Full Body vs. Split Days Workout

March 29, 2011

Spring has actually decided to show up. At least for now. It’s sunny and I am sooooooooo happy. I welcome the sun.

Anyway, good morning, my Wonderfuls! Hope you made it through Monday and are ready and geared up for Tuesday. I know I am. A nice, hard workout always gets me ready.

Speaking of workout, I haven’t posted anything exercise related in quite some time. But that doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m not lifting… I am. 😉

Before I get into the wonderful world of weights I’d like to share some photos of the thicket of forest that is my backyard. Last week we had a LOT of rain and lost a few trees in the wake of the storm… guess what we’ll be doing with all the fallen trees once it gets nice outside? Any guesses?

I live in the mountains. Straight up mountains.

Ok, enough forest talk. Let’s move on to workouts! Ooooh! My favorite part of the day. *ahem* besides feeding times…

I have been playing around with different ways of lifting (read: split body days vs full body days), trying to find what I like best, what gives me the best workout, and what will be the most effective.

You may remember my time spent with Rachel Cosgrove and the Female Body Breakthrough workouts. Love them. The basis of Cosgrove’s workouts are full body, three days of lifting per week. There are four phases of different exercises in which you do each phase for about 4-6 weeks at a time.

I did the last two phases in her book first (more advanced part) which took me about 10 weeks. Results? Again, LOVED the workouts. I added weight to most of my lifts each week and really felt like I got a great workout. My heart rate would spike during most of the workouts and I left the gym feeling beaten (in a good way).

Not me... but that is a LOT of weight.


After those 10 weeks, I decided to try something new so I moved on to “more advanced” lifting. From what I’ve read, to really gain strength and size, one should split lifting days into a breakdown of specific body parts- targeting back and biceps one day, legs and calves the next, etc, for example. Why not try that? I want size. I want strength.

I did a 4-5 day split (days: upper, lower, rest, upper, lower, upper, rest, repeat) for about 3 weeks. Although this really isn’t enough time to see much in terms of results, I didn’t enjoy this type of program.

After my workouts I would either feel completely depleted (my poor overworked biceps), which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, or I would leave feeling like I just spent the last hour sitting around doing nothing. Some days I had a great workout, some days I had way more left to give.

Verdict: I prefer full-body workouts. I can still lift heavy (just not quite as heavy) and my heart rate is higher, giving me (at least the sense) of a more rounded and harder workout.

I would greatly appreciate my body looking like hers, thankyouverymuch.

There are definitely pros and cons to both types of programs.

With full body workouts, you really can get your heart rate up for most of the workout, you don’t rest as much between each workout, there seems to be a little more variety, you’re constantly moving and usually doing complex lifts– which give you a more “real life” workout. But on the flip-side, you cannot workout as many days per week (good and bad depending on your lifestyle) and you usually cannot lift as heavy since you’re muscles will be fatigued from the complexity of the movements.

For split days, you can lift heavy, really heavy, which helps to add strength relatively quickly. You work each body part extensively and can really target whatever muscle (groups) you want. This is especially important if you are training for any type of figure or body building competition. Again, the could-be-negative part of split days is that you are really taxing your Central Nervous System. Personally, I was so much more tired when I did the split days and I was looking forward to my rest days more than I should have or wanted to. I found I couldn’t get my heart rate high enough even though I was lifting pretty heavy. Also, I was bored. Too much rest time for me, but I needed to rest between lifts to replenish my muscles.

So, again, there are great things about each. I guess it all comes down to personal preference. Life most things in life.. ya know, chocolate versus vanilla. 😉

Um, not quite...

So, since I’m back to full body days, here was my latest workout (grouped together with exercises I did for alternating sets):

  • One legged pistols holding a 8 lbs weight overhead  3 x 5 each leg
  • DB Row  35#  3 x 10
  • Bent over reverse fly  10# 3 x 8 (those buuuuuurn)
  • TRX fly  2 x 10

I do a variation of these every other workout. So. Much. Fun. I love lifting.


Yesterday I mentioned some Thank You’s which were more than needed… today I’ll mention those Thank You’s in cookie form.

You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without some fuel for all the workout talk, did you? Nooooo…. I wouldn’t do that.

