Pick up a bodybuilding magazine and chances are you'll see sample body-part split workouts. Strength coach Rachel Cosgrove, author of "The Female Body Breakthrough" says that full body workouts that target all of the major muscle groups are superior to split workouts, provided you leave enough rest time between sessions. Contrary to popular belief, there's no difference between how women and men should approach full body workouts. It's still a case of picking the right exercises, training hard and aiming to progress.
Full body workouts burn more calories, writes Cosgrove, especially if you keep your rest times short -- around 30 to 60 seconds -- as this raises your metabolism. Marc Perry, strength coach consultant for the website BuiltLean adds that, not only is it easier to build a more balanced physique with full-body workouts, but they also burn more calories. This maximizes fat loss when you're preparing for a bodybuilding contest.
Full-body workouts can be highly demanding. To make the most of your time in the gym, pick exercises that give you more bang for your buck and hit a large number of muscle groups at once. The more "full-body" an exercise and the more muscle groups it works, the more effective it is, writes trainer Jen Sinkler, editor of "Experience Life Magazine." Exercises such as squats, push presses, lunges and deadlifts should form the basis of your workout.
Sets and Reps
Don't get too caught up in set and repetition schemes, writes sports performance coach Julia Ladewski. While you can stick with the traditional three sets of 10, five sets of five or two sets of 15, sometimes it's more fun, challenging and effective to test yourself with a variety of set and rep methods. Try 50 or 100 total reps on each exercise or do timed sets, in which you lift constantly for 30, 60 or 90 seconds. Cluster sets are also effective. To do them, use a heavy weight between 60 to 70 percent of your one rep max -- the heaviest weight you can lift once -- and perform a rep every 20 to 30 seconds for two to four minutes.
Pick four or five exercises per session. Choose from one lower body push such as a squat variation, a deadlift as a lower body pushing exercise, one upper body pull such as a pullup or row, and an upper body push such as a bench press, dips, incline press or military press. Switch the rep ranges around each session and always make a note of your sessions in a training diary so you can aim to either lift more weight or perform more reps on each exercise. If you have any energy left after your four main exercises, perform one other exercise to hit a lagging or weaker body-part such as you biceps, calves or abdominals.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.