Is A Full Body Workout Routine Best For You? Probably Not.

Look, I like full body workouts. I don’t love them, but I like them.

They are as simple and basic as can be, and when it’s all put together into an intelligently designed full body workout routine, it can be effective for sure. It’s one of the most popular and proven types of weight training programs you’ll find.

And yes, it can work for all sorts of different goals. Building muscle, increasing strength, losing fat, improving performance. Again, assuming it’s all designed and executed correctly (and everything else is done right), they flat out work. No question about it.

Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend full body training to most people. Let me explain…

What Is A Full Body Workout Routine?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Whereas some types of training have an “upper body day” or “lower body day” or “chest and triceps day” or “back and biceps day” or “push day” or “arm day” or whatever else… a full body workout routine involves only one type of day: a “full body day.”

And on this day, you train your entire body in some capacity. Exactly what capacity can vary quite a bit.

For example, in some cases this could literally mean doing an exercise for every muscle group (quads, hamstrings, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps and maybe even calves and abs too) so that everything gets trained directly every workout.

In other cases, it can mean doing nothing but one big compound push, pull and lower body exercise (e.g. bench press, row, squat) so that everything gets trained in some way directly or indirectly (e.g. shoulders and triceps get trained during bench pressing in addition to the chest).

In other cases, it can fall somewhere between those two extremes.

But the basic gist of a full body routine is that you’re training all or most of your body to some degree in a single workout rather than splitting the body up into different parts or muscle groups that are trained separately on different days. This is the opposite of that.

From there, you’re typically doing this type of workout 3 times per week as part of a full body split:

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

Sometimes you might repeat the exact same workout 3 times. Sometimes you might repeat that same workout 3 times but with some kind of intensity modification (like heavy, medium, light). Sometimes you might have 2 different full body workouts that you alternate “ABA BAB” style. Sometimes you might have 3 completely different workouts altogether.

There’s really a lot of ways it can go. But again, the basic gist of it is this: you train all or most of your body to some degree in every workout, usually 3 days per week with 1 or 2 days off in between each.

What Is Full Body Training “Best” For?

Beginners, beginners, and more beginners. There is no form of weight training that will work better for a beginner than full body training when it comes to building muscle and/or increasing strength as quickly as possible.

This of course is why the most popular and proven beginner programs around are all full body routines. Starting Strength, Practical Programming’s Novice Program, and even my own Beginner Weight Training Routine. Plus dozens of others.

Full body is pretty much universally agreed to be optimal for beginners with virtually any goal.

But, that’s about it. I wouldn’t consider it to be the single “best” way to train for anyone else.

What Is Full Body Training “Good” For?

Good? Oh… it’s good for lots of stuff.

  • For those training specifically for strength, a full body routine can certainly be good (e.g. Bill Starr/MadCow 5×5). For most people however, I think upper/lower is what’s going to be best. The majority of people with strength specific goals tend to agree. Just look at how most non-beginner powerlifters train. It’s almost always upper/lower (or something very close to it), and almost never full body (e.g. 5/3/1, Westside, etc.).
  • It’s also good for those training for some type of performance or sport/athletic goal. Then again, so is upper/lower. And based on what I’ve seen, upper/lower tends to be used more often by athletes and the coaches who train them.
  • It’s also good for people doing some form of metabolic training or just weight training specifically to burn as many calories as they can in the shortest period of time. Other splits can do this too, though.
  • It’s also good for people with very little time for working out. They can only lift 3 times per week, and maybe those workouts need to be kept pretty short. A basic full body workout routine is one good option out of a handful of good options for that.
  • It’s also good for people whose training preferences lean towards the basics. You know, a few big compound exercises and call it a day. Full body is good for that.
  • And for many non-beginners, full body can also be good for building muscle. No question about it. It can certainly work for muscle growth if it (and everything else) is done right. I just wouldn’t consider it the best way to do it. Just look at how the vast majority of legitimately natural bodybuilders or physique/figure competitors train. I don’t know a single one who is training full body past the beginner stage, nor do I know a single reputable coach/trainer who would consider it ideal for growth.

Basically, a full body workout routine can be quite good for damn near everything. But in most cases, something else (like upper/lower) can be just as good or more likely even better. Beginners are the primary exception.

Here’s Why Full Body Sucks For Most People…

Alright, “sucks” might not be the right word. Because again, an intelligently designed full body routine is capable of being “good” and working for you for almost every single goal you can think of. This is 100% true.

I didn’t write this article to shit on full body routines like I wrote a previous article to shit on bodybuilding routines. This is a little different, because this type of training is actually intelligent and effective (again assuming it’s all designed properly).

But the big point I’m making here is that we are comparing what’s “good” to what’s “best.” And for the majority of people who are past the beginner stage, full body is just NOT going to be “best” for most goals.

There’s a handful of reasons why. Here now are the 4 biggest ones…

1. Three Times Per Week?

Once you get stronger (which is something that happens as you get into intermediate territory and beyond), workouts become harder because the weights being lifted become heavier and significantly more taxing on your entire body (and mind).

So when you’re squatting or deadlifting or bench pressing or whatever with some typical beginner-level amount of weight, you can do those exercises 2 or 3 times per week without much of an issue, if any at all.

But once you get more advanced and double, triple or quadruple those weights on each exercise, you’re going to find that training your whole body 3 times per week is pretty damn tough. And not in a “I’m more hardcore than you bro, beastmode 4 life!” way. But rather in a “I’m doing more than I should be doing for superior progress” way.

And it’s not so much your muscles that are the real issue here. It’s your CNS (central nervous system), joints, tendons, mind and more.

