T Nation

Total Body Training - How Do You Fit Everything In?


First off, I decided to post this question here as opposed to over at Bodybuilding.com or any other weight training related forum, as I feel you guys will give it to me straight. I'm getting tired of sifting through article after article only to realise each article I'm reading is the opposite to what I've just read... Basically, I'm trying to get through a load of contradictory information, and arrive somewhere close to the truth.

I've been training now for 10 years, and for the past 2-3 years I've been following a 5 day body part split (Mon-Fri). I've been reading a hell of a lot recently about 3 day per week, full body routines, and would love to try it out. I have some questions though:

  • Firstly, how on Earth are you meant to fill in all the necessary exercises to hit all of your muscles in a single workout? I'm not talking about hitting the posterior, anterior, lateral, upper, lower, back to front parts of a muscle. I just mean the basics really. For example... If I wanted to hit all bodyparts to some degree in a workout, then at MINIMUM it'd look like this:

And that's BEFORE even thinking about doing Ab work, Forearm work & Posterior Deltoid work.

It seems that in order to hit all of the muscles in a 3 day per week, full body workout, then it's got to look something like that surely? I've seen loads of full body routines around that suggest only picking 3 exercises such as Squat, Bench & BB Row/Deadlift but how can that hit the whole body? You guys can be as frank & truthful as you like, as I'm just looking for a proper answer so that I'm not overthinking this all. I mean, with just doing Squats, Bench & Deadlift, then won't your Lateral delts, biceps, triceps, calves, hamstrings & upper back just become neglected?

I realise that Squat, Deadlift & Bench hit all those muscles indirectly, but is that really enough? I'm really just trying to figure out a way to properly use a full body routine, but to make sure that I'm not neglecting any body part.

Would really appreciate some help with this, sorry for the long read.

Thanks guys.


You don't have to hit every muscle every workout. Also read your own post again, you answered a lot of your own questions.

Make it even simpler, follow a pre made full body workout. Some of my favorite full body routines are from Chad Waterbury in the book of muscle.

Also if you are really worried about direct forum work and tons of isolation full body training is not for you, if you are looking for efficient and condensed training getting the most bang for your buck in the time spent then try it.

For what it's worth, not many people on this subforum are into full body training. It was my foundation and current training method. Squat, push press and weighted pull ups for 5x5 one day. The next day rest and eat. Then do deadlift, bench, row 6x3(or 5x5 again). Your hams/biceps/delts/etc will be Plenty sore. If not, after the 3 big lifts add 3x8 assistance work for the lifts like curls/extensions/raises. You may not have it in the tank the first week but you can build up to it. Personally I prefer to build up my assistance work in other multi joint exercises.

Use full body training as an approach to grow overall. After 6-10 weeks you can switch to an upper/lower split hitting things 2x a week and add isolation. Then in another 6-10 weeks switch to a body part split if you like hitting things once a week. My favorite approach is the split up my training in 6 week blocks like this.

Another approach I most recently played around with was doing 2 full body workouts, and two upper/lower days for 4 days a week training. I liked it because I still got to train full body and focus on performance type workouts, and two dies of high volume pump working. It was upper/lower/rest/full/rest/full/rest/repeat.

Remember everything works at first, nothing works forever. Hope this helped and good luck. Be for warned full body training will get tons of flack , mostly by people who A) never did it B)will throw out things like IFBB pros don't do it C) are very advanced and need more isolation volume D) think they are C but really aren't E) not man enough to squat max effort before they bench and row(just kidding.....but not really :smiley: )



Read Chad Waterbury's articles. He has tons of information on full body training, and many programs to try out.

The gist of it is that you DONT hit every body part/angle at every workout. Because the frequency is high you have wiggle room in your movement selection.

