The Full Body Workout Routine: 2, 3, And 4-Day Split (Programs Included)

The full body workout routine is one of the most proven types of weight training programs of all time. It can work for most goals (building muscle, increasing strength, etc.) and experience levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about it (including the 2, 3, and 4-day versions of the full body split), and provide three free workout routines for you to use.

What Is A Full Body Workout Routine?

A full body workout routine is a strength training program built around training most or all of the entire body during each workout rather than splitting it up into different parts.

With other types of workouts, you might have an upper body day, or chest day, or arm day, or leg day, or back and biceps day, or push day, or something similar. But with a full body routine, every day is a “full body” day.

This means you’ll potentially be training the following muscle groups in each workout:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves

This doesn’t mean you need to do multiple exercises for each individual body part in each session like you would with one of the other types of workouts I just mentioned.

In this context, you’d end up being in the gym for 3+ hours, which is excessive/crazy.

Instead, full body workouts take advantage of a higher training frequency (more about that shortly) and the fact that certain exercises (aka multi-joint compound exercises) target multiple body parts.

For example, the bench press is thought of as a chest exercise. But, it targets the shoulders and triceps as well. Similarly, most back exercises also target the biceps, shoulder pressing exercises also target the triceps, and many leg exercises target the quads, hamstrings, and/or glutes to some extent.

What Are The Benefits Of Full Body Training?

There are a handful of benefits to this style of training, but I consider these to be the three most significant:

  1. Simplicity.
    While no training split is really that complex (e.g. upper/lower, push/pull/legs, etc.), full body is pretty much as basic and straight-forward as it gets.
  2. Convenience and scheduling.
    The fact that there are only 2, 3, or 4 workouts per week and you can easily have the weekends off (or adjust it so you train on the weekends and have other days off instead) makes it convenient for most people to fit into their schedule.
  3. Higher training frequency.
    Depending on which version of the split is being used (more about that in a second), you’ll be able to train each muscle group, exercise, or movement pattern 2-4 times per week. Why does this matter? Because research (sources here and here) and real-world experience has shown that this frequency (i.e. twice per week or more) is likely more ideal for goals like building muscle and increasing strength than a once-per-week frequency, which is often the least effective.

The Full Body Split

As I’ve mentioned, there are a few different ways to schedule full body workouts over the course of the week. It can be done using a 2-day split, 3-day split, or 4-day split.

Let’s take a look at each of them right now…

The 3-Day Full Body Split

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Full Body
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Full Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

This is what most people would consider to be the “classic” version of a full body routine. As you can see, it’s a 3-day split performed in an every-other-day format with two days off at the end.

Note that the exact days of the week you choose doesn’t matter at all as long as that same structure is kept intact.

The schedule shown above is probably the most common way of doing it, as many people prefer having the weekends off.

The 2-Day Full Body Split

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Full Body
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

The 2-day version is exactly like the 3-day version, but with 2 workouts instead of 3 (shocking, right?). Once again, the exact days you choose doesn’t matter as long as you ideally have 1-3 rest days between the workouts.

The 4-Day Full Body Split

Version 1

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: Full Body
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Full Body
  5. Friday: Full Body
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Version 2

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: Full Body
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Full Body
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: Full Body
  7. Sunday: off

Version 3

  1. Monday: Full Body
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Full Body
  4. Thursday: Full Body
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: Full Body
  7. Sunday: off

Above you’ll see three different variations of the 4-day full body split.

They all involve 4 workouts per week, but without ever training on more than two consecutive days. Yet again, the exact days you choose doesn’t matter as long as you maintain that same structure.

Which Version Of The Split Should You Use?

Here’s what I recommend…

  • 3-Day Version
    I consider the 3-day version to be the best choice for the majority of people doing full body workouts. It allows for an optimal frequency for the goals most people have, it will fit perfectly into most people’s schedules, and when designed correctly, it’s unlikely to be problematic for most people in terms of issues with recovery or overuse injuries.
  • 2-Day Version
    If you are only able to work out twice per week, this is the best choice for you. Simple as that.
  • 4-Day Version
    I rarely ever recommend this version. Why? Well, for starters, it’s the version with the most potential to be problematic from the perspective of recovery and overuse injuries. But, mostly, it’s just because this version tends to be the best option only for those who actually need to train each body part, exercise, or movement pattern this often, and that’s just not someone I encounter much. But if you happen to have a goal that does warrant this type of frequency, this version would be an option to consider.

Who Is A Full Body Workout Best For?

Like I mentioned earlier, full body training can work well for pretty much every goal and every experience level.

However, there’s a difference between something being a good option, and something being the best option.

