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Old 11-23-2009, 02:48 AM   #1
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Default Fullbody vs. Splits

This is a re-print of my post at on the topic of fullbodies vs. splits.

I've had this conversation with Glwanabe, and I will bring it out in the open for others to respond to.

I am very familiar with Casey's work and articles. I trained "in the dark" for about 18 years, meaning that I developed my own training methodologies prior to the Internet era, and they were not based on books or scientific studies. My methodologies, for the most part, aligned with Casey's thinking in this article.

I trained no more then one hour. I used only heavy compound lifts. I trained 4 days a week. I lived for progression, and never found a need for "muscle confusions" and program and exercise rotation. And I rarely did more then 9 sets per muscle per week. I also did very little direct work for biceps, triceps and calves. Of course, these beliefs are not exactly Casey's, but they are closer to Casey's beliefs then they are to Weider's.

So, needless to say, when I read Casey's articles, I become very enamored with his thinking. But where we diverge is at training splits, and I'll explain why.

I was a classic hardgainer entering college. I had trained for 3 years, and was very active as a teen, but I was about 145 pounds and very weak. I couldn't bench more then 95 for reps. Then I discovered squats and the school cafeteria, and the rest was history.

I have never trained full body. Not for any reason other then I never knew people trained full body. Until about 5 years ago. With all this said, here's why I diverge with Casey at splits.

Casey has stated in one of his articles that muscle gains for a natural tend to average around 16 pounds in the first year of serious training, and they are cut in half each year thereafter. So a full body trainee "might" gain as such:

Year 1 = 16 pounds
Year 2 = 8 pounds
Year 3 = 4 pounds
Year 4 = 2 pounds
Year 5+ = 1 pound

In my experience, this is dead on. I made most of my gains in my first two years. Also, Casey's work on natural muscular potential tells me my potential is around 178-182 pounds of lean mass. I have been around 178-179 for over 10 years, and haven't gained any additional muscle.

So, because natural trainees have natural muscle mass limits, a full body routine might be faster out of the gate for most, but a split will still be viable because there is a wall.

Take two trains leaving the station. Train A is the Full Body Express. Train B is the Weider Express. Train A is faster. Both trains will travel exactly 35 miles (or pounds of muscle mass gained).

Because the track is of limited length, and because Train A is faster, it will also start to slow sooner as it approaches the wall. All the while it's slowing, Train B is still traveling relatively faster because it's further from the wall.

The end game is this...Train A gets you there faster, but because the track is of limited length (or because of the nature of the muscle mass gain/year formula's "curve"), Train B starts to play catchup.

After 5 years or so, both trains are about at the same location, give or take a pound or two of muscle mass.

Why do I prefer Train B?

--Less Warmup Time. Train A requires me to warm up many heavy compound lifts per workout, which ultimately takes away from training time given the one hour window. If I train bench, squat and overhead presses in one workout, my warmups become time consuming - and I'm not one to "overly" warmup.

On a split, I can warmup the bodypart(s) of the day (say chest and triceps) and "gun it." I don't have to stop and warmup for another lift.

--Focus. Because I spent all my time on a particular day on one or two bodyparts, I find that I focus better.

--Joints. I found at a very early age that muscle recovery was not the only variable for me. I also had to contend with joint and connective tissue health. "Back in the day" I trained bodyparts nearly twice a week. I found that my joints, especially my lower back, shoulders, elbows and chest, began to wear down and cry for rest (or de-load periods).

I was working the same joints and connective tissue multiple times per week, and my body did not respond well to it.

Even now, and using a relatively low volume routine (my workouts sometimes run less then 40 minutes), sometimes I am simply not ready for a joint/region to "go" again in 2 days. I understand that Casey advocates a H/L/M approach, but a tired and weak joint is a tired and weak joint. Hitting it with 15 rep sets when it's down isn't always what I'm up for doing. I fear aggravation or injury.

And my shoulder joints just don't feel 100% 2 days after a taking a beating. They tell me "more rest please."

--Muscle Soreness. Certain bodyparts get "real sore" even from a minimal work. My hamstrings and chest get very sore from a minimal 3 set workload. Training with soreness can often force you to make indirect changes to your lifting form to avoid the pain. If my hamstrings are sore from squats, and I have to hammer out RDLs or another leg exercise 2 days later, my form isn't 100% because I'm trying to lift around the pain.

--Pleasure. I enjoy my workouts more when I split them into 4 days. My workouts are brief, more enjoyable, and I get to hit the gym more often. I LIKE lifting, and an extra day of training each week - mentally - is a good thing.


Understand, I'm not trying to tell you that I disagree with Casey Butt on the effectiveness of full body routines. I know the research, and understand it. But I am trying to tell the story from the other side of the fence.

Natural lifters can only gain so much muscle. Either way you take, you'll arrive at the station about the same time. In years 3 to 5 on a full body routine, while your gains are slowing, the numbers might be still a tad higher on splits simply because you have more room left to grow.

Full body routines are generally more effective, but to me, they are not without their downsides. I have a hard time using them because I want more joint rest between workouts, because they focus me to spend too much time warming up, because I don't focus as well, and because I don't find them as enjoyable.

I hope my train analogy is making sense to some of you. And I hope you understand that I'm not telling you to train with a split. Me, I just can't, no matter how hard I want to. I've expressed this to Casey before.

I respect Casey, but on the point of splits, I'm a greater proponent then he is.

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