Should I be using full body workouts or bro splits?
That is the question that thousands of bodybuilders all over the world ask themselves on a daily basis.
Nowadays, it has become such a hotly debated topic that bodybuilders have split themselves up into two camps.
The full body camp tends to be dominated by natural drug-free lifters who claim that full body workouts are the only way to go.
While the split routine camp is mostly made up of fitness professionals and physique competitors.
Personally, I’ve used both methods of training for extended periods of time and as a result, I have lots of actual experience on the subject.
So, let’s cut out all the bullshit and get to the bottom of this debate once and for all!
The History Of Full Body Training
First, we’re gonna start this debate off on the full body training side of things and learn about the surprising history of how it became popular.
Believe it or not, full body training was popular in the 1930s and 50s because gym days for men and women used to be separate.
Yup, that’s right, as weird as that sounds, most gymnasiums weren’t coed back then!
Men typically got Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while women got Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Due to the fact that bodybuilders only got three days a week to train, they had to participate in full body training out of necessity.
Classic Full Body Training Routine
- Dumbbell Swings (Warm Up) – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Upright Rows – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- One Arm Row – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Incline Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Triceps Press down – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Barbell Curls – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Seated Dumbbells Curls – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Squats – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Pull Overs – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Deadlifts – 2 sets of 8-12 reps
- Good Mornings – 2 sets of 8-12 reps
Imagine doing all that three times a week!
Old school full body workouts like the one above usually took 2-3 hours to complete and were incredibly grueling.
However, there is no denying the results that this type of training produced.
Old School Full Body Training Pioneers
Rise In Popularity
Recently, within the last 10 years or so, full body training has made a big comeback.
Shoutout to Stronglifts though.
That website and program literally changed my life 8 years ago.
Pros And Cons Of Full Body Training
1) More Rest Days – Full body training usually follows a one day on one day off protocol that only has you training three days a week. That means you get to enjoy 4 full days of complete rest!
2) Balanced Physique – Since you’ll be training every body part per workout, all major muscle groups will get the attention they need to grow proportionately.
3) Frequency – Every body part will be stimulated 3 times a week.
4) Calories Burned – Full body workouts expend a lot of energy which means that you’ll burn a greater number of calories per workout.
5) Great For Beginners – Beginners need lots of practice with the main lifts (squats, deadlifts, and bench press) in order to master them. Since full body workouts require that you perform them multiple times a week, you become a good lifter rather quickly.
6) Easy To Track – Since full body workouts only consist of a few major exercises, they’re easy to track in a notebook or smartphone.
7) Missing Workouts – If you miss a workout (which you should try hard not to) it’s not a big deal. Simply move on and do your workout the next day.
8) Athletic Performance – Full body workouts are great for athletes who care about performance just as much as aesthetics.
1) Exhausting – Full body workouts can be long and exhausting, especially when you become stronger.
2) Overtraining – Intermediate/advanced lifters who use full body workouts have a greater chance of overtraining. In fact, this happened to me twice when I became too strong.
3) Exercise Exclusion – Since you’ll be using mostly compound barbell exercises, you’ll be too tired to do anything else.
4) Personal Records – Hitting a personal record on the bench press is much harder when you start a workout with squats or deadlifts, as most full body programs recommend.
The History Of Split Training
Split training is called split training because it involves splitting your body up into sections.
This style of training was adopted once steroids entered the scene in the 1960s and changed the course of both bodybuilding and athletics forever.
You see, steroids greatly enhance the rate at which a person can successfully recover from a workout, which means that more volume per body is possible.
In other words, you can train harder longer and grow faster.
As a result, split training is still favored by just about every pro bodybuilder in existence today.
Split Training Routine
Monday – Chest & Triceps
Flat Bench Press – 4×10
Incline Bench Press – 4×10
Dips – 4×10
Skull Crushers – 4×10
Tuesday – Legs
Back Squat – 4×10
Front Squat – 4×10
Stiff Legged Deadlifts – 4×10
Walking Lunges – 4×10
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Back & Biceps
Deadlifts – 3×5
Barbell Rows – 4×10
Pull Ups – 4×10
Barbell Curls – 4×10
Friday – Shoulders
Barbell Standing Press – 4×10
Dumbell Side Laterals – 4×10
Bent Over Rear Delt Raises – 4×10
Dumbell Front Raises – 4×10
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
As you can see, the body is broken up (split) into muscle groups.
Each muscle group is trained once a week in order to maximize recovery.
Physiques Built With Split Training
Pros And Cons Of Split Training
More Energy – Split routines are less exhausting and easier to get through.
More Days On – For most guys, training is the best part of bodybuilding. And with split training, you get to be in the gym more.
More Exercises – Since you’re only training a few muscles at a time, you’ll have the ability to include a bigger variety of exercises into your routine.
PRs – Hitting personal records is much easier when you don’t have to train multiple heavy compound exercises every workout.
Volume – Each body part gets more specialized attention with split training routines.
Easier On Joints/Lower Back – Completing multiple heavy compound exercises 3 times a week really takes a toll on your joints and lower back. Split training reduces the volume of these exercises which allows you to keep making strength gains without feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck all the time.
More Gyms Days – Even though training is fun, going to a public gym can be a huge pain in the ass. Unless you own your own equipment, having to drive to the gym and deal with the general public several times a week may demotivate you.
Missed Days – Missing just one workout can mess up your whole week. You’ll have to change your rest days or combine multiple body parts on one day which can be exhausting.
Possible Strength Loss – When you go from squatting, benching, and deadlifting 3 times a week to once a week, you may experience some strength loss.
Impatience – Training a body part once a week can be tough. Especially when you’re used to training chest 3 times a week. Ahem, just about every dude out there.
Proportions – We all like to favor certain body parts when we train and if you’re not careful, split training can make this issue even worse.
Both training philosophies are sound and I’ve personally used both of them with great success.
However, once you become an intermediate/advanced lifter, full body training doesn’t make much sense.
Performing multiple heavy compound exercises every single workout is extremely hard on your nervous system and will lead to overtraining.
How do I know? Because I’ve done it multiple times!
And let me tell you something.
It fucking sucks!
What Would I Do?
If I could go back in time, I’d avoid overtraining and injury by taking a much smarter approach to my workouts.
I’d use full body routines in the beginning until I really nailed down the basics, but once I became stronger, I’d immediately switch to a split routine.
What about you?
Let me know what your preferred method of training is and why in the comments below.
From The Man Himself –