The full-body workout split has a fond place in my heart. It’s where I should have started in my workout journey, I didn’t and paid the price with years of flip-flopping around and mediocre results.
But when I decided to get my shit together it’s here that I found myself building a serious foundation of strength.
The full-body workout split is not only the best place to start as a beginner, but it can also be adapted for intermediate or advanced lifters who prefer this type of setup. It can be done as a 2, 3 or 4-day split to maintain or build muscle and get strong.
In this article, we’ll cover in detail what the full body split is, why it works and how to create your version. I’ll also provide and sample workout and alternative training setups so you can plug and play for fitness.
A full-body workout split is one that trains your whole body in each workout.
This means instead of alternating between body parts like the upper/lower split or giving each muscle group its day like the bodybuilding split, each session will target the whole of the body.
This workout split also offers a large degree of flexibility in its scheduling which allows you to use the setup that works best for your goals and lifestyle.
You can also adjust the number of training days as necessary, dropping down to 2 when busy and up to 4 when trying to build muscle.
A normal full body workout schedule is as follows:
You’d alternate back and forth using this A, B, A then B, A, B pattern.
Whilst this is the most typical way of organising your full-body workouts, this is not the only way of doing it and we’ll look at some of the alternatives later on.
This workout routine has you training most of the body in each workout which means you’ll be targeting every muscle group. This includes:
Now, the reason I said you’ll be training “most of” the body in each workout is that to do multiple exercises for each muscle group listed above would have you training in the gym for hours on end.
It’s by doing these big multiple muscle exercises that you can train the whole body without spending your life in the gym and still see results.
The full-body workout might not be perfect for everyone, after all, we’re not all the same. However, it does offer some handy benefits which make it worth considering, especially if you’re a beginner:
When it comes to making your full-body workout, we’re going to focus on a beginner 3-day split as this is the most common way of setting it up. We’ll look at how to adjust your scheduling for a 2- or 4-day version a little later on.
Making your 3-day full-body workout requires you to create 2 different workouts which you’ll do on an alternating basis. Each workout is only doing to have 3 compound exercises which between them train the whole body.
The reason we’re only using 3 workouts is that beginners tend to do better with a higher training frequency i.e. 3 workouts a week and a simple full-body split gives them a way to do this whilst also getting adjusted to strength training and proper lifting technique.
I’m sure at this point you’re wondering how this might look in actuality, so let’s do just that and provide you with a completed full-body workout routine.
Remember, that the exercises I’ve chosen are recommendations and can be swapped for more suitable alternatives provided they work the same part of the body i.e. chin-ups can be swapped for lat pulldowns.
With this workout, you want to use a weight that allows you to do at least the minimum number of reps prescribed i.e. if you needed to do 6 – 8 reps you want to choose a weight that allows you to do at least 6.
If you can’t do 6 then you need to lower the weight, but if you can do 3 sets of 8 then you want to increase the weight in your next session. This is called progressive overload and it’s key to building muscle.
As for rest times you want to rest 3 minutes between sets.
Ok time to look at the full raft of scheduling options for full-body workouts.
As we’ve been discussing this workout can be done 2, 3 or even 4 times a week depending on your goals, lifestyle and recovery. Whatever you decide to do I’ve got you covered, and these are your options available to you.
You will want to continue alternating your workouts A, B then B, A over the weeks.
When doing the 2-day split you can put your workouts on any days you choose, making it perfect for people who need to scale back their workouts through a busy period but don’t want to stop training altogether.
It’s also important to realise that with such low training frequency the 2-day split is aimed at muscle and strength maintenance, not growth.
With the 3-day split, you’ll be using a rotating schedule where you do one workout twice and one once per week.
The above schedule is, in my opinion, the best way to structure the 3-day split as it gives you the weekends off which generally tends to be when most people are busy and therefore more likely to skip a workout.
This split is also more favourable from a frequency and recovery standpoint which means it’s possible to maintain and build muscle with this setup without struggling with recovery.
When it comes to the 4-day split you have the most options.
Whichever way you decide to schedule your workouts you will always be doing 2 workouts back to back. The main decisions you need to make are, do you want to do all your training during the week, and can you recover effectively for 2 back to back workouts?
The 4-day split is great for building muscle due to the additional frequency of 4 weekly workouts. However, for some recovery might be a problem which is why I much prefer the upper/lower split for muscle building.