Muscles can take quite a bit. These other things are what will often give out long before muscles do. And when you’re training your entire body fairly heavy 3 times per week and pushing yourself to make progress, something is going to be more likely to eventually give (recovery, performance, injuries, mindset, etc.). Or at least require making some kind of suboptimal adjustment to compensate.

But when you’re a beginner who’s able to make consistent linear progress quite easily and you’re lifting significantly less weight than you’ll be lifting after a few years of consistent training, this is all really a non-issue.

2. Everything In One Workout?

Similar to the previous point, as you get stronger, it also gets harder to include too much stuff in a single workout.

So again, when you’re a weaker beginner, you can get away with doing various combinations of quad dominant exercises (like squats), hip dominant exercises (like deadlifts), single leg exercises (like lunges), upper body pushing exercises (like bench press and overhead press), and upper body pulling exercises (like pull-ups and rows) in a single workout.

But when you get stronger, that shit is gonna kill you.

Actually, it won’t kill you. You just won’t be capable of training hard enough to reach the point where that would happen… and that in itself is the problem.

Meaning, when the weights become heavier and progression becomes slower and harder to make happen, you’re going to find it mighty tough to go from one big demanding exercise (like squats) to another big demanding exercise (like bench press) to another big demanding exercise (like weighted pull-ups) to another big demanding exercise (like Romanian deadlifts) and so on without a significant drop-off in performance.

The same is true in every type of workout of course, not just full body. You won’t be as fresh for the stuff that comes later in your upper or lower workout, or your push or pull workout, or whatever else.

However, the big difference here is that the stuff coming later in those workouts is usually just secondary exercises, accessory work and/or isolation movements. With a full body workout routine it’s usually more big primary compound movements for other major muscle groups.

That’s the thing about full body training… you’re training your “full body” every workout to some extent, so it requires putting more demanding stuff into each workout than you would with any other type of training.

And honestly, even the thought of it kills me. For example, sometimes after doing just part of a leg workout (let’s say squats and RDLs), I finish my last set and try to imagine what it would be like to now first go on to something like bench press and/or pull-ups and/or overhead press and/or rows.

Um, no thanks… that’s just not going to go very well. At that point, hitting some higher rep single-leg leg presses, leg curls and finishing up with some calf raises sounds like a much better idea. I’d do infinitely better putting that upper body stuff in its own separate workout.

And it’s not that I can’t do it, mind you. I can. I’m sure you can too. I’m capable of pushing myself pretty hard. It’s just that I know that no matter how hard I push myself, those later exercises are all going to suffer significantly as a result of the massive amount of mental and physical fatigue that has been generated during the training that came before it.

Unless of course you consciously or subconsciously make yourself hold back during those earlier exercises, which can be just as big of a problem.

You just reach a point once you hit intermediate level and beyond where trying to train your whole body in a single workout stops being the best way for you to train.

NOT an impossible way for you to train… just not the most ideal way.

3. I Have To Do All Of That Again?

And I don’t want to just breeze past the mental aspect of this either. It’s not easy to lift heavy things.

They’re… ya know… heavy.

It’s not easy to get under a bar, or above a bar, or stare down some heavy ass weights thinking “alright, I worked as hard as I possibly could last time and got 6 reps with this weight. It was the most I was capable of doing. This time however, I must somehow work even harder and get 7.”

That’s just as demanding mentally as it is physically.

And knowing that you have a bunch of equally big/heavy/hard exercises to go for other major muscle groups after this where you’ll need to push yourself just as hard… that’s just some mentally draining shit right there (and then add in the fact that you’re going through this 3 times per week).

So even if your body still has plenty of more to give at that point (which, as mentioned a minute ago, it probably won’t), your mind might be ready to go home. But again, when you’re a beginner, the weights are WAY lighter and the progression is WAY easier. It’s a non-issue.

4. What About Volume Per Workout?

Total overall volume is important, as is total volume per body part per week, as is total volume per body part per workout. In fact, I think that 3rd one is extra important when the goal is muscle growth.

Progressive tension is key for sure, but some degree of metabolic fatigue and muscular damage has been shown to be an important part of growth as well.

(I cover all of this in much more detail in Superior Muscle Growth, by the way.)

And with a full body workout routine, it’s just not possible to get in the amount of volume per muscle group that is optimal for an intermediate/advanced trainee without something negative happening (e.g each workout becoming insanely long due to the number of sets and exercises needed, sacrificing recovery since you’re training everything 3 times per week with just one day in between, etc.).

Full body workouts just aren’t suited for anything but fairly low volume. That’s just what it requires by design to actually be effective.

For some goals, this isn’t much of an issue (and for beginners, it’s not an issue regardless of their goal). But specifically for building muscle, the amount of volume that is optimal per muscle group per workout is higher than the amount of volume that full body training is capable of supporting.

At least not in any way that would be considered ideal.

Full Body = Good For Most, Best For Few

That title above pretty much summarizes this article and my overall feelings on full body workouts in general.

For beginners with any goal, it’s almost always the best way to train. For everyone past the beginner stage, it’s often a good way to train. And for some, it can still be better than good… even great.

But for most, full body is just not likely to be the ideal way to train at that stage for most goals. More often than not, you’ll do better with some other training approach.

131 thoughts on “Is A Full Body Workout Routine Best For You? Probably Not.

131 Comments

  1. I actually JUST switched from three full body workouts to doing splits this week. I have fatigued my muscles beyond what I was able to do with the full body and have finally felt the body draining soreness that I’d been missing the past couple months. I’d get a little sore with full body when I’d increase weight or reps, but it feels so awesome to have that “I can barely lift my arm” feeling back again.

  2. Great article. I view a full body workout as my “backup plan”. My goal for the week is an upper / lower split routine done four times a week. However once in a blue moon my work and life schedule will become so busy that I can only squeeze in 3 visits to the gym- so I will do a lower workout, an upper workout, and then an “everything” workout before the weekend arrives. Not optimal but for me it’s better than missing an entire upper or lower body day.

  3. That is the conclusion that anyone should be able to figure out on their own BUT with all sorts of information out there that is based on that particular author’s experience people might not use their own anecdotal information to form their own opinion. Same goes for the typical bro split. People might do a bro split or full body because an article told them all the good points about them. This article confirms to the reader what they should have realized on their own but gives comfort because it is in a blog post. Keep up the great, practical articles.

  4. I was doing your beginner workout for about 13 months before I stopped lifting. It was a combination of life getting in the way and absolutely dreading lift days because it was getting so draining.

    I’ve been planning on starting again though and I believe changing to upper lower after full body gets to be to taxing will be a lot better for me.

    The reason I stayed with the beginner routine so long is my weights sucked so I thougt I had to progress more before I moved on. When I ended bench was 185, squat 220, rows, 210, deadlifts 390, shoulder press 120. Pretty pathetic numbers in my opinion when guys go on about 300+ squat, and going towards 300 on bench. I’m not a small guy either.

    Anyways, thanks again Jay! Great article.

    • Yup, after 13 months of making at least somewhat consistent progress/strength gains on the beginner routine and reaching the point where you’re dreading the workouts because of how draining it’s getting, that’s definitely the point (or really past the point) where moving on to the intermediate program would have done wonders for you.

      This is also a good example of why I don’t base making this transition on reaching certain “special” levels of strength first (details here).

  5. Thank you for writing this article Jay! I couldn’t agree more. I do an Upper/Lower Split. I throw in a Fullbody workout from time to time, but my volume is low. This usually happens when I take a few unexpected days off & just wanna hit all my muscles.

    In the beginning Fullbody worked well for me. But, as you previously stated, the heavier you start lifting & the stronger you become…this approach will not be best for goals. I sometimes go into a depression after thinking of doing anything after Squats & RDL’s. Something has got to give! I try to plan my workouts in the most effective & efficient manner. You have helped me loads with this. Thank you!!!

  6. Jay, how many workouts do you recommend a week then? What body part splits would you recommend?

  7. Love the article. I think one of the best/humiliating combos is doing heavy squats and then try to do some standing overhead presses. That will make you rethink the total body workout in a hurry. If you can do that then you’re still a beginner and the full body workout is OK.

  8. Hey Jay, I have been contemplating switching from your beginner to your split body workout but am unsure if I’m ready.
    I’ve been doing beginner for almost 8 months consistently 3 days per week.
    I feel really worn out lately because of the increase in volume.
    I’m not progressing as well/fast as I was before.
    So, I know your guideline is at least 6 months but how do I know I’m ready at any point after 6 months?

    I have lost 20lbs, gained nice muscle definition especially upper body, and feel stronger and happier than I’ve ever felt. I am 40 and have 3 kids under 4 so this is a huge accomplishment for me. So, thank you for cutting through all the messiness and keeping it simple and direct.

  9. Great article jay, to start with I am turning 50 years old next week. I have been doing your full body workout for 8 months now. Just for an example I started out benching 80lbs. And I’m at 190 bench now and your right about doing 140lb. Squats and then bench it’s pretty taxing. Should I switch to a upper lower body routine now I still want to put on muscle and wich routine would be best?

  10. I really needed to read this today. I bought Starting Strength a couple weeks ago and decided to switch my routine up. The initial program starts with squats, deadlifts, and alternating press / bench press 3 x week. Switching to this program after using your upper / lower split for the past year pretty much made me feel like death.

      • I know it makes no sense. I was reading the book and thought, “Hey this looks fun!”

        NOT FUN!

        • I’ve been doing Starting Strength for the past few months. Granted, before that I was doing Jay’s beginner routine, so I’m still comparing full body to full body, but the things I liked about SS was the emphasis on squats with the deadlift being secondary, and the inclusion of the standing overhead press, which was new to me with SS. Also, I found that I had stalled in terms of progress using the 3×8-10 range, and the SS method of 3×5 (which allows for heavier weights obviously) has allowed me to progress in strength. That sounds like a retardedly obvious statement, but what I mean is that I was able to add weight to the bar in the 3×5 range several times, and I know that if I were to go back to trying for 3×10, I’d be able to do it with a weight that I couldn’t before training with the 3×5 method. So it got me through a plateau that I was stuck at for a while.

          That being said, even Rippetoe doesn’t advocate SS for more advanced training. That’s why it’s called STARTING Strength.

  11. I’m currently doing Maximum Muscle Hypertrophy workout from your book. It’s not a full body workout, is it? I guess I could fit Bodybuilding 2.0 in my schedule. Should I or should I keep doing what I’m doing?

  12. Guess Dan John, Chad Waterbury, Michael Boyle and Alwyn Cosgrove don’t know much as Dan John says workouts should consist of Squat movement, upper push and pull as well as a hinge movement and a loaded carry
    Just saying

    • So you’ve listed 4 known people who apparently recommend full body (though I will note I’ve seen at least two of those guys recommend upper/lower just as much if not more) in what seems like an attempt at showing me that this point of view is right and mine is wrong?

      If I now list 5 equally known people who don’t recommend full body to non-beginners and support my opinion instead, does that mean I become right?

      And if someone else shows up and lists 6 people who recommend silly fucking nonsense that neither of us nor our combined 9 people would approve of, would that mean they’re right?

  13. Hey Jay! I’m 17 years old, 5’10”, and weigh 175 pounds. I’ve been using your beginner workout routine for about 3 months and it’s been great! But the progress on my weights has plateaued already. I figured I’d make a new workout routine in order to achieve my future goals for lifting. I based this routine off of Reg Park’s routine but made a few changes. I hope this routine isn’t too bad. I would just like your opinion on it.

    1. Sunday: Off
    2. Monday: Flat Barbell Bench Press (5×5), Bent Over Barbell Rows (5×5), Military Push-Ups (4×25)
    3. Tuesday: Pull-Ups (5×5), Standing Overhead Barbell Press (5×5), Standing Barbell Curls (5×5)
    4. Wednesday: Barbell Back Squat (5×5), Barbell Conventional Deadlift (5×5), HIIT Cardio (5 min warmup,
    10 rounds of 15 sec sprints followed by 1 min walks, 5 min cooldown)
    5. Thursday: Same as Monday
    6. Friday: Same as Tuesday
    7. Saturday: Off

  14. ive seen a large drop off in progress and have been lifting for just over 6 months, you think this is a sign that i should stop lifting 3 times per week? I am thinking this because I sometimes feel stressed now when going to the gym and think that it is a result of an over worked central nervous system

  15. I have been doing your full body routine to a point where my pull-ups decreases in reps cause my deadlifts had gone up. I’m talking about Workout B.

    By the way, I’m in a caloric deficit diet, trying to lose that last bit of fat before doing a smart bulk.

    For my situation, what do you recommend? Do I move on to the upper lower split or continue doing the beginner workout routine?

      • I’ve been doing the beginner workout routine for 8 months now.

        Nope, i’ve been working on the same reps and weights for 3 months now, (deadlifts, squats, bench press, rows and shoulder press) My pull-ups suffer cause it’s after deadlifts. However, I don’t think that my bench press is affected from heavy squatting at all. I just can’t add anymore weight/rep for that exercise.

        • In that case it’s likely being in a deficit is your biggest problem in terms of lack of strength gains. Details here.

          I’d stick with it though and try to at least maintain strength on everything until you are lean enough to focus on muscle growth. At that point, switch to the upper/lower program.

        • Just out of curiosity, what’s the weight you got stuck with in all the exercises?
          I’m in the same situation as you but i think my weights are way to light to begin a intermidiate routine.
          Also i’m in a deficit so anyhow i’ll wait till i get to eat more and see what happens. The waiting is killing me though, i started the cutting with 22% bf and now im in 16 %. Just to think im only halfway through…

    • Yup, definitely.

      Assuming you’re talking about maintaining muscle in a deficit, due to the natural drop in recovery/performance/everything else that comes with being in a deficit, I wouldn’t consider full body ideal for this purpose, though.

      • Sorry for not being specific.During Maintenance diet for maintaining the gained muscles and when i have got only two days per week to workout, Which kind of workout schedule-Split or Full Body- would suit?

  16. Full body workout may work for those who want to maintain a moderate physique. However those like muah, cannot comprehend it. I want to workout more in the week. On a pull day, I want to improve and progress(I hate that word) on my pull ups. If I did sets of push ups and then went to pull ups, I would be too tired to make more reps, or vise versa.

  17. I have a question Jay. Why are people obsessed with posting how much they can lift? I can understand it from the perspective of being motivated personally to track progression, but jeez, enough numbers already people.

    Athletes training for specific purposes aside, the majority of people in the gym want to look good naked and stave off the inevitable decay do the body. If the weights had kilos written on them or pictures of soft toys the objective and the results would be the same.

    Am I wrong?

  18. Great article i found myself identified!

    I used to love my full body workouts when i was a beginner until my squats and deadlifts became a nightmare. Then i started to dread those lifts, when i switched to upper/lower, it all felt natural again.

    Just felt like sharing my opinion…

    Regards!

      • It’s not just for strength lots of my clients have used it and so did some of the pros that I have trained and they got Strong and muscular

        • I’m not saying it doesn’t work for growth… it does.

          I’m saying a strength program is more ideal for strength, not growth. Meaning, if your primary goal is building muscle, a person will do best using a program designed solely for growth rather than a program where growth is more of a side effect than the primarily intended effect.

  19. Full body workouts are brutal especially if you have years under your belt as a lifter! I train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday routine and take off Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday! On Monday I push, chest, shoulders and triceps and on Wednesday I will push using legs and then on Friday I pull, training back! This works well for me, especially at 48 yrs old. I have tried many routines and have spoken with some of the most knowledgeable people in the fitness industry, Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Joe Defranco and Andy Bolton. Having said that, Andy Bolton and Jim Wendler provided me with the best information! Use compound exercises, don’t train to failure, rest 3-5 min on heavy training, 1-2 min on all accessory work, 1 core lift, 1 supplemental lift and maybe 1 accessory exercise, you don’t have to train maximally but rather optimally, deload every 4 weeks, train in a wave fashion, focus mainly on squat, bench, dead lift, core, back and shoulders-rear delts, don’t worry about muscle isolation but rather a movement, train explosively but under control, have a speed day for bench, squat and dead lifts, 1-3-5reps for main movements and 5-8 reps for all supplemental and accessory exercises, get lots of rest, eat smart! As for exercise selection, keep it simple! Chest; flat bench, incline bench, db flat or incline, floor presses, future method( bands over top of power rack), hammer strength Chest press. Shoulders; military press seated or standing, rear delt work. Back; bent over barbell rows, db rows, t-bar rows, seated rows, hammer strength one arm rows, shrugs, triceps; close grip bench, over head extensions w EZ curl bar and v-bar or rope push downs used sparingly as for legs; squats of all kinds, ISO kinetic, front squat, back, dead lifts of all kinds deficit, rack pulls, block pulls, leg presses, leg ext, leg curls . Biceps; cable curls, barbell curls or db curls nothing fancy! I have left a lot of exercises out for example pull-ups I have found out that at 245 lbs they take more from me than they give and i wanted to pack on as much muscle using the bench, squat and dead lift and it works well! Best bang for your buck! Most of my training would consist of one core/main mover then either one supplement/accessory and go home! Sometimes I would do one prime mover and call it a day! See if any of my information helps!

      • So what is it that you don’t agree with I’m interested in negative feedback, plus how do you train would like to see your template! And no I don’t want to buy anything

        • For starters, I don’t think the frequency you mentioned (training each body part/movement) once per week is ideal for strength or growth. And every single one of the guys you listed would actually agree with this.

          I also don’t think the average person training for growth needs to deload every 4 weeks. The definitely need to deload, but that frequency will just be overkill for most people (though much more ideal for someone training for pure strength).

          But I agree with much of the rest.

          • You still never mentioned how you train unless you are avoiding it for some reason! I guess you never spoke to JW because he has used a two day training style with great success and not just for POWERLIFTING! Not sure who you are or where you went to college or better yet who you trained under as I did my internship under the now retired Johnny Parker of the NY GIANTS, Patriots and 49ers, but unless you show me how you train it won’t mean anything and there is no need to I charge people for your so called expertise! I give FREE training advise all the time as I mentioned above! So lay it out there and let’s see how your template works!

          • lol, you’ve sooo lost me with this one. Not even sure how you got to this point.

            You posted a comment that I said I mostly agreed with, apparently took the fact that I didn’t agree with 100% of it as an insult, I explained what specifically I didn’t agree with and why, and now you’re back to for some reason defend yourself with references, talk shit about my “so called expertise” and for some reason insinuate that I don’t provide free information when in reality your on a website that is literally 100% free information with the rare mention of a book I happen to also sell.

            So um, I think I’m done with this conversation. It sure was interesting.

          • Mike, in 5 years you will be embarrassed about your post. You parrot other people’s information and still understand next to nothing about it. If I were you, I would not promote that you ‘give away’ free advice, as it’s apparent that you do not know the difference between good advice and bad advice. Lastly, if you can’t ‘figure out’ Jay’s routines from everything he’s written on the website then you are truly hopeless.

          • Pretty much.

            Mike is apparently out of his fucking mind and has either been posting using a fake woman’s name or maybe just having his wife post (newsflash Mike, I can see your IP address) in an attempt to appear as if a random “second person” showed up to take his side in a pointless conversation that stopped making any sense a while ago. Pretty funny, but I’ve just been deleting it all because it’s a waste of time.

  20. Hello,
    I love full body workouts. Any split let me with the feeling I didn’t train enough. But you’re right: past the beginner stage, it’s hard to have 3 full body workouts per week. The solution is obvious: workout 2 time per week with two different full body workout. And it works! And it’s the only solution when having a busy Schedule: you can always miss a workout or have to delay one, without missing a chest or leg day.
    Best regards.

    • I definitely wouldn’t consider switching to a 2 day full body routine the solution to when a 3 day full body routine becomes too much. It’s one option to consider I guess, but I’d consider something like a 3 or 4 day upper/lower split a MUCH more ideal solution.

      Unless of course you can only train twice per week, in which case 2 full body workouts is the ideal option.

  21. Hey Jay, I am an intermediate who prefers minimalistic training and at the moment wants to focus more on upper body (+abs). Given that, would you consider this a good modification of your 3x per week Beginner routine:

    A:
    Dumbbell bench press 4 x 5-8
    Row 3 x 8-10
    Leg press 4 x 5-8

    B:
    Lat pull-down 4 x 5-8
    Barbell shoulder press 3 x 8-10
    Romanian deadlift 4 x 5-8

    10 minutes Abs at the end of each

    Thank you!

      • thanks anyway, may i ask you another question?

        once i registered in a gym and told the
        “instructor” to create a upper/lower split routine for me, at first he was not familiar with it, but he did it anyway, however, the routine looked like this:

        flat barbell bench press 4×12
        incline dummbell bench press 4×12
        lat pulldowns 4×12
        t-bar rows 4×12
        shoulder press 4×12
        lateral raises 4×12
        triceps pushdowns 4×12
        skull crushers 4×12
        EZ bar bicep curls 4×12
        cable bicep curls 4×12

        and then ab work

        do you think it was too much?

          • Oh i see, well thanks again anyway, although i will never buy your book(i am boxer and muay thai fighter, therefore, weightlifting is not the priority), with the info you have provided on this website i can create my programs and try to make them as best as possible with the purpose of improving my performance.

            have a good day

        • Thanks. Good article. For me the most helpful part was the point that it can take a few years of beginner training to hit the intermediate level where a more focused set of routines is needed. Thanks

  22. Hi Jay, great site! I’m trying to find a bulking routine that will work for me and am going to give your U/L 4 day muscle building split a try. A Couple of questions for you:

    1.) I’m coming off of 1.5 years of compound barbell and weighted chins/dips. Basically ran starting strength & leangains carb cycling protocall. The program worked well but left me with a significant muscle imbalance. My entire right side is larger. Delt, pec, bicep, quad. I have been thinking on focusing on unilateral dumbbell work and hammer machines for my bulk where possible. Problem is I’m not sure if I could still generate the stimulus needed to grow without the ability to push more weight up that a barbell gives you??? For example, doing heavy dumbbell bench 3×8 instead of barbell. Same with overhead press. Single leg leg press. etc.

    2.) Is there a specific reason you left off conventional deadlifts?

    Thanks for the help!

    • 1. Progression is progression… tension is tension. Your body doesn’t know (or care) if it’s a barbell, dumbbell or machine exercise that’s providing it. So as long as you’re putting tension on the target muscle and progressively increasing that tension over time, the growth stimulus will be there. And if certain adjustments are needed to fix an imbalance, then it’s even more ideal.

      2. See my comment here.

  23. First of all, great article!
    I’ve read all your articles on designing the perfect workout routine so there wasn’t anything surprising tho.
    The interesting part for me was the mental aspect.
    At the moment I’m doing Madcow5x5 (as many,including yourself, recommend it) and noticed the same problem you have mentioned above.
    Before my final squat set of 5 I was really nervous and concentrated, it was like I was in a tunnel, all I could see was the bar and the weights on it, constantly going through my form in my head and imagining myself squatting. After pushing up the final rep it felt like a rock roll off my shoulders, literally.

    The next lift in this program is the bench press, with the same intensity, and I’ve noticed that even doe, the weight was heavy for me, the nervousness and the same concentration just weren’t there.

    I’m not sure if this was the result of cutting and the 400mg caffeine I took on an empty stomach or if it just means that full body workouts are not suited for me anymore.

      • The only highly recommended program with 1 intense lift per workout that comes in my mind is the Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 but I’m quite sure I can progress faster then once per 4 weeks.

        Guess I’ll just stick with Madcow5x5 and hope I’ll get used to it after a while.

  24. Jay. I bought your ebook and have a question about pressing exercises. I’m posting here just because it’s your most recent blog entry.

    I’ve switched to neutral grip on any/all pressing exercises because of shoulder issues.

    * Question: Will flys, cable cross overs, pec deck and weighted pushups for chest with shoulder presses and front, side and rear lateral raises for shoulders still produce good results?

    I – LITERALLY – can’t do ANY kind of horizontal press. No flat/incline/decline press, bar or dumbbell. ANY horizontal press instantly sets off tendinosis in right shoulder. I’ve tried all different grips and angles, and the damage happens as soon I use even 60% load. It’s been like this for years. Yet, I can do any kind of overhead press, and push ups don’t both it.

    Thanks, Jay!

    • Yup, weighted push-ups as a primary lift plus some kind of fly as a secondary lift will be just fine for chest. Assuming there are a few different kind of push-up variations you’re able to do, you can really just replace the horizontal barbell/dumbbell pressing in my programs with various forms of push-ups, and then keep the flyes where the flyes already are.

  25. Hi Jay
    I recently bought your ebook and I really love it. Currently I’m doing a full body routine but soon I want to switch to your Targeted Lean Muscle program. I have 3 questions:

    1. In The Muscle Building Workout Routine you have workouts A and B between which you alternate. In the The Upper Body Workout Template For Building Muscle article you explain that most people do better with 2 different workout sets to alternate between. Can I do the same in Targeted Lean Muscle? For example can I make my Push A your Push Version 4, Push B your Push Version 5, Pull A your Push Version 4a and Push B your Push Version 5?

    2. I would like to increase frequency of the Targeted Lean Muscle program, but in comment to one of the articles you mention that 4 times a week it’s too much because of the shoulder/elbow overuse resulting from doing Push/Pull on following days. What do you think about every other day? Is that the sweet spot or do you still recommend sticking with 3 days a week?

    3. Because of a knee injury I cannot do any form of squats, leg presses, lunges or any other exercise that puts pressure on knees while they’re bent. The only exercise I can really do is the leg extension. Since it’s going to be my only quad exercise in the program (I will have to skip squats), should I increase number of sets or stay with 2 as prescribed?

    Thank you and keep up the great work!

    • 1. You probably could, but then the frequency per exercise becomes a bit lower than I think is ideal for making strength gains. (I actually explain this in the intro for the 3DM routine in the book.)

      2. Again you probably could, but for me personally I’d keep things as they are.

      3. If leg extensions are literally the one and only quad dominant exercise you are capable of doing, then some number of additional sets should be done.

      • Thank you for your answer!

        I understand what you’re saying and I will leave the program as is (why mess with perfection? 😉 ). I will only add 2 more sets of the leg extensions.

  26. Hey. Love the info… doing upper/lower splits for a few months and I have been seeing some gains. Problem is that I also play soccer so hitting the gym 4 days a week is quite taxing. I play soccer tuesday/thurs/light Sat training and games on Sunday. In this case, would you recommend a 3 day full body routine or a push/pull/leg or 3 days upper/lower split? Goals are to keep the strength I have gained (knocking players off the ball feels great, lol) would like to see more muscle definition, etc Can you help?

  27. Hi Jay, I just purchased the e book..awesome. I am an experienced lifter (6+ years).I was wondering if I should use your upper/lower split or your arms focused routine..I’m stuck in a plateau looking for 1/4 inch on my arm size. I always use progressive overload and log. Strength is great just looking for that little extra bit of arm size. Thank you in advance.

    • Your arms will grow quite well using any program in the book. The arm specialization routine would be more ideal for if this was really your #1 goal. So if it is, go for it. If it’s just one area you want to improve along with others, any program in the book would be fine.

  28. Hello,
    Great article. I can relate to the pros and cons. Question. What’s your opinion about going from 3 of the same full body workouts a wk to 2 of the same full body workout a wk Monday and Friday with Wednesday consisting of some sprints on the treadmill. I feel that way I can add an isolation exercises for my rear delt on Monday and one for lateral delt on Friday. My full body workouts currently do not consist of isolation exercises.

    • Forgot to mention that when I do my 3x a week full body workout I do 2 sets for lower body consisting of the standard dumbbell forward lunge and reverse lunge. My goal is not to have big legs and lunges have worked for me. Changing my Wednesday for sprints is to give my calves a little work as well since I don’t like doing machine standing calve raises as they put pressure on my spine. I also believe I’m getting near the point where doing 3x full body is becoming taxing.

  29. Jay,

    Hope you answer this question.I have been doing your beginner routine(all exercises 3×8) but I went ahead and replaced the bench press with dumbbell,since I heard it stops pec imbalances.I also went ahead and changed to cable rows for more back thickness over the barbell rows.

    I have been doing deadlifts for 3×8, but I want to change that to rack pulls 3×8.And is it possible for me to change the squat to leg press?The issue is I don’t want to ruin my back or cause myself an injury when the weight gets heavier.

    For general fitness and aesthetics,is this a balanced routine or should I try a p/p/l?I have been doing your workout for 3 months and some say it is not something they would consider for aesthetics. I know you would always prefer your routine over p/p/l but objectively which would be best for my goals?

    • The bench and row replacements are fine, as is leg press in place of squats. Rack pulls in place of deadlifts isn’t, because you’re taking an exercise that is mainly there is serve as a lower body movement (deadlifts) and replacing it with an exercise that takes the lower body out of the movement (rack pulls).

      If you are a beginner, a basic 3 day full body routine is what will work best for muscle growth. PPL is one of a handful of good choices when you’re past the beginner stage.

  30. Hey Jay,

    I have been consistently following your full body routine for about 10 months, with an occasional break due to traveling outside of the country..

    I am not sure whether or not to switch over to intermediate yet, let me explain my situation.

    I’m 6′ 2 at 193 (I’d say at 11-12% bf)

    My deadlift 6-4 rep range I use 380, Squat is 280 6-4 range. My dumbbell bench is 200 lbs 6-4, rows and pull ups in the 200-260 range depending on the variation I do.

    I calorie count, count my macros and I try to get adequate rest, for example on monday I did your “type B” full body day, today I have to do your “Type A” day, but I’m finding I’m still slightly sore in my back and hamstrings, it’s a slight soreness but I’m beginning to find this soreness more common…

    Has my workout intensity surpassed my ability to recover on this high-frequency program? Or is it normal, and is it okay to workout with a slight soreness?

    This questions may seem trivial, but I for one believe the devil is in the details.

  31. Thanks for the article Jay!

    What is your opinion of someone intermediate following a well designed full body program (3 times per week) like HST ?

    Could in that case be optimal?

    My specifics include just 2 working sets per exercise and mostly 1 exercise per group, e.g. only 1 chest exercise, only 1 back exercise etc

    Thank you!

      • I just think that HST addresses most of the issues of non-well-designed programs.
        e.g. for the points of the article:

        1) Still 3 times per week, but you lift at you 75%, 80%, 85% etc of your maxes per workout. So in the end, it is not that taxing since you only workout with your maxes for 1 day every 2 weeks.

        2) Of course it is true, but is also different because of the point mentioned above.

        4) With just 1-2 exercises and 1-2 sets each the volume is indeed medium, but that should be compensated by the high frequency of the program.

  32. Jay,

    I am a beginner, I started going to the gym approximately 4-6 weeks or so ago and I am doing a bodybuilding 3-day split. After reading your posts, I want to move over to the beginner workout. Do you think it will be beneficial for me to move to the full-body beginner workout routine?

      • Jay, thanks for your response. I looked around afterwards on your site and found the answer to my own question in a few of your posts.

        However, if I may bother you with one more questions, I noticed that on one of your posts you recommend the Starting Strength or Practical Programming Novice Program. The difference in these programs with your beginner routine is that there are squats performed on each workout.

        How important is it to do squats every workout when you’re a beginner, or does it not matter much as long as I hit squats and deadlift every other workout. Reason I ask is because, i workout at a small gym that only has 2 power-racks and huge lines to use them and I would feel bad doing squats and deadlifts on the same day and taking up too much time.

  33. I love the idea of full body workouts for some of my clients. I have one now who has a treadmill and an 8 lb kettlebell for equipment.
    I obviously have her do body weight exercises, however she really wants to see results in her thighs and buttocks.
    I can not help but think she needs to do weight training more than what her body weight, 8 lb kettlebell and treadmill can do for her.
    Tabatas are a great way to shred fat, but she needs to build muscle and we all know muscle is so cool on so many levels.
    What do you think about my client doing full body exercises 4x a week since she is really not using any weight but her own…(115lbs)?
    Would you recommend she has days where she just does a split system of upper versus lower body?
    I would love for her to get some quality resistance bands and power block or stacking weights (since they do not take up a lot of room).
    Thanks in advance for your insight!
    Becky

  34. I agree totally about the full body workouts my experience is you can only do it for so long then change it to upper and lower body split

  35. hi jay, very informative article. So i guess this whole “sarcoplasmic vs myofibrillar” hypertrophy thing ive been hearing about is just more pseudoscientific nonsense? Id like to have your input on this.

    • No, I wouldn’t say that. I will however say that as long as you’re training intelligently for growth (a mix of rep ranges, intensities, types of exercises, etc. like all of my hypertrophy programs are designed), then you won’t need to worry or care because you’ll be maximizing all forms of growth… real or hypothetical.

  36. Hi Jay,

    Thanks for all of your informative posts. I’ve been following your 3 day upper/lower “Muscle Building Workout Routine” for the past few months and have seen some nice gains in muscle mass. However, I find that my arms are getting a lot bigger in comparison to other body parts. Is it ok to drop the isolation exercises like the dumbell curls and tricep pressdowns and just focus on the compound exercises on my upper body days? Your thoughts are much appreciated.

  37. Damn. I just want to express how glad I am that I found this site (as well as a calorie counter,) as an actual beginner. I am 19 and just last month began seriously working out for the first time in my life. Obviously, like any beginner at working out, I started out (as I now know) very wrong, focusing heavily on isolation lifts and splitting days between push, pull, and leg day. But, now that I have found this site I am going to completely change my workout to the beginner full body workout you recommend. Very thankful that I didn’t (as it seems most people have) spend 2 to 4 years working out the wrong way, but instead found this site after only 4 weeks of working out. Can’t wait to start following your diet and workout routine, and can’t wait till I save up enough money for Superior Muscle Growth!

    Thanks for all the great advice and keep up the good work man!

  38. Hi Jay,

    I find your site very interesting, and very well written. It was a treasure to me. About the full body workout, is it possible to do something like this? To combine exercises alltogether, resulting this:
    Squat 3×8-10
    Pull Up 3×8-10
    Overhead Press 3×8-10
    Leg Raises 3×8-10
    Bench Press 3×8-10
    Bent Over Row 3×8-10
    Plank 60 sec.

    I am a beginner, with very little experience. I want to try this 3 times a week. Like your full body A/B worbout, but instead, I want to try this every workout. Is this too much? Better try the A/B workout?

  39. Hi,

    I’ve been lifting weights for a year, and feel I’m just moving out of the beginner to intermediate stage. I’ve been cycling for years and have relatively large legs. I’d like to even things out a bit by focusing on upper body. If just doing upper body would 3 days a week be too much? In your intermediate guide you suggest upper body just twice a week if exercising 4 days a week.

    Thanks

  40. Training three times per week or more just isn’t necessary, not even for beginners. And progressive intensity trumps volume every time, even with very low rep and set ranges.

    Choice of exercise is of course crucial, but a few primary compound exercises with one or two support exercises are fine, and you don’t have to lift heavy on each and every exercise for the routine to be very effective.

    Once you get to a certain strength level, any further increases tend to offer diminishing returns for the effort put in. The risk reward paradigm tends to shift significantly towards increased risk of injury.

    And trying to hit every single major movement pattern in the pursuit of muscular balance just isn’t necessary.

    You did however offer up a very simple FB routine in Bench press/squat/DB row, which is in fact really quite balanced, and will simply get the job the done – and is, quiet frankly, all most people will need.

    3-4 x 3-4r ramped sets is more than adequate for both the squat and the bench press, and well, 2 x 10 for say a DB row, is enough.

    You could quite happily do this routine 2 x per week for some considerable time, and continue to make progress.

    How strong anyone wants to get is up to them, but for most people a simple routine like the one mentioned here is adequate. And in my experience you don’t really need to do a whole host of support exercise in order to increase strength on your primary compound exercise.

    I got to a 270kg squat, a 300kg deadlift and 185kg bench press, simply by doing those movement patterns and following gradual progression and following simple ramped sets ranging from 3-6 x 1-3r ranges. By the way, they are all done raw and steroid free.

    Most magazines and fitness gurus will try to tell you that it’s more complicated than this, but it really isn’t.

    I’ve been training for over 30 years, qualified in sports science, sports therapy and strength and conditioning. And, well, simple things have been very over complicated because people have looked at the movement patterns of the body, the muscles involved and decided to come up with all kinds of exercises. And in the case of a lot of the so called isolation and so called rehab exercises, this creates more problems than it ever solves.

    The simple truth is this, you can train, you can improve, but your genetics will be your biggest draw back. Those that realise this but still search for the strength and size denied to them by their genetics turn to steroids – its’ that simple.

    Pretty much most routines will work, for pretty much most people, but my advice would be to keep it simple, keep it safe and concentrate on the things that make the most difference to you.

  41. As a boxer(Hobby) i wanted to do full body Workouts twice a week so i could focus on boxing the other days but I simply do not like full body, even though i know they are effective, therefore I am going to do my favorite split:

    upper/lower

    thanks for the info.

  42. Hi, one question

    which of your books do you recommend?

    Iike I said, I do boxing and martial arts as a hobby but also want to do weights, my favorite split is upper/lower but, i also would like to try other splits.

  43. Thank you for all the valuable information. I have a question about workout B. Can I switch from shoulder press to incline bench press?

    • Potentially… maybe… it depends.

      For example, there’s a version of that routine in my book (version #5) that replaces shoulder presses with incline presses and makes a handful of additional adjustments to go along with it. In that case, yes.

  44. Also you say full body workouts are best only for beginners I don’t necessarily agree with that. There are intermediate/advanced people who can run full body and make excellent progress you just have to program it correctly and build up your work capasity.

    • You seem to be missing the point I went out of my way to make in this article, which is that full body workouts DO indeed work for intermediates/advanced. It’s just almost always not going to be what works best for them.

  45. Am I under the incorrect assumption that in spite of doing heavy full body workouts 3x a week, our body will somehow adapt to the stress and therefore a beginner can still make progress in strength and size given proper rest and recovery?

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