T Nation

Need Straight Answer: Split or Full Body?


I've been searching through this website all night trying to find a definitive answer as to whether a split program or full body program is better for creating optimal strength and size. I NEED a no bias, legitimate answer.

I have been lifting (properly) for about a year now and have not attained the strength levels I believe I should have. I have been doing full body workouts on a typical 3 day schedule (mwf) and at first got results quickly but over the past 6 months have made little to no gains. PLEASE HELP!

Which is more efficient? 3 day a week full body workouts or 4 - 6 day splits?

I have a large group of friends that have pushed the full body routine onto me and another group of friends that insist splits (isolation) is the way to go. Both groups have reasoning for their routine and both groups have strength to prove their decisions.

Everyone always says there is no perfect program and while I understand that, I need closure on this debate because there is no greater frustration than not meeting your goals in the gym. I feel as if I am doing everything right yet the universe continues to prevent me from getting bigger and stronger. Again, please help!

Body type: ectomorph
height: 6'2
weight: 187

If you need any further information to help generate an accurate answer for me, just ask!


i would say whole body is more efficient. maybe you are not eating enough? hows your peri workout nutrition?


try them both, see what works best for you. everyone is different.


i understand your problem in that their is alot of conflicting information, however you have to look at the viewpoint each article is written from. i went through this exact same issua a month ago, and articles by Dr Clay helped alot. Full body splits are in general, better for beginners, and people who want to build muscle in respect to an athletic endeavour, with aims of retaining athletic performance. for pure strength and size however, a split is definately better. Top pro bodybuilders use splits, top amateur bodybuilders use spits, hell even top figure athletes use split (in general).


point number 9 explains it. he explains it in alot more detail on his website. hope this helps buddy


also you dont have to switch from full body workouts to sinle bodypart splits overnight. in my opinion the more muscle you have, the more work each muscle needs in order to stimulate hypertrophy. but i would also echo talons thought on perhaps it is a dietary issue, lack of growth usually is. especially when you have only been lifting for a year, everything should stimulate hypertrophy. if you arent getting any, consider looking to change/improve on your diet.


The more time you spend in the gym while still recovering the better. Only you can say how much that is. you can make gains of any reasonable program the most important factors are hard work and diet.


A no bias, legitimate answer? Sure.

You don't know what you're doing and/or your expectations are too high. Not the answer you wanted, but it's the truth.

There is no optimal program, there are just people who know themselves well enough to get results. You'll never catch an advanced lifter jumping programs to match their friends, they know what works through trial and error. You're not there yet. Give it another 10 years then you can come on here and blame the universe for not showering you with teh swole musclez.


i think you need to give us a lot more information about your progress, diet etc before you can get a definitive answer


thanks for the information so far! I appreciate your guys' time.

I had a feeling that nutrition would be brought up. I don't know exactly how many calories I have a day (I know, I know that's bad) but I do always strive to eat big including two protein shakes a day. I'm talking blender with assorted foods not just a shaker bottle with water.

In the morning I have something that looks like this
- 2% milk (12-16oz)
- scoop of protein
- 1/2 cup of oats
- mixed fruits (whatever I happen to have)
- raw almonds

After my workouts I have this:
- 16oz 2% milk
- scoop of protein
- 1/2 cup of oats
- banana
- yogurt
- peanut butter
- splash of extra virgin olive oil
- a squeeze of honey

As far as the rest of my meals go, I'm just loading up on meats and vegetables. Eggs and milk are a staple in my diet. I stay away from processed carbs for the most part (except in my shakes). Aside from the dairy, I try to keep it pretty paleo.

If you guys want any other info, more specific perhaps, just ask. If posting my actual routine will help, then I can do that too. Again, thanks for your time and knowledge.


Track your diet, no question there. Most important part of getting bigger and stronger is how much you eat.

You say that TBT hasn't worked for you in 6 months, your diet is a big part of that, but go try a split for a year and see how you like it. Grab something from KingBeef's 'Do this routine instead of that dumb one' thread in the BB forum and don't change it.

Eat more protein.


You said optimal strength and size. The answer is split. I'd say at least 90% of the biggest and strongest men in the world got there by using a split. (I'll gladly be proven wrong, but it seems like for every big TBT guy, there's at least ten big guys who split up their training.)

A split lets you lift as often as every day and makes it possible to stimulate the muscles when you're fresh, let's you stimulate them fully (if you're doing whole body you might not have the time or energy to perform on more than 1 exercise a body part) and let's your muscles recover. What more do you want?


5/3/1 or classic 3 way split are both pretty foolproof.


If you goal are optimal muscle growth and optimal strenght improvement, A powerbuilding split would probably
be the way to go. Something like 5/3/1, the HPmass program by TC or something similar.

Since you have only been training a year and only been using tbt, I think an upper/lower split done 3-4 times a week would be the most logical step for you. In that regard 5/3/1 or a similar program that are split into
four days with one main lift for each lifting day would be perfect.

ps. As many here have allready said, but it cant be said enough: effort, diet and consistency is key
in making significant progress. You would probably be better of busting your ass in the kitchen and the gym on
a halfass tbt routine, than jsut going trough the motions on the best split in the world.

Anyway I hope you find a decent program and bust your ass on it :slightly_smiling:

good luck.


The first exercise/body part that you train in a session is going to be the strongest and progress the fastest. A split lets you give that advantage to 3 or 4 exercises per cycle vs just 1 in a full body routine, so you should be able to progress more... (and you will actually be able to pay some attention to smaller muscle groups) Just don't split it up so much that you are sitting on a fully recovered body part for days before it gets trained again.


I had a room mate I lifted with for a year. I made serious gains whenever we did full-body programs like Starting Strength, 3x8's of major compound lifts, etc., but he always stagnated during these programs. I would then stagnate during the split programs like 10x10 German Volume and Upper/Lower while he would make huge gains.

And that was just the way it was, and the way it continues to be this day. Of course we didn't know this going into it, but gradually came to realize it as the months went by. If what you're doing isn't working, try something else. Of course, rookies like us probably had no business doing GVol in the first place, but that's how you learn.


Any routine will work as long as you have your diet down and you sleep well enough. I use split programs, they work best for me, but its different for everyone. If you have been using full body workouts for a year, I would bet money if you switched to a split you would gain a lot.