The Vitamin #8: Full-Body Versus Split Routines?

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2 July 2020 | by Aadam


It’s Thursday which means it’s time for another instalment of the Vitamin. Every week I drop some knowledge bombs on your face to help you get to your goals quicker while avoiding all the misinformation.

Let’s get to this week’s email.


1) What’s better for hypertrophy, full-body workouts or split routines in intermediate and advanced individuals? Is one better than the other or does it depend on other factors/preference?

For muscle hypertrophy, you need to a) be doing sufficient weekly volume for your experience level, and b) ensure you’re implementing progressive tension overload.

Once those two things are in place, whether you do a full-body or a split routine matters far less.

Consider a recent systematic review and meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al. (2019) investigating the effect of a wide range of training frequencies (2-days/week to 6-days/week) on muscle gain.

They found “strong evidence that resistance training frequency does not significantly or meaningfully impact muscle hypertrophy when volume is equated.”

Another study, published around the same time came to the same conclusion:

Thus, HFRT (high-frequency training) and LFRT (low-frequency training) are similar overload strategies for promoting muscular adaptation in well-trained subjects when the sets and intensity are equated per week.

– Gomes GK et al., 2019

Meaning: as long as you’re doing the same amount of volume over the week and each set is performed with sufficient intensity, whether you train full-body or use a split routine, muscle gains will be similar.

That said, which one you decide to use will depend on two things:

The first, how many times per week you can commit to training: Let’s say you’re an intermediate lifter aiming to do 15 sets per body part per week and you can only train 3x/week. That’s five sets for each body part every time you workout. Unless you plan on being in the gym for several hours, a full-body routine probably won’t make sense.

Additionally, if you’re doing that much volume in one workout how many hard sets can you really do for an exercise before your performance starts to take a hit? In this case, using a routine that better distributes weekly volume over the week is going to be the better option.

The second is preference: some people don’t enjoy full-body training, especially the more advanced they become. In which case, a split routine will be the better option.

2) What happens if I strength train whilst in maintenance or a deficit, but don’t get enough protein? Will I lose muscle? Also, how much protein is “enough”? There’s so much conflicting advice; the recommendations I’ve seen vary by up to 50g depending on which article I read.

Yes, your risk of muscle loss increases if you’re not consuming enough protein–especially if you’re in a deficit.

My general recommendation for protein intake is 0.8g/lb (1.7g/kg) of total body weight. If you’re really overweight or obese, then aim for 0.6g/lb (1.3g/kg) of total body weight.


– Results are happening whether you realise it or not

Kim is a coaching client who’s been working with me for about 9 months now. She’s made fantastic progress–both physically and in her attitude toward nutrition and training.

Recently, she emailed me and said:

One thing I wanted to note is that my body has all of a sudden changed. In the past couple of weeks I have even had a few comments about people noticing or asking if I had lost weight. Maybe it’s when you get to a certain body fat percentage or maybe it is a weight thing. I don’t know, but just something I wanted to share with you.

I replied, “Even though it looks like your body has changed all at once––this was the result of your consistency over the last few months.”

I’ve said this before but one of the biggest reasons more people don’t make progress is because they “think” they’re not making progress even when they are.

It’s not that results aren’t happening, it’s that your results haven’t actualised yet.

It takes time for results to show up in your body. This is why you can go weeks without seeing any progress, wake up one day and all of a sudden you’re 10 lbs down and seemingly leaner overnight.

But it wasn’t overnight, it was the accumulation of all the small (positive) choices you made every day.

Here’s one way to think about it. Imagine you have a glass jar. Every day you add a tiny pebble to the jar. In the first few weeks, the jar still looks pretty empty. But keep adding a pebble and in a few months, you’re the proud owner of a pebble-filled glass jar. Well done you pebble-hoarding hero.

Now substitute “pebbles” with “progress.”

Initially, it doesn’t seem like you’re making much progress even though you’re doing the work. But over time, if you consistently keep doing the work, the results will finally start to show.


No, insulin isn’t to blame for fat gain

One of the reasons there’s so much confusion around insulin is because low-carb gurus love to complicate it. They’ll use all these big fancy words to make you think what they’re saying is true and that insulin is the cause for, well, everything.

Here’s what you need to know about insulin and fat gain.

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One last thing: A lot of time and effort goes into writing these weekly emails. If you enjoy them and find them useful and think others would benefit––send this link to your friends and tell them to subscribe.

That’s all from me today. Stay safe, and I’ll speak to you next Thursday.