Should you train muscle groups or your whole body to build muscle?

Not a fan of leg day? There may be another way to get muscle-building results...

Woman lifting dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's a good chance you've overheard people talking about Leg Day or that their workout is going to focus on their arms exclusively. Some people enjoy training this way, focusing on a specific muscle group.

That's where the best workouts for arms come in so that you can train your biceps, triceps, and forearms in a single session. Still, research has found that you can also get muscle-building results with full-body workouts.

In a recently published study, researchers compared the effects of a Split Workout Routine, where participants trained certain muscle groups twice a week, against a Full-Body Workout Routine.

Following the eight-week program, the researchers found that both groups gained muscle, had increased strength, and had similar muscle thickness, suggesting both workout styles achieve comparable results.

Both trained four times per week, but the critical difference between the groups was the downtime between working particular muscle groups. Likewise, each group completed the same overall quantity of exercise.

The split group was given 'A' days (Monday and Thursday), featuring bench presses, inclined bench presses, cable triceps pushdowns, triceps kickbacks, shoulder presses, and front dumbbell raises.

Then there were 'B' days (Tuesday and Friday), where the group would undertake seated rows, lat pulldowns, biceps curls, hammer curls, squats, and leg curls. On each day, the team had to complete eight sets.

Man lifting a kettlebell

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Full-Body Workout Routine had the same exercises but a blend of A and B programs on all four days, with four sets per move. So, fewer sets per day but the same quantity as the split group overall. 

The findings paint an interesting picture, one which should please fans of both workout styles. After the trial period, both groups had almost identical gains in strength and muscle size. 

When discussing the results, the researchers noted that split training does "facilitate recovery, since alternating between muscles groups allows more time for a given muscle to recovery between [sessions]."

Importantly, they showed that volume, or the total number of sets for each move, plays a more critical role in muscle development than workout frequency, how often you train specific areas each week. 

On the surface, it may sound as though you'd be better off ditching split workouts in favor of full-body exercise, but that's not quite the case. 

Instead, the team wrote that training "4 days per week provides no additional strength gains relative to resistance training twice per week." So, if you're short on time, split workouts might be most efficient. 

Whether you choose to workout four times a week and mix up your training, or if you prefer to break sessions into targeted exercise, you'll need a set of the best adjustable dumbbells by your side. 

These customizable weights offer strength training support for loads of exercises and are a space-saving option that can adjust to your ability. Most even have quick adjustment mechanisms to save you time between sets.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.