Ben Emanuel II
Fitness world is polarized on many topics. People argue about which diet is better, only claiming how their shows results, while all the rest are pollution. They argue about different training methods too, and it never ends. Calisthetics vs. weight training, CrossFit vs. bodybuilding, and of course, split routines vs. full-body.
In this article we will talk about total body training, telling you why we think it's a good idea to train this way. However, we won't demonize any other training method. As long as it is safe, every type of training will lead you to improve your fitness and physique, making you a stronger, healthier individual. Let's dig in a bit deeper.
While it is hard to grasp at first, as you probably think that a steel barbell across your back is anything but natural, it is, more than it seems.
Most movements you perform during total-body training are compound, meaning they require more than one joint and muscle group to move at the same time, while under load.
Take squat for example. At the same time, your hip, knee, and ankle, plus your glutes, quads, lower back, core, and many other smaller muscle groups work at the same time.
This type of movement is something you won't get by doing leg curls, where you take out all the supporting muscle groups, and only work on one joint—knee.
When you think about movements you perform in your day to day activities, those are all compound. You rarely biceps curl your grocery bag—it's more of a deadlift. As for squatting, well, you know why it was useful, back in the day, we won't go into too many graphic details, but it is as natural as it gets. :)
Many people fail to do full body movements with proper technique, because of their physical limitations. Often, they have trouble with squat depth, because of ankle mobility. Or their chest collapses, because the thoracic spine is tight.
Total body movements expose weaknesses, telling you what to address. They require a lot out of your body, different parts at the same time, making them an excellent option for athletes, as they translate the strength and power to the field very well.
With full-body, free-weight routines, your body needs to stabilize the weight all the time, as it's not fixed inside a machine. This promotes balance, as smaller muscle groups have to work extra hard to maintain the weight, and you, under control. This is especially great for core muscles. Some coaches even go as far as excluding direct ab training, if there are a lot of total-body routines already included in the regime.
Because total-body movements hit multiple muscle groups at the same time, you will feel your heart pumping just after a few reps of deadlifts. That makes total-body movements an excellent option for getting the effects of cardio while doing your strength routine.
This can be further enhanced by incorporating methods such as supersets, giant sets, HIIT or circuit training, where you go from one exercise to another, without taking breaks in between.
For example, you can do Romanian deadlifts, then go straight into dumbbell split squats, and immediately follow that with burpees or jumping rope. Rest for 1 minute, and repeat the cycle three times, it's a whole mini-workout that will blast your lower body and even back.
Full-body movements are rough on the system, and for that reason, you can't do them multiple days in a row. Ideally, you will train hard, but only three times per week.
But, although this seems all but optimal, with proper full-body routines, you will hit every (major) muscle group three times per week, opposite to 1-2 with common "bro" splits.
Hitting your muscles 3x per week has the obvious added volume advantage, which is one of the central components of muscle building. This is great because researches show that after about 36 hours your muscles are ready for another workout.
However, if your only goal is muscle-building, then at one point, full-body routines will stop working. The issue with them is that they leave behind some muscle groups—for example, lateral deltoids, hip abductors, adductors and similar—as they primarily focus on the "big lifts." If you train for the stage, this approach will not be enough, and you will have to concentrate on isolations.
As you can see, training hard with a full-body routine can do you a lot of good. In fact, for most, regular people, this is the best way to train. You will do "natural" moving patterns, activating many muscle groups at once, getting the most out of your workouts. As long as it works for you, and you have the wanted results, full-body is the way to go. And if you are not an athlete, this is all you will ever need.