The cat is out of the bag: full body training is awesome for fat loss and muscle growth!
If you’ve done either of my Classic Full Body or Figure Of 8 programs then you already know I’m a big fan of full body training, but most people in gyms are still blissfully unaware of the massive benefits it offers.
In this post I’m going to run you through why most of my clients take the full body approach, and show you what a team of researchers from New Zealand found when they compared the fat loss and muscle building benefits of full body workouts versus the more traditional approach of training 1-2 muscles per workout.
Let’s break it down…
Full Body Training For Fat Loss & Muscle Growth!
A team of researchers from Auckland University of Technology recently set out to compare the differences between a traditional three day split and full body workouts.
They worked with experienced rugby union players, and had one group of trainees following full body workouts while another group used a traditional three day split where the full body is trained over the course of three workouts. The key factor is that both groups performed the exact same total number of sets for each muscle group. The exercises used were leg press, barbell squats, lying leg curls, calf raise, bench press, bent-over barbell row, wide-grip lat pulldown, shoulder press, and biceps curls.
When they published the results in the Biology of Sport they confirmed that the trainees who used full body workouts burned significantly more body fat (losing a whopping 6% body fat!) versus the trainees using the three day split (2% fat loss). (1)
Interestingly, both groups had similar gains in size and strength too!
The researchers also believed that the more experienced and stronger a trainee was, the BETTER the results they saw, suggesting that experienced lifters can still benefit from switching to a full body program (such as Classic Full Body) from time to time.
Take a look below:
What About Recovery & Training Volume?
Whenever I speak to people who are unsure about full body training, they ask two questions:
- Will each muscle get enough volume to grow?
- Will my muscles be able to recover if I train them every day?
The answer to both questions is YES, but I understand the concern.
You see, the reason people worry about these two specific things is because most people have never followed a properly structured full body program before.
When you use a science-based training plan, such as Classic Full Body, the total amount of volume each muscle gets is no less than it would be during a typical training split.
For example, in my Classic Full Body program you’ll train chest for 7 sets on Monday followed by 2-3 sets on most other days, giving you 15 sets in total. Meanwhile, if we look at a program which follows a traditional “bro split” (for example my Classic Size plan) we can see that you have one big chest workout on Tueday (15 sets) and then don’t hit it again until the following week.
This is the same thing done in two different ways.
However, applying full body training also allows you to tap into the fat loss benefits explained above while still giving you enough total volume to create maximum muscle growth! (2)
Now let’s talk about recovery time.
A lot of so-called “experts” out there claim a muscle needs 2-3 days of complete rest after a workout in order to grow.
This is NONSENSE!
It actually depends on what type of training you did.
For example, if you performed a high volume chest session (15+ sets) then it’s definitely worth giving this muscle a few days to recover before training it again, but that’s not the case if you are only hitting it with 2-7 sets. It would be unnecessary to take so much recovery time because the muscle is nowhere near as fatigued.
This means you can hit it more often…
… and that brings us to another hidden benefit of full body training, which I call “spreading the load”.
This is a useful strategy for people who haven’t trained (hard) in a while, and it also has some interesting performance benefits.
For instance; 45 minutes into a chest workout most people are just spinning their wheels, but by attacking the muscle with smaller bursts several times over the week you never reach that point. Instead you feel fresh for every single exercise, enabling you to train with greater intensity without ever straying over the line where your effort drops off (see below). (3)
Oh, it gets even better!
The ability to spread the load means you can train a muscle with greater frequency, and this is where things get REALLY INTERESTING!
When we train a muscle our body reponds by sending signals which begin the recovery process and spike hypertrophy. It appears that performing multiple workouts (and therefore creating multiple spikes) is superior for muscle growth.
In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a team of scientists from Norway compared the effects of increased training frequency on a group of powerlifters with one group of trainees performing three long sessions per week and another group of trainees performing six shorter sessions per week (total volume was the same).
What they found was nuts – increased training frequency saw a 10% boost in muscle mass! (4)
10% is an excellent improvement, but perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the participants in this study were athletes! The margin for improvement gets finer the more experienced a lifter is, so WOWZA.
Put simply; full body training and high frequency ROCKS!
- Crewther B. T., et al. The effects of two equal-volume training protocols upon strength, body composition and salivary hormones in male rugby union players. Biol. Sport (2016).
- Hammarström D., et al. Benefits of higher resistance-training volume are related to ribosome biogenesis. J Physiol (2020).
- Schoenfeld B. J., et al. Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res (2015).
- Raastad T., et al. Powerlifters improved strength and muscular adaptations to a greater extent when equal total training volume was divided into 6 compared to 3 training sessions per week. Book of abstracts, 17th annual conference of the ECSS (2012).