If you wanted to keep it BASIC you could do pick a push, pull, and squat variation on each lifting day:

A1 - Bench Press
A2 - Pull Ups
B - Squats

A1 - Dips
A2 - Rows
B - Front Squats

A1 - Military Press
A2 - Dead Lifts
B - Lunges

If you wanted you could throw in an arms/calves/abs circuit on "off" days or after the 3 main lifts or whatever. You could superset it as a B2 exercise with the squats, It really doesnt matter. You'd be hard pressed to find a body part this didnt hit pretty hard and often here.

You may with to look up "Chaos and Pain" on google, which is a bit of an extreme form of a full body training, but you could get some ideas.


It has been a while since I have done a full body workout routine, so I hope I don't put the exercise out of place.

First off, you don't separate a muscle group in a day, in a week, yes, but not a day.

Chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, legs, abs, calves.

Please realize, this is one variation. The only thing you don't want to do is fry the small muscles before the big one (IE: triceps then chest).

you can then choose three exercise for each day of the week.

Chest: Bench press, incline press, dips, etc

Back: Bent over rows, pull ups, seated cable, pull downs (different grips), etc

This is usually 2-4 sets, 10-15 reps.

If you get all stressed out about not hitting some muscle group, this workout is not for you.

With warm ups and cool down, it was just over an hour.

This is not an "easy" work out, nor is this a circuit training. I used it for about a year when I was promoted chef and started working way too many hours.

good luck



Ben Bruno has a good way to do it to. This is similar to above, but provides set/reps schemes and a bit of a way to cycle intensity.


I do it. Three days a week and I do some variant of a multi-joint push, pull and legs every session. Then cycle through other smaller stuff like bi's and tri's on one day, delts and calves the next, extra back work and hamstrings on another.


Why do you want to do a 3 day full body split? Not saying that it's necessarily the wrong choice of action depending on your goals, but it might be.

The answer to your question is that you can't possibly fit in work to directly hit all of the major muscle groups in each workout. So, you have a couple options:

1) follow a Waterbury type of split like the template mentioned above and throw in some isolation stuff at the end. Realize though that unless you have great genetics this type of program with that kind of frequency is likely to leave you with some body parts not getting hit/not developing up to bodybuilding standards.

2) Do the above, but up the frequency to 5-6 days. This will allow you much more variety with your exercise options and give you a better chance of being able to hit all of the muscles sufficiently

3) stick to the 5 way body part split. In all honesty that is the best method for hitting all of the body parts directly and with enough intensity to build a proportional, bodybuilder physique; which is probably the reason why the vast, vast majority of successful bodybuilders (both natural and assisted as well as amateur and professional) train that way.

In the end it's your body and your choice though.


You're still thinking in body part split terms. Youre not trying to recruit as many fibres/motor units in ONE MUSCLE, but throughout you ENTIRE BODY. This will lead to more even growth throughout the body. Like Waterbury said in one of his articles, if you are not at your full genetic potential(The top of the bell curve, in a way, where the top is the biggest/strongest you will ever get) then a body part split may not be for you. I find for guys which are still really young and new to training such as me, upper/lower splits or full body deliver the best gains, but in the upper part of the bell curve then you should start looking at bodypart splits.
Im a newb so I might be wrong about this, but thats just what I think would be the way to go.


First off, thanks to all the previous posters for helping me out. I felt I'd reply to your post Sento as I feel you may be able to take some weight off my chest, as I've had issues with some of your points.

The reason I've thought about switching to a 3 day full body workout, as opposed to my usual 5 day bodypart split is due to a number of reasons. My current 5 day split looks like this:

Mon - Chest
Tue - Back
Wed - Shoulders
Thu - Legs
Fri - Biceps/Triceps

I've been training using this routine for a long time now, although I was getting worried about overtraining. Using this routine, my triceps get trained 3 times per week (indirectly on Mon/Wed, and directly on Friday), my biceps get trained twice and my forearms are being used pretty much every workout, even on leg day due to Stiff Leg Deadlifts. My arm growth in comparison to the rest of my body seems like it's lagging behind, and I fear that my 5 day split could be causing overtraining.

