Would a total body workout or split routine be better for me?

The choice between a split routine or total body training is determined by your fitness goals. For the individual that wants to get in shape, drop weight, and build muscle, the total body training will fit the bill. A split routine is generally a more advanced training system for those with muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle mass). Another factor is how much time a person can commit to their workout. A total body routine is a 3 day a week program, a split routine is a 4 - 6 day a week program. A total body workout focuses on each muscle group - chest, back, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and legs in the same workout performing 1-2 exercises per body part, depending on your time available and fitness goals. A split routine divides up the body. Monday and Thursday are usually chest and triceps, Tuesday and Friday are back and biceps, etc. Wednesdays are either a recovery day or legs and abs. The number of exercises per body part is also increased. Instead of performing 1-2 exercises per body part you do 3 or 4, sometimes more, per muscle group.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
It depends on your goal. 

Total body training is very beneficial for developing total body functional strength, increasing caloric expenditure (more calories burned/workout especially if the workout is performed in a circuit fashion), and is a more time efficient training system (perform one exercise after another without rest). 

A split routine works very well if your goal is muscle hypertrophy (increase muscle size and definition).  You work the same body part 2 times/week, thereby, increasing the overall isolated demand on the individual muscle.  This is a great way to train if your goal is to increase muscle size and individual muscle strength

While split routines and total body routines each have their benefits, the best resistance training system is going to be the one that an individual can commit to and perform most consistently.This said, due to the lifestyle most people lead, being able to perform 2-3 workouts per week using a total body routine is more realistic than performing a split routine over 5-6 workouts per week. Due to the ability to perform more work per muscle group per training session, split routines have shown to be beneficial for improving muscle strength and size; however, so too have total body routines. Another advantage to performing a total body routine is shortened muscle recovery time. During a total body routine, you will perform less work per muscle group than you would do during a split routine. This reduced work load alIows muscles to recover faster, and the quick recovery period contributes significantly to the results you see. Also, over the course of a week, when using a total body routine the muscles are stimulated more frequently than they would be in a split- routine, and more frequent stimulus forces them to respond and adapt to the training program very effectively.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.