Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube

It’s time for another contentious topic, my friends.

No, not volume, frequency, or intensity. Today, we’re talking about workout splits. Specifically, full-body training.

Full-body and higher-frequency training has become more popular lately. And if you’ve followed my work over the years, you know I haven’t been a big proponent of full-body workouts. In fact, in previous editions of Bigger Leaner Stronger, the workouts had typical “bro-split” names (even though the workouts themselves were more like a Push Pull Legs split with added accessory days).

So, it’s not too surprising that I frequently get asked for my thoughts on full-body training versus body part splits and the “best workout split” in general.

Well, full-body workouts can definitely work well in certain situations—like when you’re a beginner or when you can only train one or two times per week. But for this episode, I decided to bring in a big proponent of and expert on full-body training, Menno Henselmans.

Menno has been a repeat guest on my podcast, but in case you’re not familiar with him, he’s a bodybuilding coach, writer, and published scientist who’s also on the Scientific Advisory Board of my sports nutrition company, Legion Athletics.

In this episode, we chat about …

  • Why you should use a full-body split if you training infrequently
  • The primary benefits of full-body training (optimizing volume and work capacity)
  • How to properly program “supersets” without hurting performance (and actually improve it)
  • How to program an effective full-body routine
  • Saving time in the gym, inter-set rest time, and exercise order considerations
  • Periodization and why you shouldn’t change exercises too frequently
  • Situations when full-body routine wouldn’t be the best choice
  • And more …

So, if you want to learn all about full-body training and whether you should give it a shot, listen to this episode.

Time Stamps:

8:03 – What qualifies as a full body workout versus something else?

17:32 – Do full body workouts give you more high quality volume?

19:02 – What is a superset? How would you implement supersets without impairing your performance on the exercises?

28:04 – How do you like to program your full body workouts?

31:04 – Is that your exercise or is there another component to it as well?

32:08 – How do you like to order your exercises?

35:45 – How do you like to periodize this type of training?

40:30 – Do you do your heavier workouts earlier in the week after a rest period?

41:39 – As far as volume, what are you shooting for?

Mentioned on The Show: 

Menno Henselman’s Website

Menno Henselman’s Instagram

Books by Mike Matthews

Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Mike: Hello. Hello and welcome to a brand new episode of muscle for life. I’m your host Mike Matthews. Thank you for taking the time to listen to today’s interview with meno Hensman on full body training. And this is something that I have been getting asked about more and more, especially over the last six months or so as full body training has become the split duo.

So back in 2012, when I first published bigger leaner stronger, the first edition bro splits body part splits were the most popular way to lift weights. That’s how most everyday Jim goers thought. About weightlifting and the program BLS 1.0 was a body part split of sorts. It was more like a push pull legs with a couple of body part days on top of it.

So it was a push day, a pull day, a legs day. and in arms day and a shoulders day. Right? So it’s kind of a hybrid between PPL and the body part, the traditional bodybuilder body part split fast forward to today, BLS 3.0 and the program is similar to 1.0, although it is now, let’s. Say, push, pull legs with some upper and lower mixed ins.

I would say it’s more of a hybrid now between PPL and upper lower. And I’ve spoken about this in previous episodes and I’ve written about it as well, that the split that you are following. Isn’t nearly as important as what you are doing in the gym, particularly in terms of volume. So number of hard sets per major also per week, and frequency matters to a degree as well.

It’s mostly a tool for volume. It’s mostly a way to make sure that you are getting in enough. Volume. And then of course you have intensity making sure that you are lifting heavy enough weights. So anything over 60 to 65% of one rep max is where it starts to get fun and it starts to get effective and you can go all the way up to 95% or even 100% of one rep max, depending on what you’re doing that said when you program your training properly.

It is going to resemble one type of split more than another. So you might take an upper lower base and add a full body day. So you might have upper lower upper, and then do a full body workout. And then you might do a body part workout. Maybe your arms really need some work. So you have your final day of your fifth day of the.

An arms day, or you might start with a push pull legs base and add an upper body day in addition to it, or a lower body day, in addition to it, or a full body day or two full body days and so forth. And all of that can work just fine. In terms of bottom line results, you might prefer one setup over another for mostly subjective reasons, but anyone who.

Knows how to program effectively would agree that you don’t have to stick to just one type of split. You can create a mashup that gives you the volume that you want for each major muscle group and allows for the exercise selection you want and allows you to prioritize the muscle groups you want to prioritize in your training and so forth.

Today’s guest memo would agree with that. However, when does it make sense to mostly do full body training or even exclusively do full body training? So where every workout is a full body workout, while that in particular is what I talk with me about in this episode. And in case you’re not familiar. Meno.

He is a repeat guest here in multiple life. I’ve had him on several times and he’s one of the more requested guests that I get for repeat interviews. But in case you are not familiar with meno, he is a body building coach writer and published scientist, who is also on the scientific advisory board of my sports nutrition company.

