Finding Focus: Should You Only Work One Body Part Per Gym Session?
There is a common opinion that you should only work one part of the body in a given workout session. This is not necessarily true. Ultimately, having a strong grasp on your weekly workout routine so that you’re working on all muscle groups and body parts will prevent injury and keep your body at its healthiest.
How can you structure your exercise routine to strengthen your whole body through focused and specific muscle group exercises? We’re here to explain.
Should You Focus On Just One Body Part?
Are you a ‘leg day’ person on Tuesdays, for example, and an ‘arms day’ person on Thursdays? The question on many gym-goers’ minds is if they should work out one muscle group per day. This is called “split training” because the workouts are divided by muscle groups. They can be a great approach to some fitness goals, but if you focus on just your legs or just your arms too much, you may not be giving other parts of your body enough attention. This may be true for one who is strength training while one who is building muscle may want to go a different route and vice versa.
Our muscles are all connected through fascia-connective tissue that fills the in-between spaces of our body. Fascia can change and morph over time, but it can also fall into memory patterns.
If you’re often sitting at your desk or if you only walk on the balls of your feet, for instance, your fascia will “auto-pilot” your body into this movement. The same is true if you were to only work your shoulders or quads. The imbalance in muscle strength will have an impact on your entire body through fascial connective tissue and will lead to overcompensation of certain muscle groups that ultimately put you at higher risk for injury.
Fascia molds specifically to your body’s patterns and is different from person to person. So, making sure your muscles are even and balanced throughout your body helps promote a healthy fascia and a happy body. So no matter what type of workout you do-full-body or split workouts-finding that balance is key.
Why Not Just One Area?
So a workout split routine may not be the best for everyone, but why is that? There are a few reasons why focusing too hard on just one area can be problematic:
It’s Hard to Hit Everything
Are you prepared to be in the gym enough to give every part of your body the attention it needs? If you’re getting too specific with your muscle groups, it may take a whole lot of gym time to get to everything throughout the week. Some may also prefer to include a full body workout into their routine, which may not be possible with a split workout schedule.
It’s pretty easy to favor certain muscle groups, and when we block our workouts by those muscle groups, we might be inclined to focus on the ones we like the best. This bias is a super common experience that can lead to “top heaviness,” in which people who focus too much on upper body lack the equivalent strength in their lower body.
Believe it or not, you risk injury if you don’t work out all of the components of your body with the same level of intensity. You need strong legs for a strong back and a strong back for strong arms. In a way, people are like machines. If a cog slips out of place, the whole thing will suffer. It’s important to keep all of your cogs (muscles) oiled (exercised) to maintain good health and fitness.
How To Balance Your Workouts
For the reasons we mentioned (and more), it is so important to balance your workouts to ensure that all body parts get the attention they need. Balancing your workout routine can also be beneficial for muscle recovery, which then helps you get closer to your fitness goal.
To balance your workouts, focus on complementary components of the body, and we don’t just mean the upper vs lower body. You can find the complementary component of your body by thinking about what muscle is activated when you do the opposite motion.
For example, when you work out your abs, you’re crunching and compressing your front body. The opposite action, when you stretch and expand your abdomen, would occur when squeezing and activating lower back muscles. Therefore, if you are working out your abs, try to work out your lower back in the same gym session. This ensures that both muscle groups, which complement each other and tend to work together, get equal attention. Do the same thing with all muscle groups in your body and make sure those groups encompass a lot of muscles rather than focusing on just one or two at a time.
Rest Days Are The Best Days
Again, it’s crucial that you make time for muscle recovery to avoid any possible injuries. Rest is as important as working out is, period. When we work out, we’re literally damaging our muscle fibers and that damage turns into gains while we heal from it.
If split workouts are the route you’re going to take, make sure you’re resting enough. Don’t work out the same muscle group two days in a row and always take at least one full rest day per week. You don’t want to work any muscle group because that can lead to injury and long-lasting damage.
So Should I Do Split Training or Full-Body?
At the end of the day, whether you should be splitting your workouts into muscle groups or going for full-body workouts depends on your goals and lifestyle. You may prefer an isolation exercise for your lower or upper body or you may prefer to do a full body workout instead. At the end of the day, it all depends on your journey.
Split workouts are great if you are building a very specific training program for very specific goals (bodybuilders utilize split training for a reason) and have lots and lots of time to work out.
If you’re new to the gym, are trying to get the most strength for your time (powerlifters utilize full-body training for a reason), and/or know you will favor parts of your body with splits, full-body might be the move for you.
No matter what you do, make sure you are giving every part of your body the attention it deserves. Even the smallest muscles work all day to support our movements and it’s our job in the gym to make it as easy as possible.
Life Is All About Balance
Let your workout routine be a reflection of your entire life: balanced, well-rounded, and intentional. Exercise is one piece of a bigger puzzle, and other factors contribute to overall well being, too. Finding a focused passion in one specific part of your workout routine, or of your life in general, is important, but relating it to all aspects of self and practicing gratitude and self-acceptance is where the real work begins.
What you put into your body is what you’ll get out of it, so being mindful of the words you speak towards yourself, the food you choose to nourish yourself, and your physical exercise routine all contribute to personal growth and wellbeing. We hope that you’ll join us in fueling your body, heart and mind, at any of our locations or on our virtual fitness platform, iChuze Fitness.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Rogers, Paul. “Pros and Cons of Split System Training Routines.” Verywell Fit. 2 November, 2020. https://www.verywellfit.com/split-system-training-purpose-and-routines-3498381
- Perry, Marc. “Full Body Workout Vs. Split Routine: Which Is Better?” Built Lean. 31 December, 2020. https://www.builtlean.com/full-body-workout-vs-split-routine-which-is-better/
- Nunez, Kirsten. “Are Rest Days Important for Exercise?” Healthline. 7 August, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/rest-day
- Wolfe, Lisa. “How to Create a Balanced Workout Routine.” Live Strong. https://www.livestrong.com/article/528015-how-to-create-a-balanced-workout-routine/