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Oct 23

Full-body workout vs. split workout: Only one is worth your time – CNET

Unless you have six or more hours per week to work out, bicep curls really aren't in your best interest.

Hate to break it to you, but you should probably stop doing bicep curls if you only have a couple of hours per week to work out. They're kind of useless if you're time-limited and want to improve your fitness. Quadricep extensions, calf raises, tricep push-downs and other isolation exercises also won't do much for you if you don't have time to dedicate to functional movements like squats, deadlifts, push-ups and shoulder presses.

There's no skirting the fact that functional, full-body movements provide the most value for time and effort. Exercises like lunges and push-ups will always be more effective than exercises that isolate a single muscle -- and for those of us with limited time, we owe it to ourselves to get the most out of each and every workout.

Read more: Should you do cardio before or after weightlifting? | Is it better to lift light weights or heavy weights?

Full-body workouts are a time saver.

A full-body workout engages all of your muscle groups during one session, and takes many forms --HIIT, high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), bodyweight workouts or conventional weightlifting.

Split workout plans, on the other hand, are designed to separate muscle groups from one another. People partake in split workout programs to maximize muscle growth and reduce the number of rest days they need to take. By dedicating an entire day to one muscle group, such as your chest, you can fully fatigue the muscles and target them from a variety of angles, ensuring you develop a muscle to its full extent.

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The problem is, split plans lose effectiveness if you don't have five or six days to work out each week. Take the common bodybuilding "push-pull-legs" plan as an example.

On this split plan, you rotate pushing movements, pulling movements and leg movements with a rest day after completing all three. Pushing movements isolate your chest and triceps, while pulling movements isolate your back and biceps. And leg movements, well, you know.

You could also simply rotate upper- and lower-body days or dedicate entire days to smaller muscle groups. For example, I once knew someone who followed this split plan:

So this person dedicated an entire day to shoulders and an entire day to abs, which worked for him but is excessive for most people. This simply doesn't work for people who can't exercise six days a week. If you miss one workout on this plan, you neglect an entire muscle group that week. Split workouts plans also work best if you can dedicate at least 45 minutes each day to your workout -- working your arms for 20 minutes won't benefit you nearly as much as working your whole body for 20 minutes.

Compound movements like deadlifts give you the most bang for your buck (buck = time).

There are a few reasons for this, but the main reason most people should do full-body workouts over split workouts is time. Most people don't have enough time to dedicate an hour a day to exercising in the first place, let alone spend that much time on a single muscle group.

Full-body workouts maximize your time, and instead of spending your one hour (or less) pumping up your biceps, you could be chasing real gains like whole-body strength, core stabilization, functional mobility and endurance.

Other reasons for choosing full-body workouts instead of split workouts include:

Isolation movements have their place if you have lots of time to work out.

I usually advise personal training clients to add muscle isolation into their workouts if and when any of the following three scenarios occur:

If none of the above apply to you, you're likely better off sticking to full-body workouts focused on functional movement, longevity and overall health.

Some movements, like Bulgarian split squats, seem to isolate one muscle but actually recruit most muscle groups.

All this isn't to say you have to choose one over the other all the time. You can definitely include full-body workouts and muscle isolation movements into your workout routine if you want to -- you can even do both in the same workout if you plan smartly or have good programming from a trainer.

If you already work out several days each week, you can dedicate some of those days to muscle isolation. Try this example for a good balance of full-body, functional exercise and isolation workouts:

In the above example, you get a nice combination of intense full-body exercise, steady-state cardio and muscle isolation work across five workouts.

Good programming allows you to incorporate full-body movements and muscle isolation movements into your workouts.

To include full-body and muscle isolation work in the same workout, throw in a few supersets like below.

Full-body day with legs and glutes focus:

Part 1: Complete three sets

Part 2: Complete three sets

Part 3: Complete three rounds

The above workout includes full-body movements (squat to press, deadlifts and broad jumps) along with isolation movements (quad extensions, hip thrusts and barbell rows).

All six movements primarily work your legs, glutes and back while requiring engagement of your core and upper body, making this a great full-body but also targeted workout.

If you do something similar with an upper-body focus and another with a core focus, you have a fantastic weekly workout routine with just three sessions each week.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Full-body workout vs. split workout: Only one is worth your time - CNET

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