A game plan in the gym is a solid way to reach your goals. You work out six days a week, hitting different muscle groups to chisel out your dream body.
That’s how it works, right?
For some people, the bro-split is the ideal way to maximize muscle growth, accelerate fat loss, and sculpt the perfect body, while for others, that training style isn’t appealing - or doesn’t work for their goals.
But here’s the thing: sticking to the regimented six days, one and half hour training sessions isn’t always realistic. Life gets in the way, and you can’t make it to the gym, which throws off your training schedule and sends you off the deep end.
Despite our best intentions to be physically active, it can sometimes be a tall order. But if you want many of the same benefits without the same extent of commitment, there’s a solution: full-body workouts.
They’re quick, effective, and can build strength, shed pounds, and improve health just as well as training splits. Not sure where to start? How about the benefits? This article details full-body workouts, why they’re so effective, and why you should try them.
Top 8 Benefits Of Full-Body Workouts
Burns more calories
For anyone looking to maximize their time in the gym, it’s all about efficiency. You want to get in, get out, and burn the maximum calories possible to see the best results - and full-body splits are awesome.
Why? Active muscle tissue burns energy, so the more muscle activated, the more calories you burn.
This is why compound movements - exercises that engage more than one joint---are superior for calorie burn compared to isolation exercises. The body expends about five calories of energy to consume 1 liter of oxygen 1.
So, because multi-joint exercises that engage more muscles require more oxygen, the net energy expenditure is higher.
Exercises that involve more muscle tissue require more oxygen, which helps the body increase its net energy expenditure.
Increases muscle growth
Although hypertrophy-focused training splits have always been king for muscle growth, studies show that full-body training routines are equally as effective.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the extent of strength and muscle gains from a split-body routine (training each muscle group once per week) versus a total-body routine (training each muscle group three times per week) 2.
While both groups saw increases in strength and muscle, the men following a total-body routine saw increased muscle thickness in their forearms.
Although it’s difficult to draw any hard conclusions from this study, it does show potential support for total-body workouts as superior, thanks to greater frequency and increased levels of muscle protein synthesis.
Less time commitment
Although, in theory, hitting the gym five or six days a week for an hour or more sounds like a brilliant idea, it often doesn’t play out that way for most people.
We have busy work schedules, family, extra-curricular events, and so on that interfere with our ability to get in as much physical activity as we’d like. So, how do you compromise? Full-body workouts.
Since most full-body training splits can be done over three days, finding time to fit your workout in is much easier while still fulfilling other personal obligations.
However, do note that depending on how you structure your workouts, fewer days in the gym could mean a bit more time commitment for your actual workouts.
So, instead of doing five 60-minute workouts, you may be doing three 75-minute workouts. Either way, you’ll end up further ahead than other programs, such as an upper/lower body split.
Enhances muscle recovery
Your body needs sufficient rest if you want to maximize muscle growth, strength, and other training adaptations.
Although most people are under the impression that the time in the gym supports muscle growth, it’s the time out of the gym that solidifies these training adaptations.
Muscles are worked almost daily, whether you’re doing a bro-split, upper/lower, or any other split. Although direct stimulation may not occur daily, secondary stimulation typically does, as muscles rarely work in unison - for example, back and biceps splits will also engage the triceps.
Because of how these training splits work, it’s hard to recover fully between when the muscle was last worked and when you prepare to hammer it next. As such, you’re compromising muscle growth thanks to a lack of recovery.
However, full-body training may help extend the rest days from one or two per week to three or four, thereby allowing more recovery time between sessions.
Greater hormonal responses
Want to build muscle, increase strength, and burn fat? Guess what… it would help if you had sufficient levels of hormones.
You hear a lot of talk about the importance of two hormones for muscle: testosterone and growth hormone (GH).
However, while resistance training, in general, is known to promote an anabolic hormonal response that promotes muscle growth, greater muscle activation from full-body workouts appears to encourage a significantly greater response.
Full-body workouts may force muscle growth by promoting a higher acute anabolic response if performed correctly and with maximal intensity.
A 2016 study examined the effects of two equal-volume resistance-training protocols on strength, body composition, and salivary hormone outcomes in male rugby union players 3.
Participants completed a 4-week full-body (FB) and split-body (SB) training protocol of equal volume and measured outcomes. Results show that both training methods increased 1RM strength to a similar degree and produced positive changes in body composition (BF, FM, FFM).
