of triceps movement and after that, its all the exercises that I feel like doing (lateral raises, biceps etc...)

Split routines are alright, but I don't get the same feeling of accomplishment (save leg days) as I do with full body.

But to each his own.


This is the perfect answer.

End the debate.

I personally like Full Body. This is not due to differences in gains but merely a case of preference. I just find them more fun.