There’s a lot of conflicting info in the fitness world around the best way to structure your workout plan each week. Should you do full-body workouts? Or should you “split” your workouts into the lower body and upper body moves? Some people even take it a step further and break down their strength training sessions into legs, shoulders, and arms, and back and biceps days because they feel that builds the most muscle mass over time.
But for other people, that approach is too overwhelming, so they default to full-body workouts. So the question is: are split workouts or full-body workouts better? And the truth is: it depends.
Okay, but you guys, it does depend! (Fitness experts and research also agree.) Your workout routine should be based on the goals you’re trying to accomplish in the gym—that’s always been a fact. If you’re looking to build strength and muscle mass, then you should consider split workouts. Otherwise, if you’re looking to get in shape while you build muscle and burn body fat, then full-body workouts may be for you! Here are a few other reasons why we love total body workouts:
They promote muscle balance
Because you’re working out all of the muscles in your entire body in one session, you don’t need to worry about things like giving equal attention to each muscle or muscle group as you would in split workouts every week. Plus, full-body workouts incorporate a lot of compound movements, which are moves that work several muscles at the same time like squats, the bench press, and push-ups do. Win!
They burn more calories
Like we just mentioned, total-body workouts involve compound exercises, which means more muscles are working at once. You can probably guess where we’re going next, but if not: the more muscles working, the more energy you’re expending, which means you’re burning more fat and calories! Research and studies back this up, too. And who wouldn’t want to burn an extra calorie or two? Not us!
They’re less of a time commitment
This may seem slightly contradictory… but hear us out. Not everyone has time to fit 4-5 strength training workouts into their schedule each week—and that’s OK! But if you commit to the split approach and only make it to the gym twice a week, then you’re skipping over at least an entire muscle group, whereas had you done two full-body workouts, then you would have worked for each muscle group twice. Make sense? And not only that but total-body workouts are oftentimes made up of bodyweight exercises, which means you can do them anytime, anywhere! Plus, focusing a few workouts a week on strength training is good, but it’s also important to make time for cardio, flexibility, and mobility moves, too!
Sounds pretty great, right? But we should call out that doing only full-body workouts can lead to overtraining. The best thing you can do for yourself is to switch up your training routine so that your body is always guessing what’s next. It’s also important to give yourself rest days so your body can recover properly in order to keep making progress towards your goals. If you have questions, talk to a coach—they’ll be happy to help!
Now let’s get to the full-body workout!
Full-Body Circuit Workout
Equipment needed: kettlebell, dumbbell, resistance band, cable machines (optional)
Check out more about full body circuit at Boxing Bayside .
Get ready for this full-body workout that will build muscle and burn body fat all at the same time! Circuit training has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to increase heart rate, burn fat and calories, while still increasing muscle mass.
This full-body circuit workout requires little to no equipment, and you can turn up or down the intensity with the amount of weight you use. For beginners or those who are just starting, use light weights or consider completing each movement as bodyweight exercises. If you’re looking for a challenge, use heavyweights—but not too heavy that your form is compromised.
We did mention that this was a full-body circuit workout, so yes, you will be completing four short mini-circuits. This circuit training will be a mixture of unilateral movements (single-leg or single-arm, like a biceps curl) and compound exercises that engage muscles throughout your entire body. You will complete one set of each movement one time through, taking minimal rest in between stations, and you’ll finish the designated number of rounds for each circuit.
With circuit training, the goal is to rest as little as possible in-between stations to keep the intensity up, although it will differ for each person. If you can, aim for your rest period to be 20-30 seconds or less in between stations, and then rest 60-90 seconds again after each round. These short rest periods will allow your heart rate to stay up while refueling your muscles. Plus, it acts as a sneaky form of cardio!
Note: while you are completing back-to-back exercises, it’s important to remember that it is not a race. To get the most out of this workout (and to not get an injury), complete each movement with control and proper form, while still having high intensity.
Let’s do it!
Foam roll legs (quads and calves)
- 20 Squats
- 10 Lunges on each leg
- 15 Front shoulder raises
Circuit 1: 4 Rounds
- 12 Single Arm Rows with cable machine (each arm)
- Switch the setting on the cable machine, so that it is on one of its lowest notches near the ground.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and step your right leg back, similar to a lunge. Your left foot should be on the ground with your knee up.
- Grab the handle with your right hand (like an ice cream cone) and let your left arm hang or rest on your hip.
- Engage your core and row the handle into your chest, pulling in a straight line from your biceps.
- 5. Return to starting position and repeat all reps before switching to your left hand. Don’t forget to switch feet!
Additional information: if you don’t have access to a cable machine, substitute for a dumbbell and complete the same motion.
