What is the best training split? Ask an average gymbro and they will probably say some kind of body part split. Maybe something that looks like this:
The Bro Split AKA Bodypart Split
- Monday – Chest
- Tuesday – Back
- Wednesday – Legs
- Thursday – Shoulders/abs
- Friday – Arms
- Saturday – Rest
- Sunday – Rest
Ask someone a little savvier and they might recommend a push/pull/legs split or upper/lower routine. I think these two splits are more effective because they have you hitting every muscle at least twice per week. Hitting each muscle group twice per week is specified in the scientific literature as being superior for optimizing growth.
So, the question everyone wants to know the answer to, “what is the BEST split?”…
Well, this is actually not the question you should be asking. It is essential to consider how you organize your training throughout the week to enhance performance, recovery, and the other variables for driving growth, there isn’t a single “best” way to pull this off for everyone. In reality, the entire point of any training split should be to accomplish the following goals:
- Work for adherence (i.e. does it fit your schedule?)
- Built for weekly progression (and/or month to month)
- Work for recovery between workouts and between weeks
- Built with the fitting weekly volume for progress
- Built with the fitting amount of per-session volume for progress
- Built with efficient training intensity for growth
If a training split checks all of these boxes, then yes, it CAN work. With that being said, there think there are several advantages to the Full body split, outlined below.
THE HIGH-FREQUENCY ADVANTAGE
1. Longer Elevated MPS
The advantage of high-frequency training is its impact on muscle protein synthesis (MPS): the synthesis of new muscle proteins.
Assuming you eat a reasonable amount of protein within a reasonable time frame after training (timeframe of hours-days, not minutes-hours), your muscles begin to synthesize new muscle tissue through elevated MPS.
However, this spike in MPS doesn’t last anywhere near as long as some people might hope. Research suggests that MPS remains elevated for only 48-72 hours after training in beginners, and as short as 24 hours in more experienced lifters.
“Ok, so what does this mean Naj?”,
Well, for someone who has had progressive training experience, the actual process that drives new muscle growth has pretty much stopped after about a day or so. Therefore, if you wait a full week before hitting a muscle again, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities for the growth of that specific muscle. You’re “wasting” about like 5 days of potential growth every week.
Let’s take the chest, for example. If we hit the chest Monday morning, MPS will be elevated in the chest for all of Monday and then will stop by Wednesday. So regardless of how much you destroy a muscle, after about 48 hours, you aren’t growing anymore because protein synthesis is no longer being stimulated. So rather than leaving MPS at baseline levels for the entire week, we can (in theory) maximize new muscle synthesis by hitting the chest again on Tuesday (and again on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday).
This line of thinking led me to experiment with high-frequency training. On the contrary, more recent evidence has started to call the practical significance of the MPS theory into question. For example, even though small increases in muscle protein synthesis do seem to correlate with hypertrophy under some circumstances, MPS fails to take into account the other side of the muscle growth equation: muscle protein breakdown (MPB). So simply spiking MPS more often may not actually lead to more muscle growth over time – it’s actually more complex than that. To determine whether or not these frequent MPS spikes do, in fact, translate to more muscle growth over time, several long-term training studies have been pooled together via meta-analysis. As it turns out, while the effect is most likely significant when going from hitting each muscle 1x to 2x per week, training with weekly frequencies of three and higher doesn’t seem to add up to much.
This has led most experts in the field to conclude that frequency should be seen primarily as a tool for managing weekly training volume, rather than a major contributor to hypertrophy on its own. So, long story short, even though we can’t totally write off frequent MPS spikes as a non-factor for high frequency training, it probably isn’t the major player we once thought it was. On this note, let’s turn our attention to four more prominent and practical advantages of high frequency training.
2. BUILT FOR HIGHER WEEKLY VOLUMES
One of the main advantages of high frequency training is that in the real world, higher frequencies tend to create higher weekly volumes. Volume (the number of tough, working sets per week) has been described as having a dose-response relationship with muscle growth, meaning, more weekly volume causes more growth (to an extent). So if a higher training frequency can allow you to perform more weekly volume, all things being equal, it’ll lead to more growth.
3. BUILT FOR HIGHER QUALITY VOLUMES
Higher frequencies usually allow for higher weekly volumes, and they also tend to allow for higher quality volume per training session. The reason being is that when you’re training full body, you will usually only perform 1-2 exercises for each muscle per workout, meaning you’ll feel pretty fresh every time you hit a muscle.
On the contrary, if you’re doing a bro split, your chest day may look something like this.
- Barbell Bench Press
- Incline Dumbbell Press
- Chest Dips
- Seated Machine Chest Press
- Incline Bench Cable Fly
- Incline Dumbbell Pull-Over
- Pec-Deck Machine
Now if you’re training with sufficient intensity, after you’ve made it through the incline dumbbell press, your chest is taxed and fatigued. So every movement after that is basically junk sets/volume.
Even if you have the Mamba mentality, there’s no arguing that your chest will be highly fatigued, which might hurt your performance.
Contrast this with a high-frequency full body approach, where every session, you’ll usually be performing one chest focused movement. So, not only will you be able to lift more weight, you’ll be more mentally ready and focused on the muscle as well.
5. MORE “PRACTICE” WITH LIFTS
Think of lifting as a skill, and Like all skills, the more you practice it, the better you become. This is especially true if you’re “practicing smart.” With full body training, we’re hitting each muscle group often, giving you the ability to focus in on the mind-muscle connection and body awareness and lifting mechanics with each movement on a daily basis. This will make you a more effective lifter, which will allow for better returns on your time investment in the gym.