However, the split-body routine had a higher increase in testosterone and cortisol concentrations, but the full-body training protocol produced a higher testosterone-to-cortisol ratio.
While typically we look at testosterone levels on their own, the T:C ratio provides a good measure of whether athletes are recovering from their training.
Continuing, let’s look at the kettlebell swings, for example.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the acute hormonal response to kettlebell swings using 12 rounds of 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off using a 16 kg kettlebell on testosterone, growth hormone, cortisol, and lactate 4
Results show that at the end of the workout, levels of all hormones were significantly higher than pre-workout. Researchers concluded that the kettlebell swing effectively produces an acute increase in the hormones involved in muscle adaptation.
What does that mean?
Serum testosterone concentrations rise in response to sufficient intensity and volume resistance training. But exercises that require greater muscle activation offer a more profound effect on acute increases in testosterone following exercise.
So, exercises that engage more muscles (i.e., full-body workouts) will provide a stronger anabolic stimulus for muscle growth than isolated exercises.
Ideal for anywhere
Don’t have access to a gym? No problem! That’s the beauty of full-body workouts---you don’t need a gym or equipment.
With plenty of exercises you can perform with just your body weight, there’s ample selection when you don’t have access to equipment.
And when you use your body weight as resistance, you automatically engage muscles throughout the body to stabilize and support each other. For example, when holding a bodyweight plank, your shoulders, core, and glutes all stabilize your body.
But full-body workouts don’t have to be just bodyweight - mix them up with weights, resistance bands, or stability balls. You don’t need heavy weights or machines to get a good workout.
Supports fat loss
Typically, we think about cardio for fat loss - but science proves that’s not the case.
Take a look at something like metabolic resistance training (i.e., HIIT with weights). It incorporated full-body movements performed at maximum intensity for short bursts. But a training style like this is so effective for fat burn because of something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.
It’s a natural mechanism that restores homeostasis (balance) after intense exercise. On a technical level, EPOC refers to the oxygen consumed post-workout to bring your body back to baseline values.
But here’s the thing: studies find that weight-based training fires up your metabolism and increases calorie burn for up to 38 hours after exercise 5.
Plus, compared to traditional strength training workouts, metabolic training can burn more than 500 calories in just a single session - but the calorie burn doesn’t stop there.
The EPOC effect kicks in to further increase calorie burn even after you’ve stopped training, so you continue to burn calories and fat post-workout.
Tired of doing the same workouts week in and week out? Change it up by throwing in a few full-body workouts.
There are endless possibilities for exercises you can do - with or without equipment - so you never get bored!
Plus, since there are countless ways to design your workouts when you get bored, it’s easy to set up a new routine to keep you interested.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Workout
Ready to take your workouts to the next level?
On top of using a full-body training protocol, throwing in a solid pre-workout like Pre Lab Pro® can help fine-tune your focus and prepare your mind and body for battle.
It stacks the most advanced and powerful pre-workout ingredients that synergize to provide a bigger nitric oxide boost, smarter stimulation, and stronger homeostasis.
The result? An epic workout, unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, with even more epic results.
Although split-routine workouts are effective and work for some people, full-body workouts are equally effective in building muscle, burning fat, and improving overall performance.
But if you’re going to hop on the full-body train, here are a few things to keep in mind to maximize your training program:
- Schedule two to three full-body workout sessions per week
- Set aside an additional day to exclusively focus on a weak point (shoulders, biceps, quads, etc.)
- Change your workouts up to prevent boredom and plateau
- Ensure you apply maximal intensity to every rep and set for all movements
All in all, both whole-body and split training have their merit and can be employed to produce next-level muscle growth.
For anyone who’s looking to offset general adaptation syndrome (GAS) that can curtail progress following a traditional bodybuilding-style training program, adopting a full-body workout for a few months can go a long way to getting yourself (and your gains) back on track.
- 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;29(7):1821-1829.
- Crewther BT, Heke T, Keogh J. The effects of two equal-volume training protocols upon strength, body composition and salivary hormones in male rugby union players. Biol Sport. 2016;33(2):111-116.
- Budnar RG Jr, Duplanty AA, Hill DW, McFarlin BK, Vingren JL. The acute hormonal response to the kettlebell swing exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(10):2793-2800.
- Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002;86(5):411-417.