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Are body-part split workouts dead?
You know the deal – you train 2-3 body parts per workout. And each muscle group gets hit with direct stimulation once per week. You then do it all again the following week.
The other option is to train your whole body in each and every workout (fewer sets per muscle than a split). And do this about 3 times per week (with at least 48hrs rest in between).
My own experience, and some fairly recent study findings, suggest that a body-part split may indeed be the inferior option i.e. you make better gains by training your whole body, not by splitting it up.
And it all rests on one word…
As stated above, with a body-part split, each muscle group gets direct stimulation once per week.
With a full-body routine, each muscle group gets direct stimulation 3 times per week. A 300% increase in training frequency is not something to be taken lightly.
My free THT Training routine has both split and full-body workouts for you to use. Personally, and I have stated this before, over the last couple of years I have only used the full-body routine. I get better results this way.
But let’s have a look at some scientific findings to see what they can reveal…
BODY PART SPLITS OR FULL-BODY FOR GAINS?
This study  suggests that a 3-day full-body plan is actually superior for size/hypertrophy gains. The researchers stated at the outset…
“The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of training muscle groups 1 day per week using a split-body routine versus 3 days per week using a total-body routine on muscular adaptations in well-trained men.”
The subjects were 20 males, aged ~20-25, with good training experience (so no newbie gains).
They tested for both size and strength gains…
“Subjects were tested pre- and post-study for 1 repetition maximum strength in the bench press and squat, and muscle thickness of forearm flexors, forearm extensors, and vastus lateralis.”
“Results showed significantly greater increases in muscle thickness for TOTAL [full-body 3-day routine] compared to SPLIT [5-day split].
The researchers concluded…
“The findings suggest a potentially superior hypertrophic benefit to higher weekly resistance training frequencies.”
Now consider this meta-analysis  (a study combining the results of many other studies).
This meta-analysis agrees with the above findings and confirms that higher training frequencies produce superior gains in muscle size.
Researcher said this this is probably the case because of the increased number of times each muscle is broken down, which in turn stimulates more frequent increases in protein synthesis.Full-Body Workouts Produce Better Muscle Size Gains. Click here for proof Click To Tweet
No, body part splits are NOT dead. Yes they work. But my own experience coupled with recent study findings does seem to indicate that frequency is a major major factor when it comes to optimal size gains. And yes, there’s no difference when on a cutting cycle to get ripped. I still train my whole body 3 times a week.
In fact, my research over a decade has lead me to believe that there are 3 fundamentals in bodybuilding.
I start my free THT training manual with an explanation of what these mean and why I call them the fundamentals. You can’t know much of anything in this game until you master these 3 factors. It’s no different from trying to teach a kid algebra who hasn’t yet mastered basic arithmetic – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
The bottom line is this: If you’ve never trained full body, do it! And if you don’t do it because you’ve been told it’s the inferior option, stop putting it off and start – you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.
And don’t be scared that you’re “only training 3 times a week”. Each session lasts longer than a split workout (perhaps 90mins). And total time in the gym across the week is virtually the same, anyway.
So if you want to use the same workout as I do to build muscle, or you want my 5-day split, just pop your email below and click the button.
You don’t have to go to your email to click a confirm link; the download will appear immediately after you enter your email. Enjoy them gains! 🙂
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Try it! Why not at least give it a trial run? What have you got to lose? Nothing. What have you got to gain? Muscle!
 “Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men.”
 “Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and meta-analysis.” Journal of Sports Medicine November 2016, Volume 46, Issue 11, pp 1689–1697
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Chest Blast Workout
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Found this very interesting. I still fear switching if I’m being honest.
I just can’t seem to get to my legs on deadlift day cause I’m pretty wiped out.
Would you stick with 6-day split as optimal for TSPA? Thanks, Mark
@Matt. Yes, for the increased calorie-burn it’s a good option. I personally use the 3-day full body, even when cutting. Then again, I never have a lot of body fat to lose.
@Jason. On THT full-body and even on the 5-day split, deadlifts and compound leg movements (like squats) are never performed on the same day.
Testimonial and question – Quote: “Each session lasts longer than a split workout (perhaps 90mins).”
Testimonial – I am following the THT full-body 3-day plan along with Total SIx Pack Abs. As a teen I was quite fit, and then joined the military. I was injured in an accident, and let my body get fat, over the years. I used to be as fat as 320 lbs, @ 179.5 cm, and then stuck @ 273 lbs back in 2015. I stopped using the scale at 220 lbs, last year. It has been a hard journey back to fitness for me. I am starting to arrive at strength levels I used to have as a younger man. I have lower back problems, so I have to be very careful.
I am a mesendomorph with a wide ribcage, and wide chest-shoulder-neck-arm-trap frame, and with wide hips, big butt, and big thighs, with a somewhat rounded abdomen and love handles. The ab area It has been flat before, with abs showing, and I know I will do it again, here in my late 30’s. I know this is working, and I have been using Mark Mcmanus’ plan since 2/5/2017
Question: The guy who owns the gym I attend here in The Middle East, and has degree sourced in early 2000’s info from an American university, says that after 48 minutes the “T” levels go down, and the cortisol level goes up. After that, catabolism sets in, and I shouldn’t work out past that time marker.
He says I am wasting too much time, and should only be resting 1min between sets. I rest EXACTLY 2min and 30 sec between each set, and each lift. This include rack and re-rack time. He says I am negating all the work I am doing with the long rests
He asked me if I was on steroids, since I lift all 10 to 12 lifts every workout with 2 sets, and go to the next 5 lbs. higher, once hitting 12 reps @ 1sec up and 2 sec down. 1 sec up and 2 sec down, for both compound and isolated lifts. This takes me (depending on the workout plan and energy levels), from between 75 to 90 minutes.
What can you tell me about his claims, and how should I view this information?
Thanks Mark, for all that you do to help us!
I worked out for a year with 3 day whole body workout and results were mind blowing i could see changes in my body within weeks.every week i could see my body grow my friends would ask that m i on steroids hehehe. Really the worlds best workout 3 day whole body workout. Thanks mark.
@Ashish. Great! Same as me. Better results hitting everything 3 times a week.
@ABT. Hey buddy. Firstly, there’s just no such thing as catabolism kicking in after 48 minutes. All bodybuilding workouts are catabolic. They have to be. The catabolism is exactly the thing that triggers the opposite – anabolism. You break muscle down in order to stimulate it to grow back bigger and better. This process starts from the 1st working set and continues until you end. This is one reason why I switched to taking my post-workout shake during my workout – see here https://musclehack.com/why-i-switched-my-post-workout-shake-for-an-intra-workout-shake/
There is no set limit for how long a workout should last. It depends on intensity levels, rest times between sets, age, many factors. The shorter rest periods would actually make the workout more catabolic, not less. But shorter rest periods have been absolutely proven to be less effective for stimulating size and strength gains. Your workouts are going to suck by taking just 1 minute rest. See this post – 2-3 mins is best https://musclehack.com/best-rest-periods-between-sets-for-muscle-growth/
You’re doing right. And he’s just wrong. Keep going.
@Mark.. theres deadlifts and leg presses on the same day with the full body, can i replace the leg presses and to leg ext rather?
@Jason. The deads are at the very beginning of the Wed workout. Then only 2 sets of Leg Presses at the end of the workout, so there’s plenty of lower body rest. Plus there’s no stabilising issues with leg presses since it’s a machine movement. It’s not a problem. Then you finish off with 1 set of leg ext and 1 x set of leg curls.