Legion. And in this episode, we discuss quite a few aspects of full body training. You’ll hear from me on why he thinks you should use a full body split. If you train infrequently, he goes over the primary benefits of full body training. As they relate to volume and work capacity in particular, he talks about how he likes to properly program super sets.

And I put those in air quotes because as you will hear in this episode, they’re not, he doesn’t do it the way that many. Do it, and by doing it his way, it allows you to get your workouts done faster without hurting your performance on the different exercises that you gotta get done. Meno also shares his thoughts on how to best program, a full body routine and more so if you are currently doing full body training or if you have been considering it, or if you would just like to hear about what it may be able to do for you, then this episode’s.

Also if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger leaner, stronger and thinner leaner stronger as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook.

The shredded chef. Now these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their. Body ever. And you can find them on all major online retailers like audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google play, as well as in select Barnes and noble stores. And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100% free when you sign up for an audible account.

And this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime like commuting. Meal, prepping and cleaning more interesting, entertaining and productive. And so if you want to take audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audio books for free, just go to Legion. That’s B Y, and sign up for your account.

So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn time proven and evidence based strategies for losing fat building muscle and getting healthy. And strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, bigger leaner, stronger for men, thinner, leaner, stronger for women and the shredded chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipes.

Hey meno. Welcome back to my podcast, man. Thanks for taking the time to do 

Menno: this. Hey, my pleasure. We got great feedback on the last ones, especially the one we did on muscular potential. So, happy to be 

Mike: back. Yeah, I heard from quite a few people that, about that one as well. And asking, when are you gonna come back?

So here we are. 

Menno: Excellent. Let’s talk. 

Mike: Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s talk about full body training, which is something that I spoke briefly about. I wanna say a couple of months ago, I do a series of episodes that I call says you. And basically I ask really just on Instagram, ask people who follow me to tell me what they disagree with me about.

And then I pick some of the. Things that people say that I think would just make for interesting discussion. And I turn a few of those points into just kinda like monologues, where I address each of them. And one of them was regarding splits and an upper lower versus a full body. And so I shared some of my thoughts regarding full body training, as well as some of my personal experience, but it’s not something that I’ve gone into in too much detail.

And I know that you. Written and spoken a lot about full body training and have more experience with it than I do really. So I thought you’d be a great person to have that discussion with 

Menno: yeah. I have a lot of experience with full body training or in general with high frequency training.

Mike: Yeah, exactly. So I think. We could just start with a definition. So people understand what we’re talking about here. Like what qualifies as a full body workout or a full body split versus something else. 

Menno: Yeah. I mean, when you talk about full body training, mostly it just refers to literally training every muscle group in the body, every major muscle group that you want to train you training it basically every time you’re in the gym and it is good to, I think, talk about.

Training frequency mostly because, you know, when you say, well, full body training, that can mean you’re training twice a week. And two of those sessions are full body, which I think that most people would agree with that if you train twice a week or even three times a week, you should probably do full body.

Because if you do a split, then you’re gonna hit every muscle group very often, only once a week. That is most likely based on. Almost all the data we have are not going to be optimal once you’re past the Nova stages. 

Mike: And just to clarify there, I’m curious your take on it, but is that mostly because of the issue with volume where you just need a certain amount of volume after your newbie gains are exhausted to continue gaining muscle and strength.

And let’s say it’s 15 hard sets per major mouse group per week. And you can’t do that in one training session because after. Nine or 10 sets or so you hit that point of diminishing returns and so you have to split them up. Yeah. There’s basically 

Menno: three reasons why that doesn’t work well, neither in theory, nor in practice.

And that’s a, there seems to be a fundamental limit on how much muscle growth for how long you can stimulate muscle synthesis. Like. After a session you’re gonna grow, but you’re not gonna grow for like a month. You know, you’re not gonna be able to do if only you can do like 50 sets and then just spend the rest of the month on the couch getting jacked, you know, so clearly there is a limit to how long you can grow after a single workout and especially based on data, muscle protein synthesis.

We reconcile that with like training frequency, literature and strength training individuals, that’s probably gonna be less than a week, more like three days for like advanced individuals for a little bit less advanced individuals and maybe up to a week or so. Probably not. Not really more than that.

And then problem B is Even if you can grow for that period, it’s gonna require very high volume. And as you already touched on most or there are several lines of research based again on almost protein synthesis and also in direct training frequency studies that’s point to there being basically a maximum productive session volume.

So. That’s gonna lie. It’s not very clear where that lies and it depends a bit on whether you regard the very contentious and how you say it. There have been concerns about the data validity of some of the work of some Brazilian researchers namely Paul Gentil and Theo studies. But depending on how seriously you take those.

That limit is probably gonna be around 10 sets, roughly like maybe 15 based on like MPS data. It’s probably gonna be more like 10 sets. If you exceed that threshold, you are not actually gonna stimulate much more extra proteiny it seems that’s basically just the cap, you know, like your body. Gets the hints.