Well, yes I would, because you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the recipe. They call me Evil.

For those of you who have tried split days and/or full-body days, which do you prefer?

What is your favorite type of exercise?

What keeps you motivated to be active and move?

Giveaway… gotta enter…!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Gladeexa November 24, 2011 at 4:31 AM

This is really awesome! I am so excited to try out your tips.. I really need to work more! Thanks for sharing them to us..


Justine Duppong November 14, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Love this post! I am definitely a full-body girl myself!


doraemon September 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM

I am a full body kind of person….I don’t enjoy the split routines for the same reason. I would either feel as though my body was overworked or not worked enough..:P


sammilbz September 3, 2011 at 6:34 PM

Thanks for posting this because I have been considering trying split days. I was concerned about being bored because my arms would be too tired to do another set so I would just sit there and rest, when instead I could move on to some core work or legs while my arms rest.


Heather @ kissmybroccoli April 20, 2011 at 4:32 AM

Ok, definitely late to the party on this one (I’m tryyyyyying to get caught up in my reader), but I thought I’d just comment in batches, mmkay? 😉

Here goes:
1. I seriously about fell out of my chair with the goji-apple pie cheesecake! Wow girl, you out did yourself! Yum!
2. Lentil pizza with sweet p crust? Uh, sign me up! Booooooookmarked!
3. I am the same way with cooking/baking. I love making dishes for my friends and family and watching them enjoy them (but not in a weird, I’m staring at you while you’re eating sort of way). Guess it’s one of my “love languages”?
4. I have NEVER seen so much creativity with won ton wrappers! Holy crap! I need a lone meatball!
5. I’ve done all sorts of different workouts, but I prefer full body workouts the most. I love the idea behind crossfit and multi-functional exercises and I love how it gets my blood pumping! Nothing like finishing a workout covered head to toe in sweat! I don’t always have the time (or motivation) to workout 5-6 days a week, so this is what I’ve found works best for me. I work out 3-4 days a week normally and then throw in some cardio on the other days!


Katie March 30, 2011 at 1:24 AM

I am loving New RUles of LIfting! But, I an anxious for when I do get to dapple into some split workouts. I have been adding some isolated moves into my NROL routines just for some extra work on some areas that I would like stronger.


Chuck March 29, 2011 at 8:16 PM

I love full body workouts… plus I can’t sit still long enough to do single body part days- I have to be constantly moing in the gym expect for my main lifts like Power Cleans or Push press in the beginning. I think split days are good for body builders or preparing or a show, but in terms of overall power and functionality, full body is better.

Speaking of which, you should get an axe an just chop trees and then throw the logs in your mountains for an awesome workout!


Kady March 29, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Thanks for posting this because I have been considering trying split days. I was concerned about being bored because my arms would be too tired to do another set so I would just sit there and rest, when instead I could move on to some core work or legs while my arms rest – and you confirmed my thoughts. Some days I do focus more on certain areas – like upper body if I’ve been doing a lot of running or cycling that week. I LOVE that worn out feeling of a good full-body workout!


julie March 29, 2011 at 3:15 PM

girrrrrrrrl your smoothie from the last post looks AMAZING! i love how you added raisins in it too 🙂 mm!

right now i’ve been doing split days and loving it! i’ve definitely seen more muscle definition gain with split days and i’m pretty cool with the decrease in cardio i’ve done!


Michelle {lively kitchen} March 29, 2011 at 1:00 PM

I am enjoying Zumba, Spinning and Bikram Yoga. So I guess I’m on a bit of a class kick. I think I spend so much of my day ‘instructing’ my munchkins that I like to have an hour with someone instructing me. Nice and brainless, all I have to do is follow instructions.

Yum. Cookies. Yes please.


melissa March 29, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Lately I’ve been trying to combine my own workouts and they tend to be full body with a slight emphasis on certain muscle groups. I love fully body exercises but sometimes I use exercises that focuces more on legs than arms for that day. If that makes sense?
I get bored FAST so I’m always changing things around, trying new programs etc. Lifting is awesome but I do like mixing in some of the challenging bodyweight from bodyrock.tv. Like you said it’s all about preference! It seems from the comments full-body is the most popular.
Great post…and you are a tease:) Those cookies look scrumptious!


