This is a question that many people in a fitness program ask themselves and it is a very valid question. If you Google this topic, you will likely see a variety of answers for both sides as to which is better. Truth is, the real answer is … IT DEPENDS !!! Both are very valid strategies and both have their pros and cons. I have also gotten results with clients using both strategies but how to decide which to do can be a tough proposition. Here is a breakdown that can help guide you to your decision:
You should do a full body workout if:
You are brand new to working out
For those who are new to working out or are starting back after a very long break, full body is best. Your muscular endurance is low and needs to be built back up. Most people will see plenty of results in the first 2-4 weeks with just 1-2 exercises per muscle group.
You are inconsistent in following workout plans
The last you want to do when doing any sort of fitness program is to create muscle imbalances due to inconsistent training. If you start out with body part splits (Chest / Triceps one day, Legs next, etc …) and you start missing workouts, you put yourself at risk of developing muscular imbalances since not all of your muscle groups are being trained the same . For example, if you train your chest every week but forget to train your back, you are likely to develop postural issues which can lead to stagnation in progress and even injury.
Looking for a simple, quick way to work your full body each time you workout
Most people like the feeling of being efficient with their time when in the gym as they have busy lives and workout times are at a premium. There are many ways to do full body workouts and provides plenty of variety for most people.
Only have 2-3 days per week to commit to resistance training
Similar to above if you only have 2 to 3 days per week to commit to resistance training then full body is best. While it is possible to do body part splits in 3 days, it is more beneficial to work your whole body 3 times over the course of a week instead of just once per week.
You should do body part splits if:
You want to resistance train 3-5 times per week
If you are like me, you enjoy lifting weight and like to do so most days of the week. Body part splits are a great way to break up muscle groups over the course of 3-5 days and really focus on 1 or 2 muscle groups at a time.
You want to focus on only a few muscle groups each workout
Once you have been working out for a while, you may decide that your muscle groups need more attention that just 1 exercise per workout. In body part split workouts, you will do 2-6 exercises per muscle group depending on what muscle group or groups you are working.
You have been working out consistently and have stuck to a plan for longer than 3 months
If you have been consistent enough for 3 months (consistent meaning working out at least 4-5 days / week every week) then you most likely have the discipline to start doing body part split workouts. It is extremely important that you possess this discipline because if you do not, then you are at greater risk of developing muscular imbalances from missed workouts.
As you can see, there is no right or wrong with these styles, it's a matter of which fits you best. Some people jump back and forth between full body workouts and body part splits, which can be a great way to really switch up your fitness program and jumpstart your results.