It wants to grow. There’s just a limit on how much you can stimulate it to grow in one workout, you know, and then free, let’s say that volume is all you need. So, you know, maybe you don’t need more than say those 10 sets in your case. Even if you do that, it’s quite hard to do 10 productive sets, like actually very productive sets for one muscle group.

It’s also gonna take a lot of time because you need, you know, several minutes rest in between all of those. Whereas with full body training, you can. Train with much shorter rests. Cause you can do bench press and then you can a set of chins between each of those. But if you know, do 10 sets like bench, press fly, bench, press, and then machine or whatever, then your work capacity is gonna tank pretty hard.

By the time you get to like over 5 cent. 

Mike: Really do. I mean, I would say that I actually, I haven’t experienced too much of that personally. And having worked with many people over the years, a lot of new people, a lot of people, new to proper weight lifting. I would say that my personal experience and my experience working with many others is that a workout of nine or 10 sets is they definitely, they have worked out by the end of it.

But even in the case of lower body, It’s not too bad, it’s not too grueling. And maybe 10 sets of bench press might be a bit obnoxious for the final few sets, but where you’re starting with a compound movement, maybe even heavier weight on the compound. And then you’re working maybe in a higher rep range with some accessory exercises toward the end of the workout has seemed to work fairly 

Menno: well.

You know, I’m talking about work bassing, the actual, the objective sense of the words literally work outputs. So mentally it. Can be easier often. I mean, if you do in general, if you like chest workouts, that’s easy compared to like squats, you know, like you can do 10 sets of chest and still gonna be probably easier than two sets of hard squats.

So there’s basically, you know, if you’re a heart, basically, no such thing as a hard BI exercise, something you can do, like in your sleep basically. So work capacity though, in the sense of the physical definition, like work output reps, times weights, time sets, that’s kind of thing. Like there’s just basically.

Some women can, they can tolerate high volumes very well that way, but your performance is gonna decreas. Like basically you can say if your performance is not decreasing, then you really have to question your training efforts. If you’ve done 10 sets and your performance is still the same as it was before those 10 sets, then, you know, you’re simply not training hard for a lot of people.

It doesn’t really feel that way. If you have multiple exercises, because if you always do like chest. Your flies are always your last exercise. And you’re used to using, you know, 40 pounds or 40 pounds, whatever on fly sets of 15. And then, you know, it’s gonna be maybe 15 reps, 14 reps, 13 reps, then you think, oh, that’s, that looks fine.

Work capacity for that’s. Okay. But now put those flies on its separate day on Friday instead of Monday. And suddenly you see, Hey, no, I can use, instead of those 40 pounds, I can actually use 50 pounds. So that’s a 25% increase in work capacity. And total weekly training Tonna lifted just for moving that exercise to a different day with exactly the same effort.

So that’s what I mean by my work capacity. Like you’re gonna do more volume for the same amount of sets, but spread out across the week. Cause in, in essence, Training frequency is basically the same effect as a rest 

Mike: interval, right? Yeah. No, that makes sense. And I guess I was looking at more from the perspective of bottom line results, like you could take and I’m sure, I mean, you know, this, you’ve worked with lot, so many people over the years.

Well, you could take somebody who’s new to proper weightlifting and you could put them not that it’s necessarily optimal, but you could put them on a simple body part split where they’re doing 10, 9, 10 hard sets. For one major muscle group in a workout and let’s say it’s chest and then it’s back. And then it’s shoulders and legs and arms.

And that person can do quite well for probably the first year or so. I don’t know, eight months or a year or so, just simply because they’re so hyper responsive. And if you could take a guy and if he can gain his first 20 ish pounds of muscle that way, well, then I would say that you’re probably not gonna beat.

No matter what else you do, right. You’re not gonna take that guy and put 30 pounds on him by getting fancy with the programming. Yeah, for 

Menno: sure. There’s now a lot of research. I think 12 studies on untrained individuals that look at training frequency, and there are two that defined benefits, but 10 that say, you know, it doesn’t really matter what your training frequency is for an untraining individual, at least over the course of the first couple months.

You can train once a week, you can train three times a week, which means, you know, you can do like three times full body or just one chest day, and you’re gonna get basically the same results. And for a lot of training variables, you train individuals. It’s basically the case that you are still so sensitive to, to, to anabolic stimuli when you’re in trained.

There’s even some research, for example, that shows that in like the first weeks of training, bicycling, some relatively high intensity bicycling actually also maximizes muscle growth. Now, if you do that over somewhat longer study durations than strength trending, generally wins out. But like the first few weeks, you can also see this.

If you look at like molecular signaling studies, The training stimulus of like squats and bicycle, ergo meter workouts are very similar in an untrained individual. Like the squat is also gonna stimulate robust endurance training adaptations, and the bicycle work is actually gonna stimulate a significant muscle growth within a course of a couple weeks that a difference majorly changes.

