Full body and split routines are two ways in which you can perform resistance workouts - but what are they, and which one is the best for you?
It is a question I get asked every day, and there is no simple answer, so I will explain both and allow you to decide which one suits you.
A full body workout in simple terms is when you train every muscle group, stimulating muscles in a single training session.
So, why choose full body?
This type of training is perfect if you are new to working out, or if you are not as young as you used to be. If you can only get into the gym 2 – 3 times a week then this is an economical way to train your muscles, however, you will find it difficult to get desired muscle growth and an improvement in body shape once the initial fat loss has been achieved. This is due to an inability to fully isolate individual muscle groups effectively (you will be in the gym all night if you try and do this).
A full body workout is therefore a great calorie burner and can be very intense indeed, so if you are seriously into your cardio then this method could suit you. Try doing a full body workout as a circuit. If you are choosing this method please be aware your body could show the effects of ‘over training’ if you don’t give your muscles time to repair and recover.
The split routine session is where you separate your workouts into muscle groups or body parts and working them on different days. For example: Monday is chest and triceps, Tuesday is back and biceps etc. Everyone has their own theory on how best to do this, but I will tell you my preferred way later.
So, why choose split routine?
This type of training is certainly for those people who can visit the gym a minimum of five days a week, because if you miss a session then it can be nearly two weeks before you train that body part again (not ideal), however, it allows time for repair and growth. The split routine allows you to overload and isolate individual muscle groups; it is the best way to achieve hypertrophy (muscle growth) and transform your body shape into that classic narrow hip and wide shoulder mesomorph appearance. This is for the experienced lifter who knows a wide variety of exercises to be performed on each of the muscles. Please be aware that muscle imbalance can occur if you spend more time working on one muscle group more than another. You don’t want to look like you are carrying shopping bags for the rest of your life, do you?
Which one do I use?
I am in a unique position because I aim for total all round functional fitness therefore achieving an athletic appearance. I take split routine to another level; I split my routines into different times of the day and different training methods during these times. I live for fitness, so I train a minimum of 5 days a week, training twice a day - but it’s not as bad as it sounds!
For example; my morning session before work and breakfast consists of a 30-minute cardio session using either the fartlek or continuous training methods. I then go to school and complete my working day hitting the gym on my way home from work. My evening session consists of an intense 45-minute resistance work out, where I concentrate on one body part a day. In my case, this would be arms, shoulders, back, chest and legs linking my core workouts onto the back of these. I make sure the muscles are fully worked, concentrating on technique throughout and keeping rest periods to minimum (no lengthy conversations between sets). I do it this way because my body has a sufficient recovery period between cardio and resistance sessions during the day - muscles have 5 – 6 days to recover before they are worked again after heavy lifting in the week.
I am only training the same length of time in a day than what most people would train in one session in a gym. It’s what works for me. When performing resistance training I make sure I train the antagonist muscle (the muscle that relaxes when another contracts) at the same intensity as the primary mover, this achieves balance and allows my body to maintain equilibrium.
Remember, everyone’s body is different, so find out what works for you and what fits into your lifestyle and time constraints. Good luck, and remember, it’s all about the results.