So, with that in mind, who is a full body workout routine best for?

  1. Beginners with any goal.
    Regardless of whether you want to build muscle, gain strength, lose fat, or anything similar, if you’re a beginner (i.e. less than 6 months of consistent and intelligently programmed weight training), then a 3-day full body program is usually the best option for you. Why? Because at this early stage, the higher frequency (3 times per week) will allow you to make the fastest improvements in terms muscle and strength gains, as well as learning proper form, improving work capacity and volume tolerance, and just becoming good at weight training. This is why so many popular beginner programs (e.g. Starting Strength) are built around this split. My own beginner program (The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine) does the same.
  2. People who can only train twice per week.
    No matter what your goal or experience level is, if you can only manage to work out two times per week, the 2-day full body split is the only option for achieving a training frequency that’s higher than once per week. For this reason, it’s really the only split I recommend to people with a schedule like this who still want to make good progress. (I actually include a 2-day program inside Superior Muscle Growth that uses this version of the split for this very reason).
  3. People with a goal that warrants a higher training frequency.
    There are many different splits that will allow a person to train each body part, exercise, or movement pattern twice per week. But what if you have a goal that warrants training something as often as 3 or 4 times per week? For example, certain strength and performance oriented goals may fall into this category, as do certain muscle building goals where a specialization approach (i.e. emphasizing a specific body part by training it with more volume and/or frequency) is being used. In cases like this, the full body split is often the best option for achieving a frequency higher than twice per week.
  4. Anyone who simply prefers full body training over everything else.
    The key to getting the best results out of any type of workout routine is being consistent. And one of the keys to consistency is making your workouts as enjoyable as possible so they become something you actually want to do. For this reason, if you just happen to like full body training more than any other approach, then it may very well be the best option for you.

What About Everyone Else?

So, that would be the 4 groups of people who are typically best suited for using a full body routine.

But now you may be wondering… what about everyone else? Can full body training work for other people with other goals?

Absolutely!

Like I’ve mentioned a few times now, it can work for virtually every goal and every experience level as long as the overall program is designed correctly. There’s no question or doubt about that at all.

It’s just that, in some of those cases, full body training may not to be the best option. And the main example that comes to mind is…

Non-Beginners With The Goal Of Building Muscle

If you’re an intermediate or advanced trainee whose primary goal is to build muscle, a full body routine can certainly be an effective option.

However, I wouldn’t consider it the “best” option for most people fitting this description, and most of the coaches and trainers I know agree on this point.

Just look at how the vast majority of natural bodybuilders and physique/figure competitors train. It’s usually some variation of upper/lower, or push/pull/legs, or some kind of body part split.

Why is this, you ask?

1. Volume

At the top of the list of reasons would likely be training volume.

You see, there is an optimal amount of training volume (aka the amount of sets, reps, and exercises being done per muscle group) for stimulating muscle growth.

And when you’re training the entire body in each workout, it becomes really hard to get sufficient volume in for each muscle group without running into problems (e.g. insanely long workouts).

The higher frequency of a full body program certainly helps in this regard, as it allows you to spread the same optimal total weekly volume up over 3-4 workouts instead.

So, for example, instead of doing 6 sets twice per week for chest – a total of 12 sets for the week – you could do 4 sets 3 times per week or 3 sets 4 times per week (still 12 total sets done for the week).

The downside to approaching things this way is that there are other potential issues you may still run into. For example…

2. Fatigue And Performance Quality

Full body workouts are often more physically and mentally taxing than workouts which divide the body up in some way.

I mean, think about it. Which seems like it will be harder?

  1. A “pull” workout from a push/pull/legs routine, where you only train back and biceps. Or…
  2. A full body workout, where you might train quads, hamstrings, chest, and shoulders before even getting to back/biceps.

Obviously #2. But that’s just the nature of full body workouts.

And even when you reduce the volume per body part in each workout (and use the higher frequency to make up the difference and still get the same total weekly volume in), you still need to take into account the quality of that volume and your level of performance for body parts being trained in the second half of a full body workout.

For many people, it’s simply not going to go as well as it would if you were using some other split that allowed those body parts to be trained while you were in a less mentally/physically fatigued state.

3. Injury Issues

Muscles can recover pretty fast and handle higher training frequencies surprisingly well.

But joints and tendons? Not so much.

Granted, this sort of thing will vary by person based on a variety of factors (age, genetics, experience level, strength levels, injury history, etc.), but speaking from experience, the higher the training frequency, the more likely you’ll be to run into issues with overuse injuries.

Yup, even with all else (total weekly volume, exercise selection, rep ranges, etc.) being equal.

So if you compare doing 6 sets twice per week for a body part vs doing 4 sets 3 times per week or 3 sets 4 times per week for that same body part, the latter two approaches would come with a higher risk of joint or tendon issues.

4. The Additional Frequency Just Isn’t Needed

Like I mentioned earlier, the majority of the research we have looking at training frequency for muscle growth for intermediate/advanced trainees shows that training each body part twice per week is more effective than training each body part once per week.

Real-world experience supports this, too.

But is there any conclusive evidence showing that training each body part 3 or 4 times per week is more effective than twice per week for intermediate/advanced trainees with the goal of building muscle (and with all else being equal)?

Nope.

So then, you have to ask yourself, what’s the benefit of training each body part 3-4 times per week in this case? Especially when you take into account the three potential issues listed above?

All I see are a few potential negatives with no real potential positives.

And for that reason, even though a full body routine can still definitely work well for intermediate and advanced trainees looking to build muscle, I don’t consider it to be the best option for that purpose.

Instead, I prefer upper/lower (like The Muscle Building Workout Routine), or push/pull/legs (like Bodybuilding 2.0 from Superior Muscle Growth), or upper/lower/push/pull/legs (like The 5-Day Workout Routine).

But for everyone else, or anyone who just happens to prefer full body training, let’s take a look at some sample workouts…

3-Day Full Body Workout For Beginners

Workout A

  1. Squats: 3×8-10
  2. Bench Press: 3×8-10
  3. Rows: 3×8-10

Workout B

  1. Deadlifts: 3×6-8
  2. Pull-Ups or Lat Pull-Downs: 3×8-10
  3. Shoulder Press: 3×8-10

This is the basic beginner program that I recommend to beginners who are looking to build muscle/gain strength.

It’s uses the 3-day version of the full body split, although it only involves two different workouts: the A workout and the B workout. You simply alternate between them on each of the three training days so that you’re doing A-B-A one week and B-A-B the next. And so on.

(For additional details about this program and another version of it, check out The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine)

Also note that the numbers written after the exercise (like 3×8-10) represent the amount of sets and reps to do for that exercise. For example, 3×8-10 means 3 sets of 8-10 reps. And you can rest about 2 minutes between each set.

3-Day Full Body Workout For Intermediates

Workout A

  1. Squats: 3×6-8
  2. Bench Press: 3×6-8
  3. Pull-Ups or Lat Pull-Downs: 3×8-10
  4. Shoulder Press: 3×8-10
  5. Leg Curls: 3×8-10
  6. Biceps Curls: 3×10-15
  7. Face Pulls: 3×10-15

Workout B

  1. Romanian Deadlift: 3×6-8
  2. Seated Cable Rows: 3×6-8
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press: 3×8-10
  4. Leg Press or Split Squats: 3×10-12
  5. Lateral Raises: 3×10-15
  6. Triceps Pushdowns: 3×10-15
  7. Standing Calf Raises: 4×6-10

This is a simple and effective full body routine aimed at intermediates with the primary goal of building muscle.

Just like the beginner routine we covered a minute ago, it also uses the 3-day version of the split in the same alternating A-B-A – B-A-B format.

Again note that the numbers written after the exercise (like 3×8-10) represent the amount of sets and reps to do for that exercise. For example, 3×8-10 means 3 sets of 8-10 reps. And you can rest about 2-3 minutes between sets of compound exercises, and 1-2 minutes between sets of isolation exercises.

2-Day Full Body Workout

Workout A

  1. Squats: 3×6-8
  2. Bench Press: 3×6-8
  3. Seated Cable Rows: 3×8-10
  4. Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3×8-10
  5. Lat Pull-Downs: 3×8-10
  6. Leg Curls: 3×8-10
  7. Triceps Pushdowns: 3×10-15
  8. Biceps Curls: 3×10-15

Workout B

  1. Romanian Deadlift: 3×6-8
  2. Pull-Ups or Lat Pull-Downs: 3×6-8
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press: 3×8-10
  4. Chest Supported Rows: 3×8-10
  5. Leg Press: 3×10-12
  6. Lateral Raises: 3×10-15
  7. Face Pulls: 3×10-15
  8. Standing Calf Raises: 4×6-10

This is a 2-day full body routine (which obviously uses the 2-day version of the split) that’s designed for pretty much anyone who is only able to train two times per week and still wants to make good muscle building progress.

Again note that the numbers written after the exercise (like 3×8-10) represent the amount of sets and reps to do for that exercise. For example, 3×8-10 means 3 sets of 8-10 reps. And you can rest about 2-3 minutes between sets of compound exercises, and 1-2 minutes between sets of isolation exercises.

What’s Next?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers and diet professionals at every level.