T Nation

Split Routines Superior!


I'm a big proponent of full-body, high frequency programs. They have much scientific data to back them up as well as time tested results in the gym for strength athletes and beginners.

...BUT, when it comes to bodybuilding, split routines are superior. How else can you explain the fact that 98% of all competitive bodybuilders from beginners to top level natural athletes to top level juiced-up pros use some form of standard bodypart split?

Coincidence? Impossible!


did someone say roundtable?


this would be a great topic for discussion.

I do both and both seem to work...for me...

but I have to agree almost everyone I see in shape do some kind of split and not whole body work outs.


I cannot remember who said it but the difference between bodypart splits and full body routines is similar to the difference between compound movements and isolation movements in effectiveness. Anyone rememeber who?

Alwyn in his latest article rubbishes the bodypart split. Train movements not muscles remember?


Did a full body split for four years, made great progress as a beginner. Went to all sorts of splits for three years, made barely any progress.

Went to WSSB program, and I'm past where I was at my best.

Splits can work for some folks I guess. But I've never been stronger or thicker than doing the recent full body workouts with compound movements. I think body part splits may work for some, but it never worked a damn for me. To me, the full body, or at least upper/lower split, will always be superior to devoting a full workout to the preacher curl machine.


I used a split routine for quite a while. But I no longer think about training bodyparts. Instead I focus on movements. It is much more simple because most exercises hit different bodyparts at the same time. Unless someone does a lot of isolation exercises, I would say full body workouts are superior.


There was an article, i don't recall who wrote it but it was on this subject, i beileve it was titled HST Vs Standardized training or something.

Anyways they used people of the same excercising level and they put some on a full body workout and some on a traditional split. They found that the people on the full body workout did make greater gains. I realy wish i could find the article it was realy good.


Ive been training full body since i got to the states in May and, while im a beginner still, i prefer to work with full body programs over split which i used when i first got into lifting (which i know isnt the best, i have seen the light).

I am going to try a few different things in the coming months but will always lean towards FB for now. I think its good to mix it up a bit.


I guess my point is that I could give a rat's ass about articles and research. The greatest study ever done has been over the past 25 years and all the bodybuilding champions that have been successsful using split routines. The ratio of top ten finishers in ALL bodybuilding comps over the last 25 years of full-body routine compared to split-routines would be about 10-1...and that's being VERY gernerous.

Again I ask...coincidence?


Seeing as we are talking about bodybuilding...

and given that you have access to the top 25-50 bb'rs 'lifestyle' (ie-diet,drugs,genetics...)

It would be hard to argue that splits are not a great (in relative terms) physique developer.


I think to split or not to split is an individual thing. Some respond better to it than others. Same for full body workouts. I like splits. I've had all of my success from different splits. But I have made it simpler by splitting into upper/lower body days and hitting the whole body twice a week. And the gains continue. So I believe it is just a preference and depends on what you are training FOR.


I think in a few years we will be saying the same thing about split routines as low carb diets... They work for some people.

This seems to be an area of heated debate, but I really think like EVERYTHING else its a matter of preference and individual results. I happen to get gains on 5-day splits better than on a 3 day full body, maybe its because I wasnt tracking it right or something, but my numbers ALWAYS go up on a split.

Oh, and to answer Mr. Cosgrove on why I don't train my toes... I don't want to. Thats the dumbest question I've ever heard, and while I understand the intention, it doesn't address the issue of why split routines were developed... Extra Recovery.


Also, Mr. Cosgrove stated that simply turning on your computer makes use of multiple muscle groups. If that's the case, imagine the number of muscle groups used during a set of heavy curls, rows, bench etc. Could it be that split routines are the perfectly devised high frequency routines?

Think about it, you indirectly work every muscle in your body each day of a 5 day split!!! How's that for a routine with built in high-frequency and active recovery for the whole body while still hitting each muscle group effecively on it's assigned day without over taxing the CNS?? Does it get any better??

