FULL BODY VS SPLIT ROUTINE: PROS AND CONS

Hey guys!! Welcome to another article of Caliathletics!

Today we are going to talk about a topic that is often much discussed and for which people do have very different opinions and feelings regarding it: FULL BODY ROUTINE vs SPLIT ROUTINE.

Usually, the split routine is often adopted in the Bodybuilding world compared to a discipline like Calisthenics where instead prevails a full body training system.

Now, we should also be aware of fact that, in the world of Street Workout as well, prevails (similarly to the bodybuilding approach) the Split Routine system compared to Calisthenics.

Indeed, it happens often to search on the web for new Street Workout routines and you come across those ones divided in multiple days of the week so that you can focus the workload on single muscular groups at a time rather than training all muscles together.

In fact, I would personally go for the Full Body Routine rather than the Split one.

Why is that?!

I do believe that, if you educate your CNS (Central Nervous System) to motor patterns more complex like in the case of full body routines, you will be able since an early stage of your life as well as of your body evolution, to acquire very high quality skills accompanied by a very good running technique (perfect form) and to maintain them later in your aging process.

With full body routines, your body will get strong and will also maintain and improve its mobility and flexibility (of course by keep having daily stretching and foam rolling sessions on the way).

It is better to build a strong body that is also flexible and mobile, rather than one that is only big in size, but lacks of all those elements that are allowing it to keep you training no matter the age.

When you’re young, you do not think about what will be of your body, bones, ligaments, tendons and tissues when you turn 40 and over.

It is ok, but you should seriously consider focusing on preventing injuries that could occur in those late stages of your life.

Diseases such as osteoporosis, poor ligaments and tissues or issues with your lower back (i.e. herniated disk) could come up because you didn’t train your body to stay flexible and mobile, but you focused only on putting on weight, mass and stress due to the excessive efforts.

In the next pages we will analyze the main differences between a full body routine and a split one so that you will have a better overall view and you will be able to decide what it suits you best.

FULL BODY ROUTINE

By adopting a full body routine you will focus more on compound exercises that will involve multiple muscles at a time, avoiding so the isolating ones (typical of Split routines).

This difference translates into a significant gain in terms of strength and mass growth; consider that it is sufficient to train just the regular average 2-3 times a week to see such improvements.

Also fact that, the volume/repetitions you will be able to perform will significantly increase is another element to consider.

As we all know, time is the most important variable and by adopting such kind of training you can save up a lot of it and be able to include, in the rest days, those activities considered complementary/of support to the workouts of the week.

So, once again, try to include in the rest days a good session of stretching in order to use a time range of 60 up to 90 minutes so that you can focus on flexibility; the same can be said for mobility where a good foam rolling session is a MUST.

In this second case, try to be creative and use again a time range of 60 up to 90 minutes more or less (it takes me this time to massage all the trigger points in my body by using the foam roller together with the massage ball/trigger ball).

To give you a very good example on which you can meditate, I will report here a part of the topic discussed by Steven Low in his book “Overcoming Gravity: A systematic approach to gymnastics and bodyweight strength”:

To drive this point home, let us look at something like the planche exercise. In the above split routine examined it would be categorized into a pushing exercise. Therefore, you would get practice with it twice a week. However, with the full body routine we are getting practice with that 3 times a week. It does not seem significant, but over the course of a year that is 50 more workouts with the planche with the full body routine than with the split routine!

52 weeks * 2 times per week = ~ 100 workouts with the planche

52 weeks * 3 times per week = ~ 150 workouts with the planche

We can examine the math even more. The person using split routine with 2 pushing workouts per week is down of 50 workouts with planche compared to the full body.

50 workouts / 2 days per week = 25 weeks

25 weeks / 4 weeks per month = ~ 6 months

This means that he is about 25 weeks behind training the planche as his counterpart. And 25 weeks / 4 weeks per month is about 6 months behind the trainee using the full body routine.”

To summarize what explained above, we can say that training with a full body routine will allow you to considerably increase the work volume by performing more repetitions/sets of each exercise and, at the same time, keep growing in strength and body mass.

More important, you will be able to make steps in the skills progressions in a shorter time lapse without the risk to injure or to over train.

To conclude this first analysis we can say that with a Calisthenics full body routine (as mentioned also in previous articles) you follow a propaedeutic progression to achieve the advanced stages of each skill.

By doing so, you will be working all the time involving all muscles in your body starting from the core all the way through biceps, triceps, chest, lats, shoulders, traps, legs, calves and so on.

SPLIT ROUTINE

Contrarily to the full body routine, the split one focuses more on isolating the workouts on single muscle groups.

For instance, consider the common ones such as chest/triceps, back/biceps, push/pull/legs, upper body/lower body where as you can see you will be focusing on gathering multiple exercises for the same muscle group at a time.

Now, we do not wanna state that working out with a split routine is forbidden, but considering the pros and cons of it, surely someone who is novice or intermediate will have to work more on the basics and focus on the quality of the work hence adopting the Full Body routine rather going on isolated exercises.

Different thing is, if you are at an advanced level where instead you can consider to focus the work on single muscles in order to improve the quality and the strength in that specific movement.

As mentioned also in the previous paragraph, nowadays you can come across many Street Workout routines where you hit single muscle groups at a time in the same way you would do if you were a bodybuilder.

You will have the back/triceps day, the chest/biceps one and for instance shoulders and legs; by doing so you will surely increase the mass of these muscles and they will be stronger, but the time it will take you to achieve this stage will be longer than the one employed with the full body routine.

To summarize also this aspect of the training, we can say that a split routine is used more by professional/elite athletes or by those who have injuries where it is necessary to start a recovery plan that involves many exercises meant to re-enforce and re-habilitate those injured parts of the body.

Again, an elite athlete of a specific sport can prefer a split routine to a full body one because of the high intensity workouts throughout the week; specific days are defined in order to focus the workload on single muscle groups.

Now that we have given you an overall view on the main differences between the two types of routines, I would like to show you some practice example of how it can change the result:

  1. Full Body Routine: Skills Front Lever – Planche

Like I said, in Calisthenics you focus more on progressions rather than a single exercise. This means that, if set as main skill the Front Lever and the planche, you will include in your workouts a range of exercises that involves basically all the main muscle groups.

With the front lever progression, indeed, you will start by building up enough strength in your triceps, lats, core and shoulders and so if you perform a tuck front lever hold, many muscles are already involved in this basic movement.

The same can be told about the planche progression, where a lot of shoulder, bicep and core strength is required. In this skill, you will be focusing on working on push-ups variations as well as planche holds on the floor, on parallettes and in a more advanced stage on rings.

As you can see, you do not think about doing multiple exercises hitting for instance only biceps or only chest, but you are working simultaneously on both at the same time.

If you peform a pseudo plank push-up on floor, you will involve at the same time core, shoulders, biceps, chest and shoulder blades.

If you peform a tuck front lever hold, you will involve at the same time core, shoulders, triceps, lats and shoulder blades.

  1. Split Routine: Target muscles Chest – Triceps

In this case, as you can see already the target muscles are the chest and the triceps.

This means that, by working out according to the Street Workout routines, you will include exercises such as dips on parallettes or on rings, triceps on floor (diamond push-ups for instance), triceps extensions on a mid-bar.

By performing all these exercises in a row, you will hit only the main target muscle that in this case is the tricep.

Same rule applies for the chest, where you will be performing in a row exercises such as push-ups in all their variations, push-ups on bar, parallettes and on rings.

It is clear that, assuming that target muscles are chest and triceps, by mixing in a routine all the above exercises at once, you will be repeatedly hitting only them by isolating the workload.

Once again, this way of working out is not wrong and it is recommended instead for all those who want to firstly increase their strength, grow in size for going then into more specific exercises in order to achieve the skills.

Like I said before, remember that in this way you won’t be able to adapt your body to different and various motor patterns, because you will be isolating rather than involving multiple muscles at once.