Anyway, once I started looking up ways to add some extra rest during the week, I came across 3 day full body workouts. I started reading up on them, and it seems that a hell of a lot of people recommend them for (their numbers) 90% of the drug free population. I'm no super genetic monster as far as I know, so I figured I probably lay within that percentage.

Here's an article by Chad Waterbury who seems to strongly recommend 3 day full body training - http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/totalbody_training

And I also came across this article (http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/full-body-vs-upper-lower-vs-body-part-split/) which says that 90% or so of natural bodybuilders would benefit more from training muscles 2-3 times per week as opposed to once per week, due to protein synthesis etc which apparently dissipates after 48 hours. I've read a lot of things recently, such as muscles not needing a full week to recover, and that ideally natural bodybuilders should be training a muscle more frequently (i.e. 2-3 times per week).

I'm not saying all of this is true, it's just what I've read. I came here to try and get some clarification from people in the know really, about all of this as I'm a little lost at the moment. I'm in the middle of trying to settle on a routine, and it's unfortunately all I can think about at the moment.

Thanks for your help.



You're still thinking in body part split terms. Youre not trying to recruit as many fibres/motor units in ONE MUSCLE, but throughout you ENTIRE BODY. This will lead to more even growth throughout the body. Like Waterbury said in one of his articles, if you are not at your full genetic potential(The top of the bell curve, in a way, where the top is the biggest/strongest you will ever get) then a body part split may not be for you. I find for guys which are still really young and new to training such as me, upper/lower splits or full body deliver the best gains, but in the upper part of the bell curve then you should start looking at bodypart splits.
Im a newb so I might be wrong about this, but thats just what I think would be the way to go.


Ok, thanks for clarifying your reasoning.

Alright, you're concerned that your arms aren't getting enough recovery and that you are therefore overtraining them. Assuming your nutrition is in order (which if it's not would definitely be the first thing to address), there are some pretty simple adjustments to your split that you could make without having to go to the extreme of completely throwing it out the window and replacing it with a 3 days a week Full Body routine. In other words, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Also, considering that you are concerned with not getting enough recovery and your arms lagging behind, a Full Body routine like Waterbury advocates would be about the worst choice you could make as it pretty much mandates that you are working your muscles multiple times a week; so it certainly isn't going to give you better recovery.

Why not just switch up your split to allow for more recovery between workouts? Something like:

Mon- Chest and Triceps
Tuesday- Back and Biceps
Wednesday- Calves, Forearms, and Abs/Core
Thursday- Shoulders
Friday- Quads, Hams, and Glutes


Mon- Chest and Back
Tues- Calves, Forearms, and Abs/Core
Wed- Shoulders
Thurs- Legs
Fri- Biceps and Triceps


Mon- Chest and Shoulders
Tues- Back
Wed- Calves, Forearms, and Abs/Core
Thurs- Legs
Fri- Arms

All of those options would mean less frequency and thus more recovery for your arms (the first option being the best in that regard) and still allow you to hit all of your muscle groups directly and from multiple angles.

There is of course also the question of exercise selection, set/rep schemes, and mind/muscle connection (neuromuscular control/recruitment).


Also, to be honest most of the people writing articles about how "natural bodybuilders should train with Full Body" (including Waterbury) have never trained any successful natural bodybuilders and don't look like one themself.

If you're looking for good bodybuilding coaches on this site look no further than John Meadows. Or if you're skeptical of John since he is assisted (though, he has also trained many successful naturals including Zraw from this site), check out Jim Cordova's stuff.

Good luck.


Why not just train your shoulders together with chest... drop the shoulder pressing and focus on laterals and rear delt work.


Just to clarify here, Zraw is definitely not natural.