- 12-15 Tricep Dips with bench
- 1. Sit on a bench with your hands by your sides.
- Slide your butt off the bench so that your legs are extended straight in front of you. Your palms should be on the edge of the bench with your fingers pointing towards your feet. Place your feet hip-width apart.
- 3. Lower your butt towards the floor by bending the elbows into a 45- or 90-degree angle. Your elbows shouldn’t “fly” out to the sides, they should stay pointing straight behind you.
- Push yourself up to the starting position.
Additional information: to make this more challenging, straighten your legs so that you’re on your heels to force yourself to lift more of your body weight. To make it easier, bend your knees and bring your feet closer to the bench.
- Get into a pre-lunge position with your right leg in front of you and your left leg back. Hold the kettlebell in front of your chest.
- Squat straight down as you maintain an upright torso—no leaning forward! Your back knee should lightly tap the ground.
- Push up through the heel of your front foot and come to standing position.
- Repeat all reps on one leg before switching to your left foot in front.
- Additional information: if you don’t have a kettlebell on hand, you can substitute for a dumbbell.
Circuit 2: 4 Rounds
10 Single Arm Kettlebell Swings (each arm)
Check out more about full body circuit at Boxing Bayside .
- Place your feet somewhere between hip-width and shoulder-width apart and push your hips back as you slightly bend your knees to grab the kettlebell. Be sure to keep your head looking forward.
- Snap your hips and glutes forward and use the momentum to raise the kettlebell up in front of you. At its highest point and the end of the movement, it should be out in front of your chest.
- Slowly lower the kettlebell back between your thighs, being sure to keep good posture in your upper body and repeat the same movement for all reps before switching to your left hand.
Additional information: if you’ve never performed a kettlebell swing before, we recommend getting in-person training from a coach.
15 Band Anti-Rotation Reverse Lunge with cable machine (each side)
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Place the cable machine at chest height and stand so it’s on your right side. Grip the handle with each hand, so that your palms are touching.
- 3. Straighten your arms out in front of you as you step back into a reverse lunge with your left leg—your right foot should be flat on the ground. Tighten your core to help keep your head, torso, and feet pointing ahead in a straight line.
- Push up through the heel of your front foot and return to starting position as you bring your hands into your chest.
- Repeat all reps on this side before facing the opposite direction and stepping your right foot back.
Additional information: if you don’t have access to a cable machine, substitute for a resistance band.
Circuit 3: 3 Rounds
15 Plank with Hip Touch (each side)
- Get into a normal plank position (not a push-up position) with feet hip-width apart. Your forearms and toes should be on the ground.
- Squeeze your core and rotate your torso and lower body so that your left hip is facing the floor. It’s OK if you don’t touch the ground but aim to get as close as possible. You should stay up on your toes.
- Come back to a neutral position over your forearms and repeat the same movement, just to the right now. That is two reps.
Additional information: to make this easier, place your feet shoulder-width apart for extra stability.
15-30 Squat Jumps
- Place feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees to lower your glutes into a squat, being sure to keep your upper body upright as you sink your heels into the ground.
- At the bottom of the squat, jump straight up off the floor with as much power as you can. Use your arms to help gain momentum.
- As soon as your feet land on the floor, drop right back into the squat position.
Circuit 4: 3 Rounds
15 Lateral Shoulder Raises with dumbbells
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your sides as you place your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
- Engage your core as you lift both weights up and out to the sides with your palms facing the floor. You should keep a slight bend in the elbows.
- Lower back down to your sides slowly.
Additional information: if you feel like you’re “shrugging” your shoulders to lift your arms, the weight is too heavy. Drop five or ten pounds in weight of your dumbbells.
15 Front Shoulder Raises with dumbbells
- 1. Hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your core and lift both weights up in front of you with a slight bend in your arms. Your palms should be towards the ground.
- Finish by slowly lowering the weights back down.
Check out more about full body circuit at Boxing Bayside .
1. Improves cardiovascular health
Aerobic exercise is recommended by the American Heart Association and by most doctors to people with, or at risk for, heart disease. That’s because exercise strengthens your heart and helps it more efficiently pump blood throughout the body.
Cardiovascular exercise can also help lower blood pressure, and keep your arteries clear by raising “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lowering “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood.
If you’re specifically looking to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise between 3 and 4 times each week.
2. Lowers blood pressure
Cardiovascular exercise may help you manage symptoms of high blood pressure. That’s because exercise can help lower blood pressure. Here are other ways to lower blood pressure without medication.
3. Helps regulate blood sugar
Regular physical activity helps regulate insulin levels and lower blood sugar, all while keeping body weight in check. In a study on people with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that any form of movement, either aerobic or anaerobic, may have these effects.
