Jump to content

Total Body vs Split Lifting Routines


Recommended Posts

OK, I recently got some advice that my lifting routine needs a major overhaul. For the past 4 months or so, I have been following a 3 day split as following:


Day 1 - chest and back and abs

Day 2 - arms and shoulders

Day 3 - lower body and abs


The advice I recieved was that for most people, a TOTAL BODY lifting routine is more effective. The logic is that:


* The body adapts to training stimulus, so changing your workout every 4-6 weeks can help with gains.

* Lifting your whole body in one day creates a bigger anabolic repsonse, since you are working out more muscle groups.

* It provides the body with more ”time off,” you only have to handle 3 weight workouts a week instead of 4-6.

* Could reduce the chance for injury, since you train each body part fewer times each day, you aren’t at as big a risk of straining anything.

* Less likely to create a muscular imbalance, created by overworking a specific bodypart and ignoring others.



What routine do you use? A split or total body routine? Have you tried both, and if so, which do you prefer?


I lifted using a new Total Body routine at the YMCA today before leaving Portland. It felt great. I did about 9 exercises, 2-3 sets of 10-12 depending on the muscle group.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think both full-body and split routines have their advantages, and their place in a rotation.


Splits allow you to work each muscle group more thoroughly and give it more rest as well, which is better for muscle growth.


Full-body workouts are better calorie burners, and help with fat loss.


For splits, I lke the type of three-day split recommended in the "Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength" by Jim Stoppani. He recommends focusing on three basic lifts, and going heavy with them: bench press, deadlifts, squats. And you build a three-day split around them.


One day focuses on bench press and assistance exercises (exercises for 'push' muscles: chest, shoulders, triceps).


One day focuses on squats and assistance exercises (legs)


The final day focuses on deadlifts and assistance exercises (back and biceps).


By having a large-muscle-group exercise in each day, you get the benefits of working large muscle groups (more muscle stimulation, human growth hormone output) and don't waste workouts on just smaller muscle groups (ie: a 'shoulders and arms" workout, which contains no large muscle groups).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I could never combine legs and upper body in the gym...technically I worked my legs every day since I would lift upper body and throw the same day(which is done mostly with legs) and on leg days I'd also throw but I could never get any stronger mixing upper and lower in the weight room...I tried it for a bit and gave up

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've done a bit more research on the topic and it turns that for the majority of people (like the 99% of us that aren't actually stepping on stage to compete)....a totalbody/performanced based workout plan is superior.


Here's a write up from my blog on the matter:





Training for performance vs asthetics

November 22nd, 2006


I’ve been a bit obsessed lately about improving my weight training program. I have thrown my split-routine out the window and am now focusing on a total body working centered around compoud movements. Specifically; squats, dumbell presses, dips, rows. I also do ab work and a few sets of biceps and triceps (just for the heck it). My total workouts are 20-24 sets and take about 1 hour.


The past two workouts have really felt great. I don’t have any aches and pains, and my body maintains a good pump throughout the workout. I realize this is way to earlier to make any conclusions, but things are looking good. Thanks Jason for the recco to give this a try! If you are at all interested in weight training and fitness, subscribe to his blog.


Ultimately, total body workouts are geared toward those interested in performance gains, whereas a split routine will favor a bodybuilder more concerned with asthetics. For a performance minded individual, there is less of a need to focus on isolation exercises (curls, tri press, calves, etc). The focus is instead on compound movements, and performing these more often (i.e. 3 days a week instead of 1-2 as would happen in a typical 3 day split routine).


Cassandra talks about this subject, and references a great article on T Nation about the merits of each. Alwin also has an interesting perspective on the matter.


Which method of training is right for you? I really think this quote on Alwyn’s blog sums it up:


“Even at an elite level of athleticism, there are only 10% of people who need to stress over the details. Most people think they’re there when they’re not. You have to understand whether you’re a part of the 90% or the 10%.” -John Berardi


For me, I was trying to train like a bodybuilder, when I lacked the basic platform of strength and mass to get any good from it. The result was injury and slow gains. We’ll see if my body responds better to a total body routine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I use DC training. It has a two day split (upper and lower+bicepts). Look on intensemuscle.com at it. The basic idea is that each body part gets one extreamly intense set of three sub-sets to failure with 20 seconds between each sub-set. Each workout you must increase either weight or reps for each exercise, or switch to an alternative exercise for that body part. This prevent hitting a plateau, stimulates growth quickly, and avoid overtraining.

If you go to intensemuscle.com and join the forums, be careful what you say. I got banned for saying that eating meat is for cunts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



You're a mean ass with a mullet!

And your biceps looks nice 'n big in your avi


I'm also on intensemuscle.com.

I did DC for a while, in the beginning the gains are crazy, but it slows down for me after 2-4 weeks.

Do you do rest-pause EVERY set? I found that i progress better when i do that only later in the cycle (and not every training), and start off with a mere set to failure. Nice system though, i might do a cycle for a change sometime again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



I, for the most part at least, rest-pause every set. For squats I do one heavy set (heavy for me is 95 lbs, shitty legs) and then one set of about 20 on the leg press which ends my life. I do three heavy straight sets for deadlift, and probably should for stiff-legged deadlift. I've only been on DC for maybe two months, and it is slowing down, but the gains are still far above what I ever got on any other system. Throwing in a static hold at the end of a rest-pause rips you up too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've done HIT for a little while, which I kind of liked. I try to work 2 areas of my body per workout though (Bicep & Back) (Triceps + Chest) (Chest + Shoulers) (Legs and abs), and I last about 50 minutes - 1 hour. I've made really good gains on it and I like it. I felt I've hit a bit of a slowdown, but that's because I need to up the calories, maybe that's what happens on DC, you just need to up your calories quite often?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very possible. I have been cutting recently (as long as I'm going vegan I may as well) and will return to my old caloric input in few weeks. Still, I'm gaining well, by no means have I stopped or am dissatisfied with my growth.


Yeah, it just seems like the amount of calories I need to just sustain my workouts can get crazy, and if you keep that up for a while, I can only imagine the number of calories needed to go up, I also sleep a LOT more when I'm doing things like this and bulking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...