The Difference Between Split and Full-body Routines

Z127Everyone bickers back and forth in the debate between the superior form of exercise, and I am going to clear it up once and for all in this post.

I find that fitness isn’t a matter of the style you lift, the place you exercise in, nor the weight you use; it’s a mentality. Any person can accomplish a high level of fitness doing roadwork (running, walking, jogging outside) and some plyometric exercises- if your mentality backs your intensity. It is this concept that makes the difference between Split and Full-body Routines, not the routine itself.

However, I have outlined what the general divisions are of split and full-body workouts, and briefly expressing the benefits of each of them.


Split muscle group training programs are exercise routines that engender a single muscle group for the entirety of the workout. Although some other muscles may be exercised indirectly (like the biceps are used when doing lat pulldowns), but the focus the major muscle group in that exercise. People split the muscle groups and assign them to certain days; one of these routines may look like Chest-Monday, Back-Tuesday, Legs-Wednesday, etc., to cover all groups. Sometimes, split routines may target two smaller muscle groups, like biceps and triceps, or two larger groups, like chest and back, so that they can train those groupings twice a week, or because the amount of days they can weight train may be limited. In all cases of split routine workouts, a majority of muscle groups are ignored in order to emphasize other muscles and train those efficiently.

Full-body training is where you These workouts center around the idea of employing the entire body as a single group of muscles. They focus on dynamic movements (like the clean and snatch), or, at the very least, call upon each of the muscles throughout the workout. A typical full-body workout may entirely be dynamic movements, or possibly several simple exercises (using each muscle group) done in a (sometimes) rapid succession. It works the body as a whole system, and tends to leave you more fatigued and tired than split routines. These workouts are much like bootcamps, cardio-kickboxing, and other health classes offered at your local gym.


Split routines are fantastic for specific goals. If you’re trying to become accomplished in Bodybuilding, spot training your weak points, or regaining lost strength from an injury/surgery, split routines are the route you would want to take. Most people train in split routines to pursue strength, build mass, or to cut weight; in any of those instances, split routines are probably the best way to go about those goals.

These routines focus on muscles groups, and so you can make drastic improvement with the utmost specificity. If you think you have a mis-proportional chest compared to your shoulders, you can make adjustments to expand your chest while lightening your shoulder routine to give your chest that opportunity; or even within the same muscle group, as in your biceps have to high of a peak and not enough length-you can adjust the routine to be more emphatic on the length. In general, when you have a very specific goal in mind, split routines have the highest potential to accommodate them. There are other purposes that a split routine can serve, but those are the most common.

Full-body routines suit the needs of overall conditioning; as used for athletics, weight loss, or for those with less time on their hands. The results of full-body workouts is great for in-season conditioning and sports specific training. It isn’t too often that a sport only utilizes a single group of muscles (I can’t actually think of a sport that isn’t muscularly dynamic), so for sports specific training, you more often see the athletes training the full-body.

As a consequence of multiple muscle groups being used at a single time, there are more calories burned (more muscles used=more calories burned to use them). When you switch muscle groups, as in from chest to back, your muscles can perform to a greater level with the lack of fatigue. This also tends to elevate the heart rate because the rest periods are shorter-again, due to the lack of fatigue. With the combination of low rest periods and an elevated heart rate, full-body routines are ideal for in-season athletes and people seeking overall conditioning.


Throughout any workout, you should be applying every effort and all of your energy. The only time you’ll see progress in your personal fitness is if you attempt to do what you thought was impossible, every day, and every time you walk through the doors to your gym.

With that being said, one style of weight training cannot be held to be superior over others. It really doesn’t matter what form your weight training takes, the mentality of your training is more important. Both split and full-body workouts have benefits particular to the person executing them; so the decision of which is of better use-not which is better overall-is made through the eyes of your particular fitness goals. It is best to first review what you want to accomplish in your training before you design a routine.


About Nick

Nick Levato has been involved with the fitness community for over 8 years. Not only is he a Certified Personal Trainer but, has also been trained in martial arts. Nick has overseen the training of many individuals spanning all ages and fitness goals; and experimented most diets; for competitions, cutting, vegetarian, and general diets to coincide with weight training at the time. In addition to training on an individual level, Nick has also taught many group classes. He takes pride in pushing himself to his limits in the gym and in his everyday life.

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