4. Reduces asthma symptoms
Aerobic exercise can help people with asthma lessen both the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. You should still talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine if you have asthma, however. They may recommend specific activities or precautions to help keep you safe while working out.
5. Reduces chronic pain
If you have chronic back pain, cardiovascular exercise — specifically low-impact activities, like swimming or aqua aerobics — may help your trusted Source get back muscle function and endurance. Exercise can also help you lose weight, which may further reduce chronic back pain.
6. Aids sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try cardiovascular exercise during your waking hours.
A study on individuals with chronic sleep issues revealed that a regular exercise program combined with sleep hygiene education is an effective treatment for insomnia.
Participants engaged in aerobic activity for 16 weeks and then completed questionnaires about their sleep and general mood. The activity group reported better sleep quality and duration, as well as improvements in their daytime wakefulness and vitality.
Exercising too close to bedtime may make it more difficult to sleep, however. Try to finish your workout at least two hours before bedtime.
7. Regulates weight
You may have heard that diet and exercise are the building blocks to weight loss. But aerobic exercise alone may hold the power to help you lose weight and keep it off.
In one study, researchers asked overweight participants to keep their diets the same, but to engage in exercise sessions that would burn either 400 to 600 calories, 5 times a week, for 10 months.
The results showed significant weight loss, between 4.3 and 5.7 percent of their starting weights, for both men and women. Most participants walked or jogged on treadmills for the majority of their exercise sessions. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, try taking a few brisk walks or jogs a day, such as during your lunch break or before dinner.
Depending on your weight and speed, you may need to walk or jog up to 4 miles to burn 400 to 600 calories. Cutting calories in addition to aerobic exercise can reduce the amount of exercise needed to lose the same amount of weight.
8. Strengthens the immune system
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University examined active and sedentary women and the impact of exercise on their immune systems.
One group exercised on a treadmill for 30 minutes
Another group did a burst of intense activity over 30 seconds
The last group did not exercise
All women had their blood taken before, after, and at different intervals in the days and weeks after these exercise sessions.
The results showed that regular and moderate aerobic exercise increases certain antibodies in the blood called immunoglobulins. That ultimately strengthens the immune system. The sedentary group of women saw no improvement in immune system function and their cortisol levels were much higher than those in the active groups.
9. Improves brain power
Did you know that the brain starts losing tissue after you reach age 30? Scientists have uncovered that aerobic exercise may slow this loss and improve cognitive performance.
To test this theory, 55 older adults submitted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for evaluation. The participants were then examined to assess their health, including aerobic fitness. The adults who were most fit showed fewer reductions in the frontal, parietal, and temporal areas of the brain. Overall, their brain tissue was more robust.
What does this mean for you? Aerobic exercise does the body and brain good.
10. Boosts mood
Moving your body may also improve your mood. In one study on individuals with depression, participants walked on a treadmill doing intervals for 30 minutes a session. After 10 days, they were asked to report any changes in their mood.
All participants reported a significant reduction in their symptoms of depression. These results suggest that engaging in exercise, even for a short period of time, may have a big impact on mood.
You don’t need to wait almost two weeks to see improvement. The study results revealed that even a single exercise session may be enough to give you a boost.
11. Reduces risk of falls
One in three people over the age of 65 falls each year. Falls can lead to broken bones and potentially create lifelong injuries or disabilities. Exercise may help reduce your risk for falls. And if you’re worried you’re too old to start exercising, don’t be. You have much to gain.
Results from a study on women ages 72 to 87 revealed that aerobic dance, for example, can reduce the risk of falling by promoting better balance and agility. The women worked out for an hour, 3 times a week, for a total of 12 weeks. The dance sessions included plenty of squatting motions, leg balance, and other basic gross motor tasks.
At the end of the study, the women in the control group performed significantly better on tasks like standing on one leg with their eyes closed. They also had better grip strength and reach, all-important physical strengths that can protect the body from falls.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new workout routine, and start slow. Group classes can be a great way to safely exercise. The instructor can tell you if you’re doing moves correctly and they can also give you modifications, if needed, to reduce your risk for injury.
12. Safe for most people, including kids
Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for most groups of people, even those who are older or who have chronic health conditions. The key is working with your doctor to find what works best for you and is safe in your particular situation.
Even children should get regular aerobic exercise. In fact, recommendations for kids are slightly higher than for adults. Aim to get your child moving at least 60 minutesTrusted Source or more each day. Moderate activities are good, but kids should get into the vigorous zone at least three days each week.
13. Affordable and accessible
You don’t need any fancy equipment or a gym membership to work out. Getting daily exercise can be as easy as taking a walk around your neighborhood or going for a jog with a friend on a local trail.