Whole-body training refers to single workouts that stress every major muscle group. In other words, the entire body is trained in every workout.
Because you will need to train up to 11 major muscle groups (chest, shoulders, back, quadriceps, hamstrings, biceps, triceps, forearms, trapezius, calves, and abdominals) in each workout, the number of exercises and sets you can do per muscle group is minimal. This allows you to train each muscle group more frequently because it receives a limited amount of stress at each workout.
Typically, most whole-body training workouts use one or two exercises per muscle group, and total sets per muscle group rarely exceed six. Compare this to the four-day and five-day training splits, which allow the weight-lifter to hit three to six exercises and a total of 12 to 30 sets per muscle group. The fewer total sets a muscle group receives, the less recuperation it usually needs before being trained again.
Whole-body training splits allow you to train each muscle group about three times per week. This type of training split is best for:
- beginning weightlifters (those with up to six months of training experience),
- those who want to train each muscle group more frequently,
- and those who are interested in cutting down on body fat.
The reason whole-body training is the best choice for beginners is that the initial adaptations made in a strength training program involve the nervous system. That is, in the first few months of strength training, the primary improvements are seen in the motor units (the nerve fibers that serve the muscle cells). These improvements allow the muscles to contract more efficiently and are best trained by repetition. This means that the best way for beginners to train is with high repetitions and more frequent training to program the nervous system. They should use the same exercises in each workout to maximize the learning effect that will have the greatest benefit on the nervous system.
Whole-body training is effective for building muscle mass for two reasons:
- The first benefit is known as the staircase effect. Training each muscle group every other day (or about three days per week) allows you to build onto the effects of the previous workout. If you wait too long between workouts, you’re back to square one—almost as if you are starting over from the original point. Some experts believe that the staircase effect is critical to muscle adaptation.
- The second benefit to whole-body training is that it stimulates a large portion of the body’s muscle mass. This leads to higher production of growth hormone and testosterone (important for stimulating muscle growth) than workouts that train fewer muscle groups. If you are an advanced weightlifter, the best way to use whole-body training is to mix up the exercises at every workout. This allows you to hit each muscle group from a variety of angles for better stimulation of the majority of muscle fibers within each muscle group.
When it comes to shedding body fat, no workout split is more conducive to that goal than whole-body training. Training all the major muscle groups revs up cellular processes in all the muscle cells, which increases the metabolic rate for up in 48 hours after the workout is over. This means you will burn more calories while sitting around doing nothing.