But the problem is, you know, that we don’t know how long that discrepancy keeps going. And how much more important many of these variables become once you get, you know, not like it’s intermediate, but like 10 years of lifting. Cause there, we have very little research, but if we look specifically at that group, interestingly crew had a study on rugby players.

The Norwegian frequency started nor region frequency project was in national level power lifters Hackman from Finland, I believe has two or three studies on like power lifters, body builders and Olympic weightlifters. There’s also one study on like female athletes from, I think that same research group and they all find significant benefits.

So if you look at like, The highest Alon of training advancement, then the training frequency research becomes a lot more positive. Whereas in training individuals, like I said, there is basically a consensus that training frequency really doesn’t matter much. 

Mike: Yeah. That makes sense. And bringing it back to full body then.

So would you say that one of the main reasons to do full body training is to get in more high quality? Volume. 

Menno: Yes, definitely. And so when I started promoting high frequency training, the literature was far more compelling in favor of high frequency training, but now it seems that most of the benefits, if not for, you know, beyond when you’re training at least twice a week, most of the benefits, if not all the benefits comes from your higher total work output.

And then some people will say, well, you know, it’s just that you’re doing more work. You can also say that for rest falls. You can say that for most advanced training techniques, they work because they allow you to do more work. No pun intended. Exactly. Yeah. So, yeah, that’s the mechanism, but it is a real benefit.

And I’d say it’s also very practical. Cause like I said, full body workouts can help you take advantage of circuit training and tag in, in super shots. Or just stringing up exercise together, which I call combo sets, which are not strictly doing a super set to do rest in between, but not as much as you would need between like two sets of bench presses.

So it’s very time effective and you can take advantage of many of those techniques and also in a crowded gym, you can see like, Oh, if I can’t do this exercise, I’ll just do the other one. Whereas yeah. You know, you have to do the bench press before chest fries. And if you have to do chest fries beforehand, that’s a bit of different topic, but pretty exhausting is generally bad ID.

Mike: Let’s talk about some of those details just for people wondering. So if you were going to do a super set, although it’s, you know, the antagonist paired said is a better term, what do you mean exactly. And how would you do that? So you’re not impairing your performance on either of the exercise. 

Menno: Yeah. And an antagonist super set is when you’re doing two, basically opposite movements back to back.

And then performance does not only not decrease, it actually increases because of antagonist inhibition. There seems to be some fatigue and muscles basically makes the muscles with the opposite function. Perform better because they’re less inhibited. So basically whenever you’re flexing your biceps, for example, your triceps also co contract.

So it’s also flexing of course, to a much lesser degree, but it’s needed as a stabilizer. And the dynamic between those two muscles determines how much effective force output there is. Now. It appears that some kind of fatigue in say the tricep. Makes your biceps perform better and it’s not because the triceps is just contracting less hard.

It’s also been looked at. So there’s no reduction in antagonist co to put it formally and the triceps is still doing it, same thing. But there actually seems to be some neuromuscular improvements, which is. Still debated. It’s what the exact mechanism is in the biceps. So if you do concretely, the order matters here.

If you do bench presses and then immediately after you do a set of cable rows, which is, if you think about, you know, the opposite movement, pattern and trains, sort, the opposite muscles, then your performance on the rows is actually gonna improve. And some research even finds that if you do this across multiple.

Then your performance on the bench press might also increase, but it’s mainly the second exercise and it seems that it’s slow TWI muscles that you have to do second to get the most benefit. Because if you do, interestingly, if you do leg curls and the leg extension straight after, you’re gonna get a pretty significant benefit.

But if you do lag extensions, and then lag curls, the LA girls don’t seem to really benefit from that. 

Mike: Interesting. And when you say immediately after you mean immediately, not even like a 62nd rest period in between, let’s say it’s the bench press and it’s the rose. Yeah. 

Menno: 62nd actually with the, is on the money.

You need to be within 60 seconds to actually get the potentiating effect, the muscle spindles or whatever the exact mechanism is, seem to basically be in an altered state for about 60. Now if you miss that window, it’s not the end of the world because you’re, you know, you’re still gonna have the same performance as normal.

It won’t be impaired, but you won’t get that extra 

Mike: performance. And so when you’re doing it, do you like to put some rest in between those exercises? Just to let your, I don’t know, heart rate come down a little bit or do you just go straight into 

Menno: it? Yeah, it’s I mean, in practice with these things, I don’t implement them very strict.

Because, unless you own the gym or like one of the only ones there, or, you know, the leg extension and Lera are like right next to each other. This is actually one example where the gym that does often that is often quite the case, or quite often the case, but for most exercise, like the bench press on the cable road, it can be quite far apart.

You may not be able to confiscate both of them. You know, 

Mike: that’s what a gym bag is for you. You’re one of those people, you drop your bag 

Menno: on the or you just cough these days and then everyone’s gone in in white margin. Yeah, just 

Mike: you just going quickly cough on whatever you’re gonna be using 

Menno: loudly.

But yeah, even, I mean, if you stop bench pressing, you get up, you walk to the cable road, then you put in the weights, maybe someone moved it, you know, that’s already. So by the time you’ve started. Yeah. Yeah. Then it’s you’re probably talking about realistically 30 seconds anyway, before you’re actually starting the next movement.

So if you actually rest in between, then you’re probably gonna miss the window of actual Anta. Potentiation 

Mike: makes sense. And, you know, it’s interesting, I’ve used that method of super setting, usually with smaller muscle groups and just to save time, you know, if I’m doing some arm stuff or some shoulder stuff, but I haven’t done it.

I mean, I did it in the past. I just haven’t done it in a while with bigger muscle groups, but now I’m interested in trying it for the purposes of. Progressing now I understand if you’re kind of just doing maintenance workouts and that’s a lot of what a lot of us have been doing. Like, I don’t have a proper home gym set up.

I have some Boflex dumbbells and some bands and so more than enough for maintenance, but when I was in the gym, Not that I don’t have much muscle and strength left to gain really particularly muscle. I can get my strength back up to, I was getting back up to previous PR levels. But beyond that, like I was getting to the 3, 4, 5, right.

Three plates on bench four on squat, five on deadlift. And as far as natural weightlifting goes I talk about that as like, that’s a good benchmark, I think for most guys to strive toward and I had gotten. Close to that in the past. And I was getting back to that. And so in those workouts where I was really trying to, I was working pretty hard and, you know, I was being very particular with my programming and deloading and everything.

I wouldn’t have thought to do something like this because in my mind it would’ve been more something that’s suitable to, again I would call it maintenance training where you’re pushing yourself and you’re working out and. But you’re not expecting to progress per se, but it sounds like I’m probably wrong 

Menno: in that.

The interesting thing is that it’s harder to do your SETSS this way with antagonist super sets or in general with like combo sets. Yeah. And there’s been, yeah. 

Mike: I mean, I used to do the chess back workouts many years ago and 

Menno: it’s hard. Yeah. And especially if you were seriously strengths, Like you, you are basically by definition, highly at fast.

Cause I agree that we’re both basically at nanny max, then there’s also research actually showing that perceived exertion increases. And I think almost everyone can attest to this. Like when you’re new you’re Novi, you can basically bounce from exercise to exercise. If you’re like really motivated.

You don’t really fatigue yourself that much. Yeah. Cause you’re weak and you know your body, basically, if you get stronger, it doesn’t make it easier to lift the weight. It just allows your body to expend those resource. But it’s still just more weight being lifted, which crosses greater Metabo disturbance, et cetera.

So you also feel more fatigued and then if you take highly advanced individual and you have them, do you know, in some studies you see crazy things like Romanian that lift followed by squat. That’s something had basically no advanced individual will actually be able to do because you know, the level of effort that requires if you’re talking, not just maintenance, but like actual, you know, one rep to failure workouts.

That’s. Grueling. And even if some people can do it something you probably don’t do every single training session. 

Mike: Sorry to interject, but like squatting and then deadlifting after you can do it, but it’s hard if you’re fairly strong, it’s hard. Yeah. 

Menno: And also injurious because just the fatigue will impair your concentration.

Your technique. You’re just a little likely to get sloppier and a little sloppier is fine if you’re doing biceps curl, but a little slop on the deadlift can be the difference between, you know, back injury and back injuries. Also not like knee injury where it’s just like, oh, I’m not gonna train quads for a week, but it can be.

Debilitating for a long time, but yeah, I think with isolation exercises is very doable to implement and also aim for progression. For sure. It’s the big compound exercises. Yes. Yes. You do see that. It’s actually funny to think about this, cause it’s, it illustrates one of several scenarios we see in literature where perceived exertion and neuromuscular fatigue differ.

So how fatiguing you feel the workout is, does not correspond and actually is the complete opposite of what’s happening in reality. If you do an attack in a super set, you feel weaker. Cause you’re doing your rose right after your bench press. You’re still out of breath. You’re still panting, but your performance objectively is better 

Mike: and you can achieve that better performance.

It’s just gonna feel really hard. Exactly. It’s 

Menno: a bit a bit like I was gonna say sleep deprivation, but that’s a little bit different, but it’s. It’s also a point where acute sleep deprivation makes you your workouts feel a lot more effortful, but it doesn’t actually impair performance. If you think about it, you know, because you haven’t slept.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, no, I’ve experienced that many times. I think if it runs on too many nights, definitely. And of course 

Menno: change because it’s gonna 

Mike: impair your recovery, but that single night. That single night. We’ve, I’m sure you’ve experienced that. A lot of people listening. I’m sure they’ve experienced that.

Where you go into the gym, you didn’t sleep well, you’re tired and you think it’s gonna be a shit workout. And then it actually turns out to be okay it’s a bit harder, but you hit the lifts you need to hit. And you’re like, oh, well I guess I had it in me. Yeah. 

Menno: Because if you think about it, it’s your muscle tissue not damaged or fatigued or anything.

It’s just, it’s a mental. But when you have that chronically, then your recovery is actually gonna be in pairs. Then it’s gonna be a chronic issue for your progression of your gain.

Mike: If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger leaner, stronger and thinner leaner stronger as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook.

The shredded. So then how do you like to program your full body workouts? What are your rules of thumb in terms of the exercise choices? And so, you know, you were just talking about, okay, you would maybe just to save time, if nothing else you might do an antagonist, you might. Pair antagonist muscles, or even just irrelevant muscles.

Like you might do your squad and then, or sorry, you might do your bench press and then do some Cal phrases or something or whatever, but you wouldn’t necessarily do that with two big compound exercises. So how do you like to build your full body training? 

Menno: I do it flexibly. So I’ll string like a couple exercise together, depending on someone.

Equipment and their goals. They have to be unrelated because you don’t want overlapping musculature. You don’t want to string together like the bench press and the overhead press, because those are definitely gonna interfere with each other. If those don’t right, then you’re not training hard.

Mike: That becomes like a press workout, basically. 

Menno: Yeah. And then there’s like borderline cases like debt lifts and overhead press. It’s like, you can string them together. You probably don’t wanna do ’em right back to back though. So you have to, you know, you have to pay attention to that. What kind of exercise there are.

And then often I like to do just as an example of program that I just had for clients, it’s like black girls squats and that’s actually an antagonist superset, but flexibly. So I basically say. Well, if you can do your lap curls and then do the squat right after you feel up for it and it’s logistically possible, then go for it.

Otherwise, you know, feel free to take a bit of extra rest. It’s not gonna make or break program and then after that you can do like a set of chin-ups after catching your breath, making sure that. Your heart rate, somewhat back to normal, but also, you know, not rushing it but not taking as long as probably the full five minutes you would otherwise take between sets of squat.

Mike: Yeah. Maybe two minutes or so probably would be for me after squat. Yeah, 

Menno: exactly. You can do it that way. And then just doing that, basically catch your workout time in half. Like if you do the math, you write it down. Some, people’s like it doesn’t click, but basically you are spending time exercising.

That you would otherwise just be resting. So it would be sort of wasted time. And now you’re spending some of the time exercising. And as soon as you strength, at least to exercise together, you have overlapping rest. So you basically use your rest, not just to rest the thighs and the back for your squats, but you’re also resting your lasts or biceps for the chins.

So it’s majorly cuts down your training. 

Mike: And so that would be a trio. Just some understanding you would do the leg curls. And then if it was an empty gym, you might go straight into your squats meet. You might rest 30 seconds or so do your squats rest, eh, maybe a minute and a half, two minutes. Do your chins and repeat.

Menno: Yep, exactly. So there’s actually no word for this in the literature, because it’s sort of C training, but there is rest in between. And it’s sort of an antagonist superset because the first part is an antagonist superset. But after that, it’s just, what’s sometimes called a par set, but some researchers also called that a superset.

So there’s not really word for that in the, in literature, I call it combo sets. Like you’re just combining exercises, but you’re not actively trying to do the superset. 

Mike: Right. So that would be your workout. It would be X number of sets of each of those exercises. Or there would be another component as well.


Menno: many of my workouts, full body workouts at least look like usually two combo. Because with one, sometimes it’s just one, like some workouts you can actually design, like you just have one good exercise and all of your exercises are not overlapping. Especially if you do a lot of isolation work, which you can also do back to back really well.

You know, you can do, if you have like a cable pulley, you can do lateral raises, bicep curl twice of extension. Maybe while you’re at it you pick up a Doble, you do the, that phrases. You can do all that pretty much back to back. And that’s fine. Most workouts you have like a lot of borderline cases. If you do Roman that lift.

I don’t really want to string that together with chin up. So I’ll put those in like the next combo. But yeah, it can go either way. And like some like rurally workouts, it may be more than two combos, but I actually don’t have that often with full body workouts. 

Mike: Okay. Yeah. That I’m sure that’d be difficult.

And then you also, that workout is gonna get a bit long as well. So if the point is time savings, you’re gonna lose that if you put too much in it. Exactly. And what about how you like to order your exercises? You gave the example of starting, which would. Probably counterintuitive or it’s not what a lot of people listening would expect.

They would expect you to say, ah, well do your hardest stuff first, but I’m guessing that’s still generally how you like to put your workout together. Like, I don’t think you’d wanna start with some chins and then end your workout with heavy deadlifts, right? there are a 

Menno: couple principles and the general rule of thumb to basically start with like the most technical heavy heart.

