It can be difficult to choose and settle on a workout regime, because there's so much conflicting information out there. One of the questions that stumps people as they progress through their bodybuilding journey is whether or not it is better to train muscle groups individually, or to go for a full body workout in each session.
Hit any gym, and you'll find people with very strong opinions on both sides of the fence, and both training regimes have distinct advantages – many people believe that full body workouts are superior because they involve complex movements that work muscles as a group, while the proponents of split-body training will tell you that this type of exercise is better for focusing on smaller muscles. On top of this, proponents of both types of exercise will tell you that their preferred technique offers a better recovery.
But this doesn't answer the sixty-four thousand dollar question – which type of exercise is going to build more muscle? A group of researchers has recently decided to check this out.
Twenty male volunteers who were regular gym-goers were recruited for this study, and divided into two groups. One group did full body training three times a week, while the other group also did three sessions a week, but trained individual body parts on each visit. Participants followed this training plan for ten sessions.
The researchers measured a number of parameters before and after the training sessions. These included 1RM maximum strength in benchpress and squat, and the muscle thickness of forearm flexors, forearm extensors, and vastus lateralis.
The findings didn't show any differences in strength, but they did show that men who trained their whole body at once showed slightly greater muscle thickness, particularly in the forearm flexors.
This small study isn't going to solve the ongoing debate between whole body and split training, but it does offer some interesting food for thought, particularly for anyone who has written off full body training for not being intense enough. It will be interesting to see the results of this research hold true in a larger, longer term study.
Schoenfeld BJ, Ratamess NA, Peterson MD, Contreras B, Tiryaki-Sonmez G. Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Apr 30.