I'll throw in my 2 cents, just because I like full-body training.
I'm neither big nor strong by any larger scale. But I've been training for a few years and done my share of full-body training.
I liked full-body training mainly for strenght gains. My brother (who is a lot bigger and stronger than me) been doing full-body training for over a year now. Maybe close to 2. He likes it mainly because it seems to save time. It seems you can get away with 2 training sessions a week for a while if you're really short on time.

So anyway. Here's how we've been doing this "fitting it all in":
Every training session would contain 3 compoud movements to hit most of the body: Squat or Deadlift (not both), Bench and Weighted Pull-ups. We'd also hit shoulders with heavy seated-dumbell-presses or standing-single-arm-dumbell presses. That's 4 excercises. We'd rotate the 5th excercise every training session - we'd add another one to hit either back, chest or shoulders. That makes 5. Usualy done in 12-10-8-6 pyramid (or 8-6-4-2). We'd start with chest, then back (or back then chest) and then move on to the heavyest lift (squat or deadlift) and then shoulders. After all that's done, we'd superset bi's with tri's, or abbs with calfs, or quads with hams.
Now that I've written that - looks like a lot of volume. And it probably is. Those are lenghy training sessions. Training-resting days would look like this: train-rest-rest-repeat. That makes 3 training sessions in 9 days, not a week. But we'd usualy skip one resting day somewhere and make it 3 training sessions in 8 days.

Squat and deadlift rotation thruout training sessions could also be done like this: squat-none-deadlift-none-repeat. Easyer on one's lower back and frees up some space to throw in something you think might be missing from the plan. Or not to throw in and make for a shorter training session.


OP, I definitely hear you on the whole 5 days per week, arms look like its actually shrinking while other parts are growing thing. LOL

If your like me, you train to failure way too much even if you try to leave a rep or 2 in the tank. Even hitting my kcals/macros and 7+ hours of sleep daily was simply too much for me to effectively recover from (right now). So while I couldn't agree more that the "bro-split" is best for the long term aesthetic look, you have to know your lifting style and plan accordingly.

Since I like to go balls to the wall but I have shit recovery, I cant do the 5 day thing... and even if I could, switching up the split from time to time cant be a bad thing. Think of a Full Body split as a potential strength phase if not anything else.

And srs, if you don't have bowling ball delts already, feeling OCD about not getting in some rear delt action just seems pretty dumb. Majoring in the minors.


You just are. Or you're not. Depends who you ask. Confusing and vague, but that's how it is. There are tons of ways to get bigger and stronger. Whole body training vs splits gets debated over and over, most recently here:

Waterbury is one of the most vocal advocates of full body sessions or upper/lower splits. Like Lonnie said, he's written programs that are as basic as upper body press, upper body pull, squat or deadlift variation. He's also written programs that train the back, chest, shoulder, and arms for 1 or 2 exercises each session.

Steve Reeves wrote that his best routine was: Shoulders, chest, back, biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, calves, low back, abs, and neck; 2-3 exercises per bodypart for 2-3 sets each. Granted, his workouts were like 2 and a half hours long. Reg Park's classic 5x5 is just squat, bench , and deadlift each workout.

Yes and no, depends a bit on the person, their build, and their experience/development. But double check that "TBT" Waterbury routine you linked to. It clearly includes isolation work for the shoulders, arms, and calves in addition to work for the bigger bodyparts.

I think the biggest misconception most people have is thinking "full body workouts" are synonymous with skipping bodyparts. That's certainly not always the case. It's a matter of goals and program design. If you're looking to increase your weekly recovery/non-training time and still grow, a 3 day a week full body program is a solid choice.

For what it's worth, I'm personally about to start Waterbury's "SOB Training" program next week. It's a full body workout each session.
I also did his ABBH 1 and ABBH 2 programs earlier this year. They're both upper/lower splits.


Yeah, sorry, my mistake. I've been corresponding with him/following his progress for years on here and most of that time he was natural, so I used him. At this point he is assisted though, so naming him at this point is a little misleading.


Read this...