Maybe that explains there wide spread use and success! TBT came first, then split routines so like Eddie Vedder says "It's evolution baby"


Your obviously a look in the mirror type. 38 yrs of lifting from full body to body part back to full body I give the edge to full body with a upper and lower split thrown in every 3rd month works very well. Bodybuilders need the drugs to compete in today's environment. Unless that's your goal switch it up your body will be happy in your older years :wink:


I'm obviously the kind of guy that tracks all my numbers in the gym, week after week. I'm obviously the kind of guy that got results on paper from a split routine and not even half the results from a full body routine.

Your full-body-with-a-split-thrown-
in-ever-3rd-month idea works...FOR YOU. My 5-day split works great...FOR ME.

I have my workouts spaced strategically to hit muscles more than once. Monday is legs and tuesday is Chest. Thursday is back day...where my heavy deadlifts ALSO hit my legs, increasing my training frequency. My shoulder day also incorporates my chest on certain exercises. NOTHING gets isolated.


i can see where pound4pound is coming from. I train at a gym where there are alot of natural competitive bodybuilders not one of them uses a full body routine but i tell you what they all have very impressive physiques.


What you may not realize is that much of the highly succesful bodybuilder's routines consist of big compound movements that are actually the same whole body exercises used in Cosgrove's program.

It's ridiculous at best to make this kind of generalization. What about the lifter that does deadlifts on back day and then the lifter that does deadlits on leg day?! What is the proper day to perform this exercise on. Bent over rows on back day, or bent over rows on bicep day... both muscles grow with this classic exercise. I guess that kind of throws you off if you're the bobdybuilder doing the ever popular back/chest day in his 4 day split. Would it burst his bubble to tell him that he is isometrically contracting his hams and nailing his biceps on back/chest day?

Have you also considered the fact that any top level bodybuilder may have some good genetics and discipline that may override any weaknesses in 32% of his routine?

What about the bodybuilder that didn't place in the top 5... could he have placed higher by NOT doing that stupid 5 day split?

Whoever said all of these bodybuilders were as strong and athletic as they could be? There are many reasons why Cosgrove and other's are right on target.

I would never train someone seeking general fat loss and "health" with a Weider, Muscle and Fiction type of routine. If the split routine was truly superior for just getting a good body, why wouldn't I and other non-Mickey Mouse, non-ACE certified trainers use it?... Because it's not superior.


I don't think anyone said RESEARCH supports Cosgrove's philosophy - though you could find lots of research that indirectly supports it. Don't you think in all his experience he has witnessed what works and what doesn't? That's why he's Alwyn Cosgrove and the trainer doing split routines with 45 year old housewives and 15 year old kids is at the YMCA making 17 dollars per session and teaching Pilates.

Here's one more thing. I think you're focusing on the differences between some roided bodybuilder and a guy that does movement based splits with little isolation work. Why don't you focus on the similarities and other factors that makes someone successful and you're eyes will be opened.


Splitting the body up into "movements" effectively do the same thing as a the body part split doesnt it? You are still training infrequently, which is what the debate is all about at its core.

I think the reason most trainers put their clients on full body routines is that its WAAAAY easier than a split routine. If you told your client "I need you here 5 days a week for an hour each day, and you might need to do some extra cardio at night" they will get up and never come back.


Sorry but that routine is alittle easier as Is ee these type of guys come in do their bodypart go put their clothes back on without taking a shower because they haven't even worked up a sweat, granted sweat doesn't mean everything but do you get my point. Hey if it's working for YOU great but but as you get older you will see. I have been there done that so I know where your coming from :slight_smile:
Happy New Year!!!..


No way is full body less demanding than split routines. Full body automatically leads to compound exercises, or at least movements that work several muscle groups simultaneously.
Splits automatically lead to less compound and more isolated exercise, which means less stress on the hart and the lungs.

Lately I've been doing wood chops, with 45kg on the pulley for 20 reps. This gets my heartbeat up to 150 and over. The same for deadlifts. No triceps extension will ever be able to do that.