Full-Body vs Splits & HIIT vs Steady State
Not sure whether full body workouts are appropriate for your physique and goals? Worried about HIIT burning all your muscle? Wondering why certain training plans and diets work for some and not others? Wet Wolf’s got your answers!
Last week, I bumped into a female who couldn’t figure out whether to do full body routines, half body routines, or body part splits.
Completely confused, she asked me what I’d suggest.
This was a very easy question to answer. However, it all depended on her answers to my next two questions.
What do you want to accomplish with weight training?
“I want to lose fifteen pounds, but I don’t want my legs to get any bigger.”
What did your workout for the last month look like?
“I just went for a jog on the treadmill after work three days a week and walked my dog on the weekend.”
The full body routine is right down your alley, young lady!
I know, your mind flashed back to when someone somewhere told you that all serious Figure competitors follow body part splits.
I don’t know what little bird told you that, but that same little bird forgot to say it to three different girls competing in the Arnold Classic.
I know two pro Fitness competitors and one Figure competitor who took the stage at this year’s Arnold Classic, all of whom are drug-free and followed total body workouts in preparation for the show.
For a girl with minimal lifting experience who’s naturally lean but lacking in muscle, such as an ectomorph, I’d suggest starting with a progression of total body workouts before transitioning into body part splits over the course of one and a half to two years.
I had a conversation with an experienced Figure competitor at a local gym about the benefits of doing a total body workout during the early stages of contest prep. I suggested doing three total body workouts per week.
“Oh, no! I could never train legs three times in a week. Every time I train legs, I’m sore for the next five days!”
Well, this may come as a shock to you, but when you train your entire body in one workout, you aren’t going to train each body part with as much volume or intensity as if you were training each body part all by its lonesome.
The Total Body Threesome
There are three reasons that allow you to train major muscle groups three times per week during a total body workout.
1. Different movement planes for each day of the week
When designing a total body workout, you want to devote certain days to specific movement planes.
A good example for lower body exercise placement is quad-dominant work on day one (front squat), hip-dominant work on day two (stiff-legged deadlift), and unilateral work on day three (Bulgarian split squats).
For chest, a good example of exercise placement is to work in the vertical plane on day one (incline barbell press), in the horizontal plane on day two (flat neutral-grip dumbbell press), and in the vertical plane again on day three (dips).
2. Reduce the volume and intensity
If you’re going to train the entire body in a single workout, then you aren’t going to be able to perform four different exercises of three sets each per muscle group unless you want to bring a sleeping bag and flash light to the gym for an all-nighter.
If you’re going to reduce the volume and intensity, then you better improve the training economy by choosing exercises that provide the biggest bang for your buck.
These are going to be compound, multi-joint exercises that recruit all of the muscles in the entire body.
3. More frequent stimulation
Before, you only trained your wheels once a week because you beat them to a bloody pulp in the squat rack. That left you as sore as a geriatric right off a hip replacement for the rest of the week.
What if you were to train those plump little legs three times a week? But with less volume and different movement planes each workout?
First of all, you’d be nearly recovered by the next training session, and you’d also be able to devote a whole day to training your legs, shoulders, and back in an entirely different movement plane and rep range.
Unlike the body part training where you bludgeon a body part to death once a week with countless sets and reps, with total body training, you can hit each muscle group three times a week and still be able to walk down to check the mail without a pair of crutches.
The Right Program
Here’s a surefire way to find out which routine type is best suited for your antsy little self.
Ever whined the following complaints?
“I don’t want to get any bigger!”
“I only want to lose fat!”
“I can only work out twice a week!”
“I haven’t done anything in months!”
“I don’t lift weights. I only do yoga and spinning classes!”
“I get so sore that I need an entire week to recover!”
If you hollered out any of those, then total body training is for you.
And if you think that doesn’t apply to you, let’s hear what you have to say:
“I can’t gain any weight no matter what!”
“I have a show in four weeks, and I’m way ahead of schedule!”
“I need to put size on my shoulders!”
“I’ve been doing total body workouts for the last eight weeks!”
If you screeched out any of those excuses, then body part split training should be the next stop on your journey.
But then there’s always my half body program if you’re experiencing a little of both worlds.
Time to Think Outside the Box
I train an oncologist who earned his master’s in biochemistry from Yale and breezed through Harvard medical school at the top of his class. He worked in research for a year, isolated a gene, and then finally went into private practice.
He’s the smartest human I know. But you know what? He absolutely can’t think outside the box. If he didn’t learn it in a textbook, then it’s impossible!
He swore to me that glucosamine chondroitin would not reduce the pain in my knees and elbows for some reason. You know what, though, after just one day on those caps, the aches subsided and I was pain free.
This Mensa member has thoroughly explained to me why running six miles every night is the best way to burn fat and that four Diet Cokes every afternoon, an espresso shot before bed, and six hours of sleep (on a good night) are all you need to burn fat and build muscle.
For cryin’ out loud, this guy could double for Rocky the Raccoon with the circles under his eyes.
Just because a so-called “expert” says something doesn’t make it gospel. Just because you can dig up some peer reviewed abstract or flip open a textbook doesn’t mean that it’s always going to hold true.
Read something, think it over, and decide for yourself.
Put on the Brakes!
And what’s with all these rumors going around about metabolic or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts causing cortisol to come gushing out of the adrenals like a soda fountain?
Look here: Do you really think you’re going to burn off muscle in a fifteen or twenty minute session?
Wise up, spanky! The fastest way to lower cortical levels is to spike insulin. So, basically, if you eat a meal after that ravenous, muscle-wasting HIIT session, you can spare all that hard earned muscle before cortisol eats you to the bone!
Who Looks Better?
Recently, I asked a Figure competitor if she wanted to see the eating pattern I used with a very successful transformation of another competitor.
“Why would I? She didn’t look better than me!”
Therein lies the flawed thinking process of many girls. They don’t realize that their natural genetics and response to steroids will mask the true effectiveness of their diet and training routine.
Five years ago, I knew a girl who worked as a housekeeper. She happened to have good musculature and leanness for her age and decided to start dabbling around the gym.
About a month later, she did a bikini show sponsored by the local gym. The notoriety she received from her blue ribbon and thousand dollar trophy were enough to have about a dozen fresh chicas lined up for her debut as a trainer.
What did the training sessions consist of, you ask?
A mind-numbing blur of crunching, lunging, and band tubing.
She suggested good ol’ Raisin Bran for breakfast (remember, two scoops!), a Muscle Sandwich bar for a snack, a six-inch Subway sandwich for lunch, and a Healthy Choice chicken teriyaki microwave special for supper.
What do you mean that’s not a solid diet?!
It worked for her, didn’t it?
You see, a lot of girls also believe that in order to be a good trainer you have to possess an amazing physique, win tons of shows, or just be “hot.”
Granted, it’s important for someone who’s inspiring and coaching others to be a good steward of their body by practicing what they preach, but often times the “trainers” with the best physiques are simply good at training themselves and not others.
Come to think of it, I have a few referrals for the former housekeeper.
About the Author
Wet Wolf specializes in physique transformation, contest prep, eating patterns, and sports performance training for clients in real life and online.