T Nation

Total Body AND Split Training?


Understanding the need for things like periodization and change up of types of exercises, how about one week of split training alternating with one week of TBT?

If one was interested in gaining muscle mass like a body builder, but also needed/wanted to work on maximal strength, wouldn't an alternating plan work well?

How about two weeks of split training and two weeks of TBT? Good plan to keep the stimulus fresh or not enough time to make the most of a specific plan?



How about full-body stuff 2 days a week and split training for 3 other days?


Why couldn't you gain strength on a split?

The best of both worlds in my mind is a powerlifting program like West Side. Just train for strength the first 1-2 movements, train for bodybuilding with 2-3 more.


I've been doing the TBT program for a while now and absolutely love a lot of things about it. The simplicity makes it easy to stick with. Your set and rep-schemes are always changing, which keeps your body guessing. You're in and out of the gym 30-45 minutes 3 days per week. Usually two more days a week I'll do HIIT training and that's that.

Every now and then though, I throw in a good week of push/pull split...maybe once a month or so.

It's pretty simple, and really gives your body a BIG change. What I like to do is take my normal 2 days off at the end of the weekly cycle and start back up with a heavy push day, then a heavy pull day. Then it's a day off, then light push, then light pull, then my two days off. Throw that in every now and then, and you're pretty much guaranteed to remember what it's like to train through soreness.

I prefer both splits pretty much equally as they really help you focus on doing the basic, bigger movements like squats, deads, variations of the bench press, and the bigger back movements instead of focusing a whole day on isolating the biceps or triceps.


Here are my thoughts for each; With the TBT method you can go for heavy weight and low reps for maximal strength training, which means you can train more often such as 3 full body workouts in a week. Whereas the 3 day split as an example [or any type of split really], one can specifically hit muscle groups with higher reps and more exercises.

It would seem this would give the body quite a bit of stimulation in each week, but the methods would differ enough to prevent stagnation.

Both methods would build size and strength, but differently. I'm all for having the ripped 'look good nekid' but also want strength because I teach martial arts/combatives and work in an environment where I have to put my hands on violent people. This is why I also do strand/cable pulling and functional body weight training like hindu squats and hindu push ups etc.

It would seem that one could do a TBT/split program and be able to get quite a bit of time out of it before needing to change up. And possible change ups could be in the form of doing TBT for two or more weeks in a row then switching to split training for two or more weeks then going back to one week TBT/one week split. Or simply adding in compound and tri sets or drop sets or any number of other variations to keep it fresh.

I'm not an expert, not by any means. But I enjoy reading as much as I do lifting. Over the last year I've done mainly TBT and have had positive results. Mostly I've gone with a high set/low rep/heavy weight program in general. Right now I've started a 3 day split to avoid stagnation and enjoy it as well. I like the feeling I get when I lift heavy and reach a new level. One the other hand, from a 'functional' point of view, I enjoy being able to get more reps in using a fairly heavy [for me] weight. So my thoughts are to simply combine both into a long lasting program to keep it interesting and touching on two similar but slightly different goals.

As I'm in this long term, it 'seems' like a good approach for an overall program. I'm not going to compete or anything like that. I appreciate the comments so far and look forward to additional comments.

Thank you guys/gals.


Depending on your size and diet you can probably get big strong and sexy just doing a TBT.

Splits are more necessary for bodybuilders because it allows them to target specific body parts and weaknesses.

If your no where near looking like muscular beach bod, you probably have other weaknesses in attaining your goals besides deciding between TBT or split training.

On the other hand if you are already hot and sexy big strong mofo to the girls, then you would need to repeat whatever bodypart you are specifically training sooner then 2 weeks to get and maintain the gains.


I still don't get it, why can't you train heavy on a split?



Absolutely you can. I apologize if I gave the opposite impression. Of course you can train heavy on a split. At the moment, this is what I'm doing with a three day split. As an example, One week I'm doing something along the lines of a 4x6 on the big exercises and the following week a 3x12.

My main thoughts are simply a change in stimulus by changing volume, intensity, set/rep schemes and frequency. I'm doing that now with two different 3 day split schemes, but with a TBT scheme I could do an 8x3 on some of the bigger compound movements a little easier than on a split. At least the way I'm putting it together with my current experience level. My 'maximal' strength has really gone up since using an 8x3 scheme.

Just throwing ideas out there, maybe one week of HEAVY [8x3] TBT, one week of heavy [4x6] splits and one week of moderate [3x12] exercises. These of course for the bigger exercises. This is a pretty wide range that works on some different goals. Again, I'm not an expert but throwing ideas out for others of greater experience is a pretty good way to get some good feedback. Maybe someone has done this and had GREAT results, maybe someone tried it and it sucks because of....



If I were to got the full body route something like what Keith Wassung said in another thread I thought had some good points:


I coudnt agree more with this. What people often dont understand is that a full body routine is a different way of spliting the weekly volume, not an attempt of doing several bodypart split workouts in a row (when i say i use fullbody workouts people always ask "and how long it takes? 3 hours?").
IMHO the greatest benefit of full body workouts is that you get a frequent hormone realease from the lower body compound lifts, you would have a hormonal release that big only in the leg day of a bodypart split (a push/pull split can have this same benefit).


I think what I have a hard time wrapping my mind around is growth from only one workout per week on a body part vs the three per week I've done over the last year with TBT. Now I've concentrated on higher sets and lower reps over the last year such as 8x3 or 5x5 which has worked well strength wise, with some size. I'm not 'Arnold' but my wife and co-workers have commented on the general size gains.

I'd like to stay strong of course with 'functional muscles', but would like to get bigger/muscular overall. I suppose I could continue TBT with a higher rep scheme. It seems others have done well with this here?

For those that have the desire to pack on some 'muscular' muscles, have you had better experience with split or TBT when using the higher rep ranges?

Thanks again for the participation everyone. It is helping me formulate a better plan.


How about you just do something in the middle, like an upper/lower split or push/pull. I've been doing a 4 day upper/lower split recently and I love it. It looks like this:

Mon - Heavy Upper
Tue - Off
Wed - Heavy Lower
Thu - Light Upper
Fri - Off
Sat - Light Lower

The difference between my 'heavy' and 'light' days isn't too much. On the heavy days I pick a main exercise and perform multiple low rep sets such as 8x3, 3-2-1 waves, etc. I then follow it up with assistance movements with more of a bodybuilding set/rep scheme ala westside style. I pick my assistance movements based on my weaknesses and curent physique goals and work on them that way. On the light days, the only difference is that I'll use a less CNS intensive set/rep scheme on the main lift such as 5x5 using my 8RM.

Basically it's a westside style of training, but with repetition work instead of dynamic work on two of the days. I find this is a good split for balance between aesthetics and strength training. It allows you to get a little more volume in than if you did 3 total body days, but also allows you to get more heavy compound lifts than if you used a bodypart split.


In my experience, TBT alternating lower and higher reps each workout is the way to go for hypertrophy. In the beggining of this year i tried some high rep TBT for conditioning and fat loss, but at that time a ate o lot of crap and didn't lose much fat but i had some good(and unexpected) mass gains. Maybe this can be atributed to the hormonal responses i mentioned before.


I appreciate everyone's input. I'm going to stick with the TBT style workout. I'm going to incorporate the following plan;

First 20 weeks will be a linear mass cycle.

Weeks 1-4 - 6 rep range.
Weeks 5-8 - 8 rep range.
Weeks 9-12 - 10 rep range.
Weeks 13-16 - 12 rep range.
Weeks 17 - 20 - 15 rep range.
Week 21 recovery

Second cycle is an 8 week mass microcycle where I'll change up and down the ranges from week to week. 1 week recovery afterwards.

Third cycle is a 20 week undulating mass cycle. I got the plan from a book I bought on Amazon. It has the whole thing listed out for the year. I'm putting in predominately compound exercises but do have some isolation exercises. I will start this tomorrow, because as we all know...all programs HAVE to start on a Monday. Its the law :wink:

I've got my current weight and measurements and will take them again after each of the three cycles to monitor progress.


that looks like linear periodization to me. Which is a recipe for losing strength after week 4, and certainly after week 12.



I understand what your saying, especially after week 8. I'll have to see how I feel at that point overall. If necessary, I can always alternate a week of heavy weight/low rep training into the mix. Perhaps one week of it per 4 week change up in reps. That will provide a further differing stimulus but still allow me to focus on my overall current goal of adding overall mass and muscularity. Thanks for pointing this out as I hadn't considered it before your post.

The rep ranges will alternate in the micromass cycle and the undulating cycle so I'll get a good mix of everything.


I was thinking about what Blade posted about losing strength after week 4. With respect, I don't know if I agree with this after thinking about it. Let me explain...

After my illness a year and a half ago, I had a hard time benching 135 lbs for more than a half dozen reps. My strength and energy were depleted and I'd lost about 24 lbs of body weight during the illness. Over the last year I followed a TBT for the most part and did high sets/low reps with a weight that was heavy for me at that point. I got up to where I could press 185 lbs for 5x5. I also alternated with an 8x3 scheme where I was using 205 lbs. Now, I couldn't get the full 8x3 with 205 lbs, but was fairly close. I was able to press 225 lbs for 1 rep with good form.

So, if I am able to press 225 lbs as a 1RM currently with pressing something like 185 lbs for say a half dozen reps or so, wouldn't it be logical to expect that if I were able to press 185 lbs for say 15 reps that my 1RM would also go up?

In the plan I listed above, where the reps slowly go up every 4 weeks, would not the overall strength go up using the same weight? If I am currently doing a 4x6 scheme with 185 lbs for 4 weeks [increasing the weight when appropriate], then I should be able to press 185 lbs for 8 reps in the next phase. If so, then as I increase that weight slowly over that phase, I should be able to then 'drop back' to 185 lbs in the 10 rep phase and press that amount for those reps. And so on and so forth. Now this is just an example, and it doesn't have to be exact. But if I am able to go from pressing 185 lbs for 6 reps, to pressing the same weight for 15 reps over a 5 month linear phase...wouldn't it be reasonable to expect my overall 1RM to have increased as well? Thus I'm not really 'losing' strength by using higher reps, I'm just training a different aspect of strength i.e. size/endurance.

I'm not talking about using BB reps to be a power lifter. I'm just talking a personal/relative strength increase using a slow increase in reps but hopefully using the same or near same weight.

That way, when it is time for a change up to lower reps, I would/should have increased the weight I'm able to press for a 5x5 or 8x3.

Appreciate any comments, thank you.


I wanted to bring this back up as I've been thinking about it, as well as putting it to the test in my workouts.

Isn't the 'controversy' between TBT and split training a little like one side saying a bananna is absolutely yellow and the other side saying a bananna is absolutely not red? Their both saying exactly something different...but their both right.

Take benching as an example; a TBT plan might look something like

Mon = 4 sets of flat bench

Wed = 4 sets of decline bench

Fri = 4 sets of DB inclines

So we have 12 sets of a bench movement spread out over the week. The 'trauma' to the chest is lower so recovery is quicker thus more frequent workouts can be used. At least this is the message I keep hearing the TBT side say.

The split side might put all three bench movements in one day, say a monday 'chest' day. Its the same 12 sets, but placed in the same workout, thus causing more 'trauma' to the chest, requiring more recovery time. Perhaps 5-7 days is what I read a lot of coaches saying.

So...whats the real difference? Maybe I'm just missing it, but it would seem either way will get you there depending on if that is your goal or not. And if a little stimulation is thought to be necessary in the same week, why not throw in a chest movement on leg or back day? Not a full blown chest workout but maybe 2 or three sets of some type of chest movement to stimulate and/or 'clean' out the muscle/oxygenate the muscle group. Just some thoughts I thought I'd bouce off of everyone.

So far, I'm ending week two of my program I listed above. I'm in the 6 rep range on the bigger movements while in this phase. I did a TBT x 3 for the first week and I've done a 3 day split AND a partial TBT here in the second week. My numbers have improved overall and I feel good. I'm taking the weekend off and plan to start week 3 next Monday.

Just some thoughts, comments welcomed. Thanks.


Very quickly as I'm about to head out the door. The problem is to find the threshhold of "this is enough damage and will allow to train relatively frequently" We could train 45 sets to failure with drops and forced reps and cause a whole lot of trauma, but maybe not be able to train or come close to duplicating that workout for 10-14 days.

Then we can train 1 set stopping 2 reps short of failure and train every other day. Create the balance of damage vs frequency based on your genetic recovery and you'll find a "sweet spot" for lack of better terms.


In my experience, different training methods and routines produce different results in the body, and they don't always "bleed over". For example, lets say you can barbell bench 185 for 5 reps and dumbbell press 140 (70 lbs. each dumbbell) for 8. Now lets say you concentrate on dumbbell presses only for a while and get it up to 160 for 10. You will probably expect your barbell press to go up too, right? But in my experience increasing my dumbbell press doesn't much affect my barbell press.

Here is another example a little closer to what you are saying. After a period of heavy lifting, let's say you go on a high volume routine. From 180 for 3 x 5, you move into 100 for 10x10. After five weeks on the 10x10, you may be doing 120 for 10x10 and have gained a solid five pounds of muscle. Now when you go back to lifting heavy, you would expect to be able to lift 180 for better than 3 x 5, but in actuality, you probably cannot. The fact is, higher volume is great at building muscle mass and stamina, but not ideal for increasing strength.

The best way to train for strength is usually to lift heavy for low reps. That's why powerlifters and olympic lifters train a lot with singles, doubles, and triples. The best way to gain muscle mass is to lift with more volume, the way bodybuilders usually do.