Body Part Split vs. Total Body Training for Fat Loss

By Jen Jewell

“When it comes to training and creating a workout routine, there’s so much to choose from! My main goal is fat loss and I’m not sure if I should be training a body part a day or incorporating total body workouts into my training for the best results! What do you think?”

I get asked this often. Some people swear by body part splits while others tout the benefits of total body training. I’m a firm believer in incorporating both forms of training into your regimen. But when it comes to fat loss, I’m going to have to side with total body training. 

As with any type of resistance training, you do need to organize your workouts so that you are getting adequate rest and recovery between each session. This is one reason I love doing 3-4 total body workouts a week because it allows me the flexibility to workout every other day with rest/active rest days in-between. I don't have to go to the gym 6 days a week. If I have to miss a planned gym day, it doesn’t throw off the entire rotation of my week and set me back.  

The body part split workout approach

Body part split workouts are great for increasing your strength, adding muscle mass and overall size, and bringing up a muscle group that may be lagging in comparison to others.

If you’re looking to add muscle then this approach to your training will work well. But that’s not the question here...the question posed is which style of training is better for fat loss? 

While split training can still benefit a fat loss program (it has its time and place, too), there simply isn’t going to be quite the same caloric expenditure in a body part specific workout as there would be if you were working your entire body. But even more significantly, if you want to be more efficient with your workouts, then hitting one body part per day, probably isn't the best use of your time. 

The total body workout approach

If you can't dedicate 6 days a week to the gym, but you want to hit all of your muscle groups, then working out every other day (let’s say, 4 days a week) and focusing on total body training will get you the biggest bang for your fat loss buck! 

Focus on compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, dips, rows, and push-ups. Mix and match these exercises so that you’re working both the upper and lower body. For example, you can do: squat to shoulder presses, lunges (stationary, walking) with bicep curls, bent over rows to single leg deadlifts. 

Another benefit of total body workouts over split workouts is that you don't even need a gym. You’d be hard-pressed to do a shoulder isolation workout without ANY equipment, but a total body blast? Just add in some burpees, planks, squats, jump squats, bear crawls, mountain climbers and you're good. 

Why it’s good to include both forms of training throughout the year

Routine is great and all until you get bored, stuck in a rut and find yourself just going through the motions at the gym. Regardless of your goals, your body will eventually adapt to the training and you'll need to throw it a curve ball in order to progress. 

I’ve caught myself in this rut before and in order to help shake things up and reignite my motivation, I’ve switched up my training protocols. After I’d wrapped up body split training for my last competition, I decided I’d give total body training a try. I’d already built a solid amount of muscle and strength from all of my training over the years so I figured a total body approach couldn’t hurt my gains.

It was the shock that my mind and body needed.

The verdict 

I’ve included both approaches in my training and I love both styles of training. I think that at some point total body workouts will have a place in everyone’s regimen, even if it’s for a few weeks, to break up the monotony of a basic body part split.

If you still want to lift heavy and focus on some PRs on your squats, deadlifts, etc., while working towards that fat loss goal, then splitting workouts up into upper body days and lower body days can be a solid compromise. 

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