While the majority of lifters are hung up on the latest and greatest split routine they clipped out of last month’s Muscle and Fitness, the educated few are sitting at the desk coming up with a new workout regimen based on their own individual goals. Even fewer than these educated few actually understand how to implement a full body workout. Here’s the thing about full body training – it can be shaped around any set of goals out there.
The typical split workout groups specific muscle groups together and has the lifter coming into the gym three to five days per week. The common splits include chest/shoulders/triceps, back/biceps/forearms, and legs. Although these commonly used splits may prove effective for some, there are definitely a few other options to consider. Full body training not only allows for more muscle groups to be targeted in each individual workout, but also keeps the body working harder than a split workout. How is this so? Well, as stated above, split workouts often group similar muscle groups together. The chest, shoulders, and triceps all work together in a number of exercises. This grouping is extremely efficient and the body realizes that it doesn’t have to work very hard to recruit motor units because similar muscles are being used. Full body training, on the other hand, is less efficient and thus is thought to allow for greater gains. Exercise A calls upon motor units in the quadriceps and psoas, whereas the immediately following exercise B specifically recruits the trapezius.
As if the benefits of the full body workout aren’t clear enough, there is another added bonus – full body training is an excellent mode for those who are short on time. Compound exercises are stressed, while isolation movements are put on the back burner. Only a few compound movements will need to be performed each day, allowing you to make it out of the gym very quickly. In addition, five days of full body training are seldom necessary; most will get by with three. With the benefits all out of the way, here are a few important tips for structuring an efficient full body routine.
1. Balance. For a successful full body workout, each large muscle groups must be taken into account. There should be key movements for the upper and lower back, chest, triceps, biceps, forearms, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, butt, shoulders, and abdomen. Use compound exercises to make this process easier. Bench press will target the chest, triceps, and shoulders. The squat will recruit the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and butt. Rows call upon the biceps, forearms, shoulders, and upper back. Just be smart about your exercise selection.
2. Intensity. With only a few big movements being performed each day, intensity is key. Hit those exercises hard and with a vengeance to ensure maximum gains. Big movements such as the squat, bench, and deadlift should be performed with medium sets and low reps. Focus on proper technique, but don’t be afraid to throw some heavy weight around.
3. Volume. While most split routines call for a high amount of volume, the most productive full body workout does not. Keep the volume low and intensity high. Don’t worry about performing 4 sets of 15 reps of isolation exercises for the forearms and calves. As if this isn’t already clear enough, focus on compound movements over isolation. Because of the amount of muscles recruited in the execution of most compound exercises, high volume is unnecessary for most.