The Benefits of Full-Body Workouts vs. Split Workouts

The Benefits of Full-Body Workouts vs. Split Workouts

Our time, energy, and resources are limited, so it’s natural to want to know the best way to use them — especially when it comes to fitness.

Should you do Pilates or yoga? Focus on anaerobic or aerobic exercise? Tabata or HIIT?

If you’ve explored any of these topics, you’ve likely found your way to the universal answer — “it depends.”

And in the match-up of full-body workout vs. split workout, the same truth applies.

Full Body Workout vs. Split Workouts

Man doing full-body workout at home

This question is a matter of how you choose to structure your workouts.

“A full-body workout is a workout designed to target many, if not all, muscle groups in the body. You’re basically working the body from head to toe as a whole,” explains Amanda Lopez, Beachbody’s Technical Fitness Advisor.

These workouts tend to include complex movements that engage the core while working both the upper and lower extremities, like a squat with an overhead press, or a side lunge with a dumbbell row.

Thinking in terms of movement patterns can help ensure that you’ll engage all major muscle groups during a full-body workout, explains Jack Coxall, C.S.C.S., personal trainer and co-founder of Fitness Lab.

“You’ll want to do a squat movement, a pulling exercise, a push, a hinge, lunge, and a core/carry movement. This way you are covering all bases,” he says.

Split workouts, as opposed to full-body workouts, are different in that each one has a clearly defined focus.

For example, you can target a specific muscle group, like the chest or legs.

You can also divide the body into upper and lower sections, doing two upper-body workouts and two lower-body workouts a week.

The “push/pull/legs” workout schedule, in which you alternate between sessions that focus on pulling movements, pushing movements, and leg exercises, is also a commonly used format for split workouts.

Split Workout Benefits

Woman exercising with dumbbells at home

A split workout schedule is more time-consuming than one that focuses on full-body workouts.

However, it’s generally a better option for people with specific goals related to performance, strength, or physique.

For example, if your sport requires significant upper body strength or you just want bigger, more clearly defined shoulders and biceps, you’re better off using a split workout schedule that dedicates two days to upper-body exercises.

This will allow you to fully exhaust the muscles of the arms and shoulders in a way that a full-body workout won’t.

Another benefit of split workouts is the built-in recovery time.

“When you focus on only certain muscles or body parts per day, there is recovery time in between workouts, so you’re not overworking the muscles,” Lopez says. “You can push yourself extra hard and not have to worry about fatiguing those same muscles the next day.”

For example, when you alternate between push, pull, and legs workouts, it’s possible to exercise six days a week and still give each muscle group at least two days to recover.

Full-Body Workout Benefits

“Full-body workouts are great for those who don’t have a ton of time to spend at the gym,” Lopez says.

For example, if you’re only able to exercise three days a week, full-body workouts enable you to engage all the major muscle groups in just three sessions.

“If you are looking to maintain your health and fitness and get generally healthier and fitter, then a full-body training schedule will benefit you,” Coxall says.

Full-body workouts may also be more appealing to beginners and those who are easily bored by exercise, as they are not only efficient but also include a wide variety of movements.

Looking for challenging workouts that fit into even the busiest schedules?

Designed specifically for those who struggle to prioritize their health, Job 1 with Beachbody Super Trainer Jennifer Jacobs provides five different full-body, 20-minute workouts a week.

The month-long program incorporates strength training, HIIT, endurance training, and optional cycling classes that can be done on a Beachbody Bike by MYX or any other stationary bike.