T Nation

Full body workouts

What does everyone think about full-body workouts? I’m now thinking about becoming a little less specific and doing bench, deads, chins, dips, clean & press, and squats in the same day. Day 2 might be arms, calves, and abs. This may be just another stupid theory of mine, but would each body part get less post workout nutrition, since the protein would be needed from head to toe?

I do two full-body sessions a week, similar to what you describe. It’s probably not the best routine for long term mass gains, but it’s a good break for a few weeks, and makes good use of your time.

Checkout T-mag this Friday evening for an article on this very topic. It’s called “The Next Big Three.”

I’m beginning to think that you need to periodize the frequency as well as the rep ranges and intensity. I’m about to try working each body part three times a week with very short (20-25 minutes) workouts, six days a week. Then I will switch to a two session per body part, then move onto a more traditional, once per week workout. In the three per week phase, I’ll probably limited to only a set or two per body part per workout, but I’m hoping the frequency will make something different (and hopefully better) happen.

I think they work pretty good. The rule of thumb is a push, a pull & a squat in each workout. You could have 2 routines, like day 1 & day 2 where you do different lifts on each day. Make sure you do lots of big multijoint lifts though like squats, deadlifts and clean & press. Myself, I wouldn’t do back squats & deadlifts on the same day though, but maybe front squats because I’d have to use a lighter weight & it would be easier on my back because of the deadlifts.

I would highly recommend you let your training gravitate in the “general” direction. For too many years, even while playing college football, I wasted time doing single-joint bodybuilding style exercises. Tricep pressdowns, concentration curls, preacher curls, etc. The problem is that in training that way, you are treating your body as an amalgamation of parts, not as a unified whole. I recall reading a comment by Dr. Ken Listner (sp?) once saying that he felt that was the biggest shortcoming of the modern training mentality. Read Alessi’s “Booming Biceps” article to get an idea of how a limitation or deficit in the strength of one muscle group can affect the size another group can achieve. There are definitely limiting factors rampant in training your body that way.

Arnold once said in an interview that most people don’t realize that they need to train on compound, multi-joint movements for many years before they even have the muscle mass base to shape themselves into a competitive bodybuilder. If I remember right, his opinion was that someone needed five to ten years of training that way.

Ultimately, I have found that training on multi-joint lifts is much more challenging and motivating than the 2-hour "pump sessions" I used to put myself through. If you want to build cotton candy muscles, as Brooks Kubik might say, keep on the bodybuilding path. If you want to be as strong as you look, train the way you need to train to be strong. As John Davies said in one of his articles, most women find the athletic physique attractive, so you get the best of both worlds: functionality and aesthetics.

My workouts now are usually under 60 minutes, and center on the lifts I consider to be the core movements. Overhead Presses, Clean & Jerk, Squats, and Pull-ups. I’ll vary the movement every couple weeks, i.e. do overhead presses (shoulder presses) with dumbbells instead of barbells, or pull-ups with a neutral grip instead of a prone grip, etc. Personally, my favorite lifts are the overhead lifts. I love doing shoulder presses more than anything, because not only is it easier to put muscle on there with a little hard work and diligence than many other muscle groups, but I think overhead pressing leads to more functional pushing strength than lifts like benching, even in the horizontal pressing plane. I measure pushing functionality, by the way, by how my training seems to translate to helping me on the rugby pitch, not just shutting the front door to my house or pushing the shmuck who just stepped on my toe in line at the grocery store.

Anyway, that’s my little diatribe on training functionally with multi-joint lifts. Stick with the ones you stand to perform - push press, deadlift, squat, clean & jerk, snatch, and variations thereof - you won’t be disappointed. If you need a rep scheme, try the 1-6 protocol, it works extremely well.


P.S. I re-read your message, Pat, and I thought a split might help you out.

Don’t attempt to do all your core lifts in one day. I usually pick two - standing shoulder press and pull-ups, for example (just because they are a push/pull combo in the same plane of motion). I’ll usually use some sort of wave rep scheme such as 1-6, 4x4, or 5/4/3/5/4/3, I think they’re the most effective because they impact the CNS. I’ll bust my ass on those two lifts, usually supersetting them, and then finish my workout with exercises that complement the muscle groups being worked. I do one or two sets of several exercises, though, none of that 3x10 crap for the little dinky lifts. I lift every other day, and if I feel I need an extra day off between, I’ll take it. Sometimes I’ll lift two days in a row, but never more than two before the next rest day. I’ll do sprints, jump rope, heavy bag, or rugby practice on those “off” days. Hope that offers a little perspective on structure while you’re making the transition.

What is the push-press?

Patman: It’s basically a military press where you help with your legs to get the bar going.