Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bodybuilding Splits and Body Part Splits are Not Conducive to Fat Loss

I have seen the pollution of "bodybuilder" style training (aka muscle isolation training, body part split training, etc.) across all areas of exercise. It is most commonly done by high school kids and college students who simply do not know what they are doing, but unfortunately, I have seen it in many other situations as well. This includes high school and collegiate strength and conditioning programs, physical therapy, and fat loss programs. Of course, this blog is about optimizing fat loss, so this entry will cover why a body part split is absolutely the wrong option for burning fat.

For some reason, I doubt this will help you lose that gut

Note: I have no problem with bodybuilding or bodybuilder style training if it is being performed by experienced lifters who are actually competing in bodybuilding. Your average Joe, on the other hand, who just wants to put on a little muscle mass would be much better served doing something else. Not only would it save time, but it would probably be more effective following a full body program or an upper body/lower body split. Specialized training (such as isolation training) works best for specialized athletes, not for everybody.

If you have been following this blog, you should be aware of the theory of absolute intensity, which states that the greater the absolute intensity one can achieve with training, the greater the fat loss result will be. (If you are unfamiliar with this concept, enter your name and email address in the fields at the end of this post, or on the right hand margin of this page, and a fat loss special report will be instantly sent to your email address to get you up to snuff.) This is one of the reasons why improving your absolute strength is so important to a fat loss program.

Anyway, can you think of any reasons why working on one muscle group at a time wouldn't be intense enough to stimulate that much fat loss when compared to working multiple muscles at once? Here are a few:

1. Loading is minimal- the less load used, the less calories burned
2. Range of motion is minimal- greater total body range of motion is achieved with movements that involve the entire body
3. Cardiovascular effect is minimal- isolation work doesn't raise your heart rate all that much

Additionally, the most important factor is time. Sure, if you do enough volume, you can lose plenty of fat, but it takes a long time to do a body-part split workout. Most people don't have 2+ hours a day to train every muscle in isolation. Full body exercises, compound lower body exercises, and compound upper body exercises give you more in a lesser amount of time.

Final Note: I can't even believe the myth of spot reduction still exists in the general public. Training your abs does not mean you will lose belly fat. Training your triceps will not get rid of the double wave effect. Isolation training does not mean isolated fat loss. End of story.

So please, if you want to burn fat, don't follow a body-part split. It isn't effective.

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  1. Tim,
    I have used isolation exercises in a fat loss program. For me, they play the role of a "buffer" for a strenuous circuit workout, often sandwiched between two draining compound lifts. They allow me to take some time to catch my breath while still getting targeted muscle activation in. Then I can put more effort into the other compound lifts in the circuit.

    Physique-wise, I only started noticing the curls and tricep-extensions making a difference when I dropped to sub 10% body fat.

  2. Of course you have. Using isolation exercises is not even remotely similar to following a body-part split, as you, I'm sure, are fully aware of.

    Those of you who don't know who this guy is that is commenting, make sure to check out the Built for Show Product Review. He has gotten some serious results and is dedicated to his craft.

  3. I am also agreeing with you such that we should perform our body building from some experienced persons or trainers. Which they can helps us a lot.


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