By Robyn Donno – Injury Rehabilitation Specialist
Split or full body sessions. What is the difference, and which is better?
Cinderella taught us that there is not a one size fits all option. Every person has individual training goals and aspirations. The best way to determine what type of resistance training suits you better is to compare different methods and see which works best for your schedule and unique circumstances. Two very popular strength training styles are split and full body sessions. Today we will discuss the difference between each, their advantages, and disadvantages.
Split training breaks up your training block into sessions that focus on specific body segments. Each training day will have a primary and secondary focus. The primary focus will be on large muscle groups in the upper body or lower body. The secondary focus will be on smaller muscle groups and core. Timed rest periods between sets and recovery sessions will be strategically incorporated into your training block to allow for optimal muscle growth and injury prevention. Split training programs focus on loading with structured repetitions, sets and loads to ensure enough weight is placed on each muscle group to encourage hypertrophy. By splitting the body up heavier resistance can be applied, as the following session’s focus will be shifted to a different muscle group, allowing for enough rest and recovery.
By spreading your training out and focusing on different areas each session you allow for 48-72hrs of recovery time. Well rested muscles can perform better and withstand greater loads. This makes split training highly effective for developing strength, avoiding overtraining, and preventing injury.
The main obstacle people encounter with split training is time. This type of program is regimented. Rest periods, sets and repetitions must be adhered to for training to be effective. Programs usually demand 4-6 days of training a week. Which can last between 45 min to an hour and a half. Split training programs are not recommended for training novices, intermediates, or recreational athletes. Experience has nothing to do with this recommendation. It is simply because often these individuals often struggle to overcome the time barrier. Split training is best suited to body builders, athletes, or avid exercisers.
Full body sessions
Full body sessions have no specified structure. They incorporate upper body, lower body, and core exercises into each session. Effectively working your whole body whenever you train. These types of sessions are utilised in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes, bootcamps, circuit classes or simply doing a variety of exercises, addressing different areas of the body, in one session. Full body sessions can dabble in functional training too. No structure allows people to including other training facets, such as endurance, mobility, speed, or agility into their sessions.
Full body sessions are encouraged for novices, intermediate, athletic individuals, and those with time constraints.
The lack of structure in a full body session allows for an individual to have flexibility with their training. You can customise your work out to what you prefer, to work around your daily responsibilities, and can choose how long you train for and when you train. The ability to incorporate different training elements encourages an overall well-conditioned athlete.
As we well know, exercise is a stressor on the body. If you don’t feel stiff or achy after a session, you probably haven’t placed enough stress onto the muscles to encourage an adaption. Meaning the training was unproductive. Full body workouts should leave you feeling well worked after each session. This muscle fatigue needs time to rest and recover. So full body sessions are not suitable to be done daily. Too many full body sessions a week mean you are not recovering. Putting you at a higher risk of overtraining and injury.
The lack of structure in full body sessions develops a variety of athletic components, but the lack of focus on a specific area decreases the development of this area. If strength gains are your focus a split training program would be better suited for you.
Which resistance training method is best is an age-old debate. It is simply not a yes or no answer. Whether you follow a split or full body training program is up to you. Your personal training goals, time availability and what you prefer will dictate which method you resonate with. By understanding each you will be able to find which is your perfect fit.