Salah (My Healthiest Lifestyle) March 29, 2011 at 10:45 AM

I am a full body kind of person….I don’t enjoy the split routines for the same reason. I would either feel as though my body was overworked or not worked enough. But I generally focus more on abs, legs, glutes, back and then upper body


Alyssa @ Life of bLyss March 29, 2011 at 7:18 AM

I definitely prefer a full-body workout, too. I always have! The only time I really vary it is if I’m doing heavy running that week. Then, I usually tend to focus on upper-body only.


Sable@SquatLikeALady March 29, 2011 at 6:53 AM

Max and I do a 5-day split — it’s on my training page if you’re interested (along with all the exercises I do for each body part). I am thinking of switching it up (it’s been a year since I’ve changed anything except exercises and clearly weights haha) to what April and Christina of ilovefetacheese have been doing but for now this is still working really well for me. I’m lucky to have enough time to dedicate to 5 days of lifting and 2 days of cardio right now but most likely starting next semester I won’t, so some things will have to change.


Natalie March 29, 2011 at 6:44 AM

ive never tried split days just because i think i would feel super depleted, like you said. and i think i enjoy it more when im using my whole body to workout, so i def prefer full-body workouts. i like this post a lot!! very informative and helpful esp since im trying to do a bit more strength-training. are you officially training people in TRX now?!? maybe when i come home i can do a session with you!?


April March 29, 2011 at 6:42 AM

From what I’ve read, compound full body days are actually much better for size and strength than splits!


Katie March 29, 2011 at 6:39 AM

I much much much prefer full body workouts. Five days of lifting is just WAY too much for me. In order to do it right, I’d have to eat about double what I do now, and I don’t even think that is physically possible.

I like to do full body circuit style workouts. i usually do 4 giant sets of 3 exercises, 1 upper, 1 lower, and 1 core. I do each without rest between giant sets. And I start the first giant sets with compound exercises – squats, press, plank, for example, and then the last couple are more isolated lifts – hamstring curl, bicep curl, oblique twist, for example.

Yeah, I overthink things.

I need to bake cookies.


chrysta March 29, 2011 at 6:28 AM

Im so glad you posted this! Ive just been trying to get my weight routine back on track. Ive been on a similar routine as you. Lifting upper, lower, rest, upper lower then I do all core the 5th day. (I might change that though) So we will see. I love Rachael Cosgrove. i actually wanted to try out the NROLFW but I cant figure it out. Im having a mental block or something. But thanks for the awesome post! Great info!


Alisa Fleming March 29, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Hmm, I’m thinking perhaps you didn’t have enough variety in your split-workouts. I used to do full-body days, but improved a ton with a more intense split-body type workout. I was able to really work those muscles, but you do two to three different body parts so you can still get your heart rate up as you move between them (no rests needed) and I definitely feel spent!

Yes, quite the storms lately!


Alyssa - fashion fitness foodie March 29, 2011 at 5:52 AM

You are evil 🙂 looking forward to tomorrow! I like to get my workout in at once but sometimes it doesn’t happen unfortunately


Lauren March 29, 2011 at 4:25 AM

I prefer full body workouts!
Squatz 4 lyfe.
No but really, I am obsessed with making my butt bigger.


Ernie March 29, 2011 at 4:24 AM

I have always prefered the split workout style of lifting. Recently I visited a gym in Morgan Hill Ca (TFL Training For Life)which used whats called the Yoke Training System which is simialar to TRX. Incredible full body style workout. Never thought I would go vanilla after going chocolate!


Pure2raw twins March 29, 2011 at 3:54 AM

I prefer full body workouts. In college I used to split things up, but never really saws results. Although at the time I did not know much about weights like I do know. But like you said everyone will have their preference.


Kat March 29, 2011 at 3:49 AM

I would LOVE a TRX. It just sounds painful, which to me sounds fun (ok, maybe Im jsut a bit crazy). I like doing full body workouts. I agree with you that it gets my heartrate up which I like. Sometimes I feel like I am just going through the motions on an upper or lower day, but on a total body workout I feel like I really have to focus!


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: