Want to lose weight by working out 2 or 3 times a week? Try a full body strength training working. You can burn burn over 400 calories in a single 30-minute session if working out with a high level of intensity and utilizing short rest periods. By including the largest muscle groups (legs, back, and chest) every time you train, you will expend more calories per movement. Also, your metabolism will then remain elevated by approximately 10% for up to 24 hours afterward. This results in the expenditure of an additional 250-350 calories for most of us.

Another advantage of full body workouts is they maximize recovery time. When you work out, you instill local fatigue (the specific muscle groups worked) as well as systemic fatigue (total body). This is followed by local recovery and systemic recovery. With full body training, you can hit the entire body in one session, then rest until full systemic and local recovery have taken place. With a split routine, you are constantly interrupting the recovery process. If you train back and chest on Monday, it may take 5-7 days for full local recovery to take place. If you follow up on Wednesday with legs and abs, local recovery of the back and chest will be slowed due to the additional systemic fatigue. Add arms and shoulders on Friday and the recovery process is hindered further. (One can make great progress on a split routine, I simply want to illustrate the fact that it will take longer to recover from each session.)

Full body workouts (as well as any low volume approach) will also minimize the chance of overuse injuries. Most people have had tendinitis or bursitis at one point in their training career, but they can be prevented. Usually, this is caused by an overemphasis of one particular movement (such as the bench press), inadequate recovery between workouts, and/or sloppy form. In other instances, a very low volume of training is the only solution. With a balanced full body workout it is nearly impossible to overwork a particular exercise or muscle group due to time constraints.

The final advantage I want to address is the cardiovascular conditioning of full body workouts. By alternating muscle groups, you can keep rest periods short without compromising the quality of your sets. You will have to use less weight on exercises at the end of the workout, but in this case we’re more concerned with burning calories in a short amount of time. You can also deal with this problem by changing the order in which you train each body part. Who says you have to work legs first every time you lift? I frequently begin workouts with back or chest movements. I also do two or more workouts per month beginning with calves and hamstrings (my weakest body parts). Forced reps, negatives, and drop sets may also be used to address lagging muscle groups.

Some people believe is there is a lack of variety in full body training due to time limitations. I recommend getting your variety over the course of several weeks. Typically, I use any given exercise 1 to 3 times per month. This will vary based on your strengths and weakness, experience, and available equipment.

If you are gaining well on a split routine, go ahead and keep at it. However, next time you are ready for a change of pace, consider trying a full body routine. And if you don’t have to mop up the sweat off the floor when you’re done, work harder.