While any training program executed with effort and intent is likely to produce progress, the full-body split often gets overlooked due to social stigmas and general gym culture. “What are you hitting today?” “Everything.” Most will scoff as if you’re about to walk into a group fitness class full of middle-aged women trying to “tone” themselves. But the full-body split, if adhered to, might potentially garner more gains while simultaneously boosting gym enthusiasm.
Full-body vs bodybuilding
Body building’s popularity is unmatched, and for good reason. It works… for pro bodybuilders. Isolating specific body parts with extreme intensity is a phenomenal way to grow if you have the time, testosterone, and long-term dedication of an elite athlete. Simply put, the average gym-goer (even the experienced ones) doesn’t have these factors working in their favor. Quite possibly even training so inopportunely that the work being put into the gym does not correlate with muscle mass gained. This leads us to the most interesting factors — volume, frequency, and intensity.
Friday- Arms & Abs
Full body split
Monday- 2–3 hard sets of pushing movements, pulling movements, and leg exercises.
Wednesday- 2–3 hard sets of pushing movements, pulling movements, and leg exercises.
Friday- 2–3 hard sets of pushing movements, pulling movements, and leg exercises.
The main difference between the two splits is how the volume and frequency are achieved. In a paper titled “High Resistance- Training frequency enhances muscle thickness in resistance-trained men.” participants were selected at random to either a low-frequency style of training or a higher frequency, with both groups hitting the same intensity and volume. Participants using the higher frequency program saw an almost doubled 1RM squat, bicep and triceps thickness, and quad thickness.
In most natural men, the recommended amount of work to be done to stimulate hypertrophy is 3–4 “hard” sets, basically to failure. Not per exercise selection but muscle group. Assuming you’re on a bodybuilding program and you want to do chest. Realistically, you should’ve already hit your intensity baseline after the first few sets of the first movement. Six more variations of chest might produce minuscule gains comparatively to the effort being put into the session with some even experiencing diminishing returns. A common trick used is to go light on the first couple of sets, only hitting the intensity sweet spot for a brief moment and saving “reps in the tank” for the other chest movements selected for that day. This not only wastes time and effort but raises unnecessary stressors that could inhibit growth.
Now, all things considered, you did work out. You might experience some growth. But assuming one wants to get the most out of each training cycle, wouldn’t you say a program that not only has you recovering more days out of the week but also training each muscle group more often would be a more efficient way to see results? With the average bodybuilding spilt, each muscle group is only trained once per week. Leaving four days of stagnation in that specific muscle group. On a standard full-body split, each muscle group is trained at least three times a week with the same intensity. Not only that but the volume is distributed evenly to enhance recovery after sessions. If a workout needs to be missed due to external life factors, not a problem. You’ve already trained enough to promote muscle size and endurance.
To conclude, you’ve increased volume, frequency, and rest all while maintaining optimal intensity. This combined with a rotating exercise selection every other week should not only increase muscle mass but keep gym enthusiasm at an all-time high.
Do not start any diet or exercise plan without first consulting with your physician! Let your doctor know about any drugs or supplements you are using and what the plan consists of.
This content is meant to be informative and should not be considered medical advice.
Written for Stoked American Fitness
Jared Faircloth — Featured writer