FBW vs. SPLIT which is better training system? Many guys at the gym ask this question. SPLIT and FBW are the most commonly used training plans. Both have their pros and cons. Which method should I choose? How should I train? SPLIT or FBW? Which one is better? Find the answer below.

What are FBW and SPLIT and what are the differences?

SPLIT is a training that involves exercising one specific muscle group or a maximum of 2-3 muscle groups on a single training unit.

FBW (Full Body Workout) is a whole-body training, which stimulates all muscle groups on each training unit.

Using the term SPLIT, we talk about training a given muscle group once a week. Other varieties of SPLIT training, in which we train a given muscle group twice or more a week, will be described at the end of the article (watch: Alternatives to FBW and SPLIT). 

This article compares two opposite training approaches: Training all muscle groups 3-4 times a week -FBW vs. SPLIT – training one muscle group once a week.

SPLIT

SPLIT training involves exercising a specific muscle group once a week. Each training unit usually consists of exercises for one large muscle group and 1-2 for smaller muscle groups.

Depending on the training goal, a different number of sets per muscle group and different repetitions in the sets are used.

Most often, it is recommended to follow a 3-4 exercise schedule for large muscle groups, of which 1-2 exercises are isolated.

Usually, 2-3 exercises are used for small muscle groups. However, when using muscle priority rule, these numbers can change.

SPLIT training is primarily used by professional bodybuilders and is closely associated with bodybuilding. Training one large muscle group allows to use of bigger volume and more effectively apply some principles like isolation of muscle groups, combined sets, supersets or muscle priority.

It is important to understand that the goal of bodybuilding is, among others, to highlight the details of the muscles and to develop specific muscle groups that make the figure look attractive. Strength, power, dynamics or speed are not a priority. This is why SPLIT can be successfully used by bodybuilders.

SPLIT is a training method in which you exercise a different muscle group at each training session. Some typical features of SPLIT training are:

  • The most popular SPLIT training schedule is three sessions per week
  • Combining at least 2 muscle groups in one workout
  • Leg workout is the first or last in the training week. Legs require the most energy and training is the most difficult. Often legs are combined with the shoulders (as the last training session)
  • The back is combined with the biceps
  • The chest is combined with triceps
  • Abdominal muscles can be trained at any workout

What are the benefits of the SPLIT method?

  • Focus on increasing the intensity of work with one muscle group. This will ensure better development for specific muscle
  • It is mainly used to build strength and muscle mass
  • Advanced can train a selected muscle group up to 2 times a week

Example of a 3-DAY SPLIT training plan

Monday

  • Chest – 4 exercises
  • Shoulders – 3 exercises
  • Biceps – 2 exercises

Wednesday

  • Back – 4 exercises
  • Triceps – 2 exercises
  • ABS – 2 exercises

Friday

  • Legs – quadriceps – 3 exercises
  • Hamstrings – 2 exercises
  • Calves – 2 exercises

SPLIT – pros and cons

There is no perfect training method. Each system has its pros and cons. SPLIT training does not overload the central nervous system as much as FBW. 

Below is a summary of the pros and cons of SPLIT method:

Pros of SPLIT training:

  • Strong stimulation for the growth of specific muscle groups
  • Ease of setting priorities for the development of a given muscle group, making it easier to level out disparities
  • The ability to work on muscles feeling, thanks to the massive blood flow to the muscle. A pump feeling that lets you work more efficiently
  • Use of isolated exercises to improve the appearance of the muscle
  • The ability to work on the muscle in different planes
  • Reduced risk of overtraining due to less overloading of the central nervous system
  • Easier concentration – it is much easier to focus on 1-2 trained muscle parts in one training session
  • A large training volume contributes to muscle growth
  • A large variety of exercises – no training boredom
  • Easy muscle regeneration – individual muscle groups have a lot of time to rest
  • Easy to arrange an individual training plan

Cons of the SPLIT training:

  • It is not suitable for athletes who want to supplement their main sport discipline (e.g. CrossFit athletes, runners, fighters)
  • Slower process of learning movements and techniques. The athlete masters the technique through the high frequency of repetition of a specific movement
  • High possibility of excessive training volume
  • Higher chances of injury and overtraining
  • Not recommended for athletes for whom another sport is a priority (e.g. football, basketball) due to the possibility of muscle ache
  • Rare stimulation of a given muscle group;
  • No general body development
  • Little impact on strength, speed, power, etc.
  • Low level of neurological adaptations to effort

Who is SPLIT for?

  • Split training is primarily intended for people working on the figure and wanting to refine every muscle group
  • Works great when building strength and muscle mass
  • It is not recommended for beginners. Beginners should first ensure the overall development of their body and learn its reaction. Split should be used by people training in the gym with some experience
  • It is very limited when used for other purposes – it will not work well as a supplement to other sports

FBW

Full Body Workout (FBW) consists of training the whole body in one training session. During the training sessions, all large and small muscle groups are engaged through the use of compound (multi-joint) exercises.

FBW is a whole-body training

FBW uses squats, deadlifts or pull-ups, which affects strength, endurance and physical fitness that is very important in every sport.

A single training session usually contains one complex exercise for each muscle group.

The order of exercise is usually dependent on the size of the muscle group being trained. Usually, training begins with leg exercises and ends with small groups such as the biceps.

There are many different modifications to the exercise order depending on the priority.

The number of repetitions in a sets is 3-15, and the number of sets of a given exercise is 2-4.

Read more about FBW this article FBW training – the best for weight and strength

The basic principle of the Full Body Workout method is that you train all muscle groups during one workout. FBW is probably the oldest known training system. The main goal of FBW is the overall development of the body.

What are the benefits of the FBW method?

  • Reducing the intensity of training for a single muscle group
  • FBW is great to improve strength, fitness, and fat burning
  • It’s a great way to supplement other sports
  • This is the basic form of training for beginners in the gym

Example of 3-DAY FBW workout:

 Monday

  • Back squat
  • Deadlift 
  • Pull-ups
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 
  • Standing Barbell Curl 
  • French Press 
  • ABS

Wednesday

  • Lunges
  • Leg Curl
  • Bent-Over Row
  • Barbell Press
  • Dips 
  • Dumbbell Curls
  • ABS

Friday

  • Front Squat
  • Romanian Deadlift 
  • Standing Barbell Calf Raise
  • Pull-ups 
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise 
  • Close Grip Bench Press

FBW – pros and cons

Full Body Workout, similarly as SPILT, has its pros and cons. Below are the pros and cons of this most popular training system:

Pros of FBW training:

  • It works great for burning fat due to massive energy consumption
  • Frequent muscle stimulation promotes its development
  • Harmonious muscle development 
  • Faster learning of movement patterns and techniques (due to frequent repetition of a given exercise)
  • Easy to set up a training plan and its great variations
  • Maintaining anabolism of all muscles
  • Rapid increase in strength – More frequent performance of a given exercise improves the connection of the nervous system with the muscle, which results in better strength gains and better exercise technique
  • Missing training session will not destroy your weekly schedule
  • Better joint and ligament regeneration compared to SPLIT training (minimum one-day complete rest). In SPLIT, a given joint (shoulder, elbow) is often involved for 2-3 days in a row, which can cause inflammation. 
  • Increased transport of nutrients in the muscles – the muscles appear larger throughout the week due to increased transport of nutrients
  • FBW is simple and easy to plan
  • Fewer training units per week
  • Large release of testosterone and growth hormone anabolic hormones

Cons of FBW training:

  • Difficult to set a priority for a given muscle group
  • Increased risk of overtraining (caused by a greater load on the central nervous system)
  • Workouts are tiring – due to pumping huge amounts of blood throughout the body and frequent training of compound exercises involving the whole body
  • The wrong order of exercises can cause fatigue of a single muscle group, which may result in difficulties in maintaining the correct technique. As a consequence, it may lead to injury (e.g. training barbell rowing right after a deadlift)
  • Long training sessions
  • Creating a good plan with proper progression requires experience
  • Requires mastery of technically difficult multi-joint compound exercises

If you feel tired of FBW training and you no longer see the effects as at the beginning, despite providing the body with all the necessary factors for growth (sleep, diet, proper distribution of training, regeneration), then you can try split SPLIT training.

However, in the beginning it is worth trying the method between FBW training and classic SPLIT training. It can be UP-DOWN, FRONT-BACK or finally PUSH-PULL training. However, more on that in the last section: ‘Is there a golden mean?’

Who is FBW for?

  • FBW is a more comprehensive training method.
  • Beginners or people who have previously trained, but have stopped training for some time, should always start with FBW. This will allow them to gradually adapt the body to increased physical exertion, get to know the body’s capabilities and maximize its potential.
  • In addition, the entire musculoskeletal system – muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments – requires adequate strengthening to avoid injury in later stages of training. Injuries can exclude you from any physical activity for a long time.
  • It is worth remembering that joints, ligaments and tendons require much more time in relation to muscles in order to properly adapt to the effort.
  • FBW training will be perfect as a supplement to other sports. It allows for the general and harmonious development of the whole body. It is a great strength base.
  • FBW is a great method for reducing body fat.
  • FBW is a good way to return to training after a break, e.g. illness, vacation.

FBW vs. SPLIT – which one is better?

If you need a straight answer, it’s simple: FBW! The goal of the training is to improve overall physical fitness, strength, power and development of other motor skills that are important in most sports. Full body training makes it possible.

Great body shape is a by-product and an additional benefit of hard training but not its main goal.

What is the benefit of having muscles that you can’t fully use? Regardless of whether you are a professional athlete or just starting training in the gym, this method will be a better choice than traditional SPLIT.

There is no perfect training, and FBW is not the one either. You need a lot of knowledge to put together the right plan suited to different levels – beginners, intermediate or advanced.

FBW is very demanding and hard training for the body. Therefore, if you want to train only recreationally to improve your appearance, you may be better satisfied with SPLIT.

If for any reason, you don’t like any of these training systems and you are still looking for ‘the perfect’ plan for yourself, you may try one of the alternative best training for building muscle mass and strength – UP-DOWN, PUSH-PULL or FRONT-BACK that are the golden mean between FBW and SPLIT.

Both training methods have their pros and cons. There are many supporters and opponents of both systems. It cannot be entirely agreed that SPLIT is only for mass and FBW for weight loss and reduction. Both training methods have their specific indications for training purposes, but they can be used in virtually any plan. 

Is actually FBW better than SPLIT? It depends on your goals and expectations. It’s best to check it yourself.

When choosing your training plan, keep in mind that more is not necessarily better. It is not worth using ready-made training plans, especially those used by advanced bodybuilders. Their organisms have a different metabolism.

The average person, in order to maintain the body in an anabolic state, should train all muscle groups as often as possible, use multi-joint exercises based on free weights.

Advanced bodybuilders often take this anabolism from the outside. That’s why it is very important for beginners to train each muscle group more than once a week.

Alternatives to FBW and SPLIT – Is There A Golden Mean?

It can be said that FBW training and SPLIT training (each muscle group trained once a week) are opposite training methods. Between them there are other types of split training that are more balanced.

There are many opinions among bodybuilders that they are great training methods for both intermediate and advanced strength athletes. They provide many benefits of FBW general training and SPLIT training at the same time.

The volume of each training session is definitely higher than in general development training, and at the same time each training session is performed more than once a week. This gives great benefits and is recommended especially to intermediate adepts.

These methods are also successfully used by advanced bodybuilders or competitors with over 10 years of experience.

Below are a few methods that are the golden mean of FBW and SPLIT methods:

PUSH-PULL SPLIT

This method usually requires 4 workouts per week. Exercises are divided into pulls and pushes. Each muscle group is trained twice a week.

PUSH – training includes any push-out, i.e. chest muscles, shoulders, triceps, quadriceps (front of the thigh) and calves.

PULL – training includes pulls, i.e. back muscles, rear deltoid, biceps, hamstrings (back of the  thigh) and abdominal muscles.

Sample PUSH-PULL plan:

  • Monday: PUSH
  • Tuesday: PULL
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: PUSH
  • Friday: PULL
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

or

  • Monday: PUSH
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: PULL
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: PUSH
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: PULL
  • e.t.c.

PUSH-PULL-LEGS SPLIT

This method is similar to PUSH-PULL. The difference is that you train legs in a separate session. 

PUSH session includes exercises for chest muscles, shoulders, triceps.

PULL workout includes back muscles, biceps, rear deltoid muscles, and abdomen.

LEGS training includes quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

Sample PUSH-PULL-LEGS plan:

  • Monday: PUSH
  • Tuesday: PULL
  • Wednesday: LEGS
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: PUSH
  • Sunday: PULL
  • Monday: LEGS
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday Rest
  • e.t.c.

or

  • Monday: PUSH
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: LEGS
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: PULL
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: PUSH
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: LEGS
  • e.t.c.

UP-DOWN SPLIT

This method divides workouts into upper and lower body muscle groups. 

UP training includes back muscles, chest muscles, shoulder muscles, triceps, and biceps. You can also train your abdomen, however, it’s better to do abdominal training after finishing DOWN session.

DOWN training focuses on the following muscle groups: quadriceps thighs, hamstrings, calves, and abdomen.

Sample UP-DOWN SPLIT plan:

  • Monday: UP
  • Tuesday: DOWN
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: UP
  • Friday: DOWN
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

or:

  • Monday: UP
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: DOWN
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: UP
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: DOWN

FRONT-BACK SPLIT

It is a variety of the above types of split workouts. 

The FRONT training includes exercises for the chest muscles, anterior and lateral deltoid muscles, biceps, quadriceps, and abdomen.

The BACK workout includes exercises for back muscles, rear (posterior) deltoid muscle, hamstrings and calves.

Sample FRONT-BACK SPLIT plan:

  • Monday: FRONT
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: BACK
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: FRONT
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: BACK

Remember to choose the number of repetitions, volume, and intensity of training, so as not to overtrain your muscles and the central nervous system.

If you have some experience (intermediate or advanced), you should be able to choose the right training plan and exercises yourself.

However, if you are a beginner and would like to try this type of training, it’s best to contact a trainer for advice, if you are ready for this method and help you choose the exercises.

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