I was recently training in a commercial gym and overheard a conversation between a coach and a new gym member.
The person asked what type of workouts they should do?
The coach responded by recommending that they train a different body part each day as this should allow for the best recovery between sessions.
The basic premise with body-part or split workouts is to separate training days into distinct workouts and train one body part per day. As a simple example it could mean that you would perform chest based exercises on Monday, back exercises on Wednesday and leg exercises on Friday.
This concept is technically valid, but a flawed one in my opinion for people that are new to strength training.
We’re big advocates for full-body training here at Motiv8 Fitness and believe they are superior for the people we work with. Learn our rationale for full-body training below.
Excessive Soreness with body-part splits
Full body workouts help spread the stress across (you guessed it) your entire body while body-part split workouts are concentrated.
A certain degree of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is expected if new to exercise, but a high level of DOMS can leave new gym users completely debilitated.
This is especially true if training legs for example. Struggling to sit on the toilet, walk at work or walk down stairs might make for a funny story or two but it’s certainly not the most optimal way to train.
Lower Intensity with body-part splits
It can be difficult to increase exercise heart rate with single body-part workouts as muscles will fatigue much faster compared to full-body workouts. Leg day or leg training might be an exception here but in general body-part splits will not lead to a large cardiovascular response.
Full-body workouts increase blood flow and heart rate at a higher rate compared to body-part splits. This is especially true if you perform back to back, multi-joint exercises.
Specialised equipment needed for body-part splits
The majority of strength based programmes contain 6 to 10 exercises per session. When using a body-part split routine it is recommended to train movements from a variety of different angles. Using a back workout routine as an example this could mean;
- 2-3 vertical pull movements
- 2-3 horizontal pull movements
- 2-3 combination pull movements
Bodyweight, band, dumbbell or kettlebell based workouts will not be enough to ensure such variety in training is achieved.
This is where specialised or plate loaded equipment can help. Large commercial gyms will have specialised machines for this purpose while smaller, independent gyms like us will not for a variety of reasons.
When should you choose body-part workouts?
Body-part workouts can be a good option for intermediate or advanced gym users who typically train five or more times per week.
They could also be a good option for athletes who train multiple times per day. For example, an athlete could have a heavy upper body session in the morning and complete a heavy running session in the evening without any impact on their recovery.