Gaspari Nutrition

Ron Harris


Full-body workouts vs. Split routines
12/18/2012

Even though it obviously has nothing to do with bodybuilding or working out, I feel the need to at least briefly address the horrific events that took place late last week in Newtown, CT. I'm not going to argue about gun control or ask why the murderer did what he did to those innocent children and teachers. I seriously doubt we will ever know the answer, or if indeed it was even an act perpetrated by an actual human being, or a human being controlled by some evil force or spirit. If that sounds crazy, it should. There is nothing sane or logical about what happened.

As a parent myself, I have cried several times over the past few days for those children, for their parents, their siblings, for the teachers, and everyone whose life was directly impacted by the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. It's every parent's worst nightmare to lose a child, and my heart goes out to them. Hug and kiss your children if you have them, and be grateful they are here with you. That's all I'm going to say, because words can't convey the feelings I have about this. Besides which, the only way to defeat evil is to glorify and appreciate what is good in people and in our world - and there is still plenty of both.

Q.

I train all the muscle groups in the same workout, usually every other day although a lot of times I take two days off for the weekend. I have been doing this for four years now and my progress has stalled. Do I need to do something different now to keep growing, or have I maybe reached my genetic potential already?

A.

Hitting the entire body with just a couple sets of one basic exercise per muscle group, such as squats for the quads, bench press for the chest, barbell curls for the biceps, etc, is a great way to train for beginners. What they need most at that stage is to build a solid foundation of mass and power, and a training frequency like this will definitely accomplish that. But the only reason it works so well for beginners is because their muscles and nervous systems are unaccustomed to the demands of training. And since they don’t yet have a high level of strength, the weights they use won’t put excessive demands of the ability of their body to recover from each workout. As the months go by, the weights will go up. Typically, since good exercise form has been mastered (hopefully, anyway), the trainer also starts to put more effort and intensity into his or her sets. Soon, the muscles are being broken down more effectively by each workout. Not long after that, the body will become unable to ‘keep up’ with this training frequency and the individual becomes overtrained. At this point, progress will drastically slow down or even cease altogether. For this reason, it makes a lot more sense for bodybuilders to begin splitting up their muscle groups rather than train them all at once. More time goes by between working any given bodypart, which allows for more complete recovery and growth. More time and energy are now available to devote to each area, and that means a wider range of exercises can now be used as well. If one were to attempt to hit each bodypart with anywhere from 3-6 exercises each and do them all in one workout, two things would happen. The first is that the workouts would last for two to four hours. Even if you could manage to do all that somehow, there is no way that the bodyparts being trained toward the end of the workout would receive anywhere near the same level of stimulation that the areas trained earlier did. The second thing that would happen as surely as night follows day is that you would soon become grossly overtrained. You would find yourself exhausted, losing enthusiasm to go to the gym, and even losing size and strength. With all that in mind, it should be clear that splitting up the body into several groupings makes a lot more sense. If you wanted to maintain an every other day schedule, you could try this:

Day one: Chest, shoulders, triceps

Day two: Back and biceps

Day three: Legs

More common are four and even five-way splits. This is a common four-way split:

Day one: Chest and triceps

Day two: Back

Day three: REST

Day four: Legs

Day five: Shoulders and biceps

Day six: REST (may choose to rest an additional day before repeating the cycle)

Finally, here is just one example of a five-way split that you could try:

Monday: Chest

Tuesday: Back

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Shoulders

Friday: Arms

There are many other combinations you can use, based on your own goals and individual preferences. But I definitely recommend that you stop training the entire body all in one shot so that you can both concentrate more intensely on each muscle group, and to allow ample time for each bodypart to recover and grow before you train it again.

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