Effortful kind of workouts. It generally pans out that way, but there are some exceptions, like antagon the supersets this is actually something I first learned from John Meadows. And then finally we started experimenting with it and he said, yeah this actually works doing S before your squats.

And the reason they liked it is because people with knee injuries, it generally feels better. And the knees, at least they aren’t as painful. I’m not sure if actually does anything for the tissue, but at least it reduces pain. And I combine that with the lift joint antagonist. Supersets like actually cut, try to cut down respir period as well.

And you see that. It actually can enhance performance in the squat. And it also feels better for a lot of people. 

Mike: I’ve never tried that before, but I’ll have to try it when I’m back in the gym. Yeah. A lot of people 

Menno: overestimate quite dramatically. The role of the hamstrings during the squats. Muscle activation is like 20%, 20% of N V I C, compared to like a hundred percent for the quads and the glues.

So the hing really aren’t worked effectively by a squad. They’re like they’re mostly they’re stabilizers. 

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. No, that makes sense. And then you just use that to your advantage, to, I guess, theoretically to enhance your squad. Yep. And 

Menno: the similar, useful principles are lower body first before upper body.

Okay. Because there’s some research like this is not very hard. But like some acute data on the measurement of neuromuscular fatigue suggests that lower body muscles, at least the quads, cause almost lot of research in the quad. They’re easy to study, suffer more from central nervous system fatigue.

And that’s probably not gonna be a major concern in most workouts. But it’s possible that here the end of the workouts. Do they suffer a bit more and especially exercise like squats and that lifts anecdotally definitely suffer a great deal when you put ’em at the end of a workout. So I like to put those first good general principles also to go heavy first, because then you can actually take advantage of post-action potentiation.

Whereas if you do light work first and not only do you lose that benefit, but you also do induce more. Because a lot of people intuitively you may think that going heavy is in heavy weights. Like given the same training effort is more fatiguing, but going light is actually more fatiguing. So best way you can think about this.

Mike: Just do a set of just even 10 or 12 reps of squats. Yeah. One to two reps, shy technical failure, and then do a set of three same effort. One to two reps, strive technical failure. And that’s, it you’ll experience it firsthand. 

Menno: exactly. And there are a lot of power efforts that still say yeah, but there’s nothing as fatiguing as the one RM.

But no, , it’s simply not true. Like, just try, I rep squats and lower rep squats, and the difference is readily obvious and there’s lots of data that it shows you as well. And just logically, I think. You know, after like 50 percentm squats, you did like 30 reps or so, you know how fatigued are you? You cannot even lift your 50% of one re anymore.

like after the onem it just means you can’t get the one app anymore, but if you take off five pounds, you could probably lift that still. Yeah. So the difference is logically and empirically much greater. You can, like you said, you can easily feel it for yourself. So. It really pays off to, to start heavy and do like your higher up work later in the workout.

Mike: And how do you like to periodize this type of training? And again, I’m assuming that you’re speaking mostly to intermediate and advanced weightlifters at this point. I think we made that point clear earlier, right? So cuz periodization also, this is at least my position, my understanding of the research and just the anecdotal evidence is if you’re new.

And you haven’t gained much muscle and strength yet. There’s no reason to get fancy with puritization. My recommendation to those people is just stick with double progression and you’re gonna get stronger. You’re gonna be adding, you’re gonna be gaining reps and adding weight to the bar consistently.

And it’s gonna be a lot of fun, but eventually there’s a point where you have to be a bit more deliberate with your puritization. And obviously there are different ways to do that. I have ways that I like, and I think there are different ways to get to the same end result, but. Puritization is more applicable to intermediate and advanced weightlifters.

Menno: Definitely. That’s generally what the research finds. There’s actually some data showing that in, in like rank untrained individuals, excess puritization and variation in general can be harmful probably because basically when you can still progress linearly in weights. There’s just almost no way you can improve on that.

You know, if you can put five pounds on the bar and lift that again, next time, then you’re not gonna tell me that you have some fancy ization technique that allows you not to put weight on the bar for like free workouts and then instantly put on 20 pounds. Because that’s what you would need to do to outpace linear progression.

You know, it’s just not happening. So once you’re past that stage, I think that daily prioritization is the best supported research module. And I mean, objectively it is, but I think it’s also anecdotally, practically one of the best ways to program, which basically means you have like higher and lower update.

And especially if you do frequent full body workouts, I like to alternate the rep ranges. So if you’re working chest two days in a row, I do like to make sure that the stimulus is very different. So you want a different exercise and probably also a different wrap range. So maybe Monday do like heavy bench presses.

And then Tuesday you do high rep flies, something like that. As far 

Mike: as DP goes, I talk about this in the new second edition of a book that actually emailed you about, and I’m sure she saw yet, but it’s called beyond big lean or stronger. It’s meant for intermediate in advance weightlifters. And I agree that DP is great.

