There are a lot of training schemes out there. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of a full body scheme vs a scheme that targets different musscle groups each workout.

Are they desinged for different goals or does it all come down to the same base result.

  • 1
    Hormonal response is significantly improved by performing big, compound movements. Unless you're using steroids, a 5-day split won't build muscle as well as, say, a push/pull/legs or upper/lower program such as Wendler 5/3/1.
    – Daniel
    Aug 8, 2013 at 15:10
  • The claim that a compound movement, on it's own, stimulates your hpta function is misleading.
    – maxywb
    Aug 8, 2013 at 15:55
  • @maxywb Who claims that?
    – user4644
    Aug 8, 2013 at 16:44
  • It's often said by proponents of barbell squats. If you google "back squats testosterone levels" you'll get a lot of silly stuff coming up.
    – maxywb
    Aug 8, 2013 at 17:20
  • @maxywb People claim that a compound movement "on its own" stimulates hpta function?
    – user4644
    Aug 8, 2013 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


Full Body

A full body workout is usually more biased towards the fitness aspect. You'll be burning more calories and generally working more muscles in your training time span.

This method of training generally provides a lower injury percentage. The reason for this is because everything is split up equally throughout the body. If we compare to a split training, where you'll go all out on a targetted muscle, that muscle will be sore and weak for X days. Whereas a full body workout will never get to that point.

Split Training

Split training will be more on the bodybuilding side. You'll be targetting a select split of muscles throughout your week which will be completely demolished. For example, a bicep workout may consist of one compound movement followed by two isolations.

This will specifically target your bicep and barely nothing else.

In conclusion

Full body workouts are more oriented for fitness while split training is more for bodybuilding.


The main issue with a Full Body workout is that you only have so much "maximum energy" to perform lifts. Therefore only the first few body parts or lifts that you do will have maximum impact. Being very general I would train full body for endurance or explosion movements (plyometrics, speed drills, athletic training, rehab).

By focusing on specific Muscle Groups during a specific training session you ensure that not only will you have the energy to put forth maximum effort but you will also have the adequate amount of time to devote. Therefore breaking down the muscle group enough that when it recovers it will be stronger.

A few key components when deciding what is right for you:

  1. How old are you? The younger you are the faster you recover for the most part. If you can recover well enough to squat three times a week then you will probably have to incorporate a full body workout routine at least sometimes.

  2. Where are you in your fitness regime? If you are just starting out, going full bore on a muscle group could have negative impact - in that you could shock your muscles to the extent that recovery takes so long that it affects future training.

  3. What are your views on gaining muscle mass? Creating a routine where you are doing a lot of weight and high intensity is promoting muscle growth. Some people do not want this and some people take place in activities where this is detrimental. In general (it is not all or none) working out in specific muscle groups would promote more muscle growth.

  4. Why are you working out? If you are playing a sport that requires the use of all body parts and explosion then a full body workout may be more appropriate. If you want better muscular endurance a full body routine would probably optimize things more.

  5. What is your gender? Most people workout to look better. Again I am being very general. I have found that women can get results (toning, definition, promoting fat loss) through full body workouts. Men can get results either way but often need a muscular base (working muscles in groups) before they can follow full body workouts.


It all depends on your goals. Generally speaking athletes looking to get stronger will focus more on multi-joint (complex) movements. Examples of these are press, deadlift and squat. And people looking for a more bodybuilding style of training will incorporate more single joint (isolation) exercises.

This isn't to say there is no cross over, but if you want a high level of all-around fitness you should include both kinds of exercises in your routine.

To your "advantages and disadvantages" question, what is perceived as advantageous for one might not be fore the other. Again it all goes back to how you want to train and/or what your goals for training are.

  • 2
    I disagree that all-around fitness needs isolation exercises. No (or only a few) real world application - and that's what all-around fitness comes down to for me - uses isolation style movements.
    – Baarn
    Aug 8, 2013 at 16:50
  • Have you ever opened a jar of mayonnaise? Or sat back on a couch and kicked off your sneakers? Are those not single joint movements? Your disagreement smacks of the same kind of arguments that the "Only Barbell Exercises Only Ever" crowed preaches. Yes it is rare that a person needs to be especially strong with a single joint to get by in life, but what if they have tendonitis in their elbow from too much pressing and can't pick up their groceries? I bet that person would wish he had done his bicep curls to keep that joint healthy.
    – maxywb
    Aug 8, 2013 at 17:37
  • If people who weren't doing fitness were not able to open mayonnaise jars, we wouldn't have that many fat people around.
    – Baarn
    Aug 8, 2013 at 20:28
  • Opening a jar of mayonnaise is not a single joint exercise. Sitting on a couch and kicking off sneakers isn't, either. Isolation exercises might be called for in specific cases of rehabilitation, but not as part of a general fitness prescription. Aug 8, 2013 at 23:56
  • @Dave Sure. And I might agree with you about isolation done by the average gym-goer, but I will quote myself: "high level of all-around fitness" [emphasis added]. So I think we're talking past each other. I will further add that most "isolation" exercises aren't strictly isolated. Think of the people you see doing dumbbell curls whilst swinging their whole upper body.
    – maxywb
    Aug 9, 2013 at 17:16

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