Full Body Workout vs Split Training: Which is Better?

full body workout vs split

It’s common to hear gym goers arguing about which training approach is better: full body workout or split training. Both of these variations have their supporters. They actively promote each of their approaches, considering it the best. Let’s explore this question with a cool head, without any bias.


Let’s dive into history first. So, at the stage of development of bodybuilding, a training approach dominated, which promoted full body workout. Athletes simply trained each muscle group in their body, doing one basic exercise for each muscle. At the next workout, they replaced the exercises with alternative ones or changed the order of their execution.

Having gained experience, athletes have noticed that increasing the volume of loads and working out the whole body for each workout becomes too tiring. They began to divide their body into conditional zones and train them on separate days. This is how split training was born.

According to another theory, the emergence of split training was significantly influenced by the beginning of the use of various pharmacological drugs in sports.

full body workout

Full Body Workout

As a rule, with a full body workout, the athlete performs only one basic exercise per muscle group in 2-3 sets. In total, about 6-8 exercises for the whole body are obtained. Why so few? The fact is that a workout even with this option will take at least an hour, or even more. Imagine how long such a workout would take if you did more than one basic exercise for each muscle group? And if you also increase the number of sets? Surely after such a workout, you will be completely exhausted, and your nervous system will rebel.

To prevent this from happening, you need to competently approach this type of workout. You either train hard every 4-5 days, or you train more often, but at different levels of intensity. The basis of a full body workout is the “hard-easy-medium” scheme. This means that you will have three workouts of varying intensity per week. The first workout is the hardest, and the second, in a day, will be easy. Every other day there should be a medium intensity workout. It will be followed by two days of rest.

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A more advanced full body workout scheme involves an emphasis on some kind of exercise on a specific day. For example, Monday is a hard-squat day. On this day, the athlete performs 3-4 sets of barbell back squat with large weights, but he trains the rest of the body with light effort. On Wednesday, the athlete does a heavy bench press and again works the rest of the body lightly or moderately. Friday is a heavy deadlift day.


Exercise Sets Reps Rest, min Intensity
Barbell Back Squat 4 6-8 3-5 hard
Lying Leg Curl 2 15 2 easy
Parallel Bar Dips 2 12-15 2 easy
Bent Over Barbell Row 3 10 2-3 medium
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise 3 12 2 easy
Barbell Bicep Curl 3 10 2 medium
Back Extensions 3 15 2 medium


Exercise Sets Reps Rest, min Intensity
Barbell Bench Press 4 6-8 3-5 hard
Lat Pulldown 3 12 2 easy
Standing Overhead Barbell Press 3 8 2 medium
Leg Press 3 15 2 easy
Standing Calf Raise 4 10 2 hard
Crunches 4 15 2 medium


Exercise Sets Reps Rest, min Intensity
Deadlift 4 6-8 3-5 hard
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 2 15 2 easy
Pull-Ups 3 10 2 medium
Dumbbell Bent-Over Lateral Raise 3 12 2 easy
Tricep Pushdown 3 12 2 easy
Seated Leg Extension 3 15 2 easy

Changing the load is a must. Medium to light load means you have to stop well before failure. Heavy load means that you are lifting weights to the point of extreme fatigue, almost to failure, or to failure.

split training

Split Training

Split training assumes that the athlete will divide his body into muscle groups and train them on specific days. With this option, you can increase the training volume and perform 2-3 exercises for each muscle group. As a rule, each muscle group only trains once a week, but here it is worth making a reservation. The fact is that even in split training, one way or another, all muscle groups are affected. For example, when performing a deadlift, the spinal erectors, buttocks, and leg muscles work. The barbell back squat works the legs, as well as the gluteal muscles and spinal erectors. But most of all in split training, the load falls on the arms, especially on the triceps and deltoid muscles.

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Split training can be organized in different ways. If you divide the body into the top and bottom, then this will also be acceptable. Although we are not used to observing this. With this option, the top and bottom can be alternated, training every other day.

Another variant of split training is more common among experienced athletes. This is a classic workout 3 days a week. On each of them, one large and one or two small muscle groups are worked out.

You can organize your split training as follows.


Exercise Sets Reps Rest, min
Barbell Bench Press 3 8 3
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 10 2
Lying Dumbbell Flys 3 15 1
Barbell Bicep Curl 3 10 2
Seated Dumbbell Bicep Curl 3 10 2
Crunches 4 15 1


Exercise Sets Reps Rest, min
Deadlift 3 6-8 3-5
Pull-Ups 3 max 2-3
Seated Cable Row 3 10 2
Dumbbell Bent-Over Lateral Raise 3 10-12 2
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press 3 10 2
Tricep Pushdown 3 10-15 2
Oblique Crunches 4 15 1


Exercise Sets Reps Rest, min
Barbell Back Squat 3 8-10 3-5
Leg Press 3 12 2
Lying Leg Curl 3 10-15 2
Standing Calf Raise 4 10-12 2
Seated Barbell Shoulder Press 3 8 2
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise 3 12-15 2
Hanging Leg Raise 3 max 2

The amount of load in split training has increased significantly compared to full body workout. Also added an additional load on the arms and deltoid muscles.

Which is Better?

This question is natural after reading this article. I will try to answer it. The fact is that a different training approach is suitable at different times. The full body workout is great for beginners and recovery, as well as when you are returning to strength training after a long break. However, sooner or later your muscles will get used to the small amount of load and it will need to be increased. Of course, if you want to progress further. Surprisingly, some athletes make great progress all their lives in full body workout without resorting to split training.

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However, most people do, sooner or later, switch to split training. Unfortunately, many switches to this option too early, literally from the first workout in the gym. I believe that this is not entirely correct, since full body workout allows beginners to gain mass and strength in the shortest possible time. With split training, this process is somewhat stretched. But we want to achieve big muscles sooner, right? Therefore, I recommend using a full body workout for at least six months, and then moving on to split training. A compromise is also possible, this is the division of the body into top and bottom. We can say that this is a cross between these two training approaches.

Whichever you choose, remember that no workout regimen will work well without proper nutrition and proper rest. If you want to gain mass faster, then I recommend taking weight gainer and creatine. If you want to effectively lose weight, then I would advise you to choose a full body workout, and especially circuit training. In this case, it will not be superfluous to take beta-alanine and l-carnitine.