And I’d be curious to, to hear your you’re taking this. However, I think it’s best suited to programs where you are performing the same exercises, or at least that’s what is. The type of programming used in the literature that best supports it. So you would be bench pressing, let’s say two or three times a week, or squatting two or three times a week, and you’re gonna be varying the rep ranges.

And that’s not to say that the principles are invalidated by changing the exercises. But one of the reasons I didn’t go with D P for that program is you are changing the exercises quite often. And my experience and my understanding of the literature, I went with a weekly undulating. Model 

Menno: Yeah I don’t change the exercise often.

I typically just do basically the pure daily on the lighting prioritization, which just means. Every time you repeat the exercise, basically you alternate between two sometimes free, but generally just two rep ranges like a high and a low rep day. Yep. So not only do I use different rep range for different exercise, but also when you repeat the bench, press again, you do like higher reps.

So like one week I see you have the lower 

Mike: up day, it is like a very straightforward DP type of model. Yeah. 

Menno: Yeah. I don’t do much with exercise variation. There’s actually a recent study on that. That’s randomly doing exercises with like a, an app that generates an exercise that bits, the same target Ture, but with a different exercise does not improve strength, development or loss growth.

And if you look at the absolute numbers, the constant exercise group that you’re stuck with the same exercises or otherwise exactly identical programs did much better. Like they had over 50% more growth in all three measured heads of the quads over 50%, more bench press strengths gain, which is makes sense.

Cause they, they bench press more. You know, if you stick with the bench press, you gonna get better on bench press, but also for muscle growth and their BMI increased a bit more and they lost 1% body felt. Whereas the random exercise selection group stayed stable in terms of body fat. So none of that was statistically significant, but I’d say that there was.

A trend that wasn’t just evident in, in the absolute numbers, but is also meaningful practically. And I think that applies for many people when you start getting too fancy. Rather than just training hard and trying to, while that’s still possible progress, linearly, like I said it’s hard to outpace that with any kinda fancy programming technique.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, ultimately, even as an intermediate and advanced weightlifter, we still are just trying to add weight to the bar, but we have to do so much more work to get there. That’s the main difference, right? Exactly and okay, so you’re using a DP. And do you do your heavier days earlier in the week when you’re fresher, when you’ve come off a couple of days of rest, and then you do your higher rep later in the week, or do you reverse 

Menno: it or it doesn’t matter so much actually usually have non weekly templates.

So I have like a certain number of workouts, but you alternates between with a certain structure. Like maybe my program will be five days better than seven days. And has like two workouts, one rest day, two workouts, one rest, day , you know, something like that. And it just alternates. So like some weeks on Monday will be the chest day, but other weeks on the Monday, you actually have the full body day or something, you know?

So in general with programming, it’s good to think outside the growing calendar, because it can be convenient for some people, especially if you have. A weekly schedule for work and everything. So your recovery also has a weekly variation in it or 

Mike: people with kids, you know, cuz weekends is like kid stuff, 

Menno: but there’s no need to really focus on that because it’s not an actual variable that matters.

You know, it’s not like your body cares it’s Tuesday. Like your biceps is like, I don’t wanna live today cuz it’s first day I hate first day.

Mike: And as far as volume, what are you shooting for? What’s the range of, we could look at it in terms of you spoke about an individual session. You’re definitely not gonna go above 10 hard sets for any individual muscle group in a session, but what about weekly? Volume, probably just look at it per major muscle 

Menno: group.

It’s a very wide range. So generally it’s gonna be like 10 to 30 sets per muscle group per week, but I’ve had exceptions like I’ve had with Nina Ross. We became a pro IDB pro naturally, you know, she’s not genetically average. So at some point we had her like 60 sets, at least for like the glue Glu. Quads were like 40 or so, and then deltas were also like 30, 40, another muscle groups were more like a moderate 20 or.

So, you know, some people, especially women can tolerate pre obscene, volumes. Other people really don’t tolerate that volume at all. And they’ll get injured very quickly. 

Mike: Yeah. Anyone listening? I would not recommend. Yeah. I mean, even if you have the time and you have the will, I would not recommend 

Menno: it.

Yeah. It’s basically she’s the highest, I think I’ve ever gone with anyone. So, you know, that’s 10 years of coaching to put it in perspective. But yeah. Yeah. Most people fall in more like the 10 to 30 range growing on the side of lower while that’s still results in good progression is probably sensible.

Some people may have to go lower. Like I’ve had some wall street people and the day of like no sleep, chronic high stress. So recovery is pretty much down the drain all the time. And then even 10 sets maybe pushing it. So you really have to look at like individual recovery capacity, how advanced they are.

They’re more advanced. You can push the words higher in. Also very important. Are they bulking or are they cutting? So are they an energy C plus or deficit? It’s not a bad rule of thumb to actually just multiply the average volume with the energy balance factor. If you go from like maintenance to 20% energy deficits, then you may also want to cut like 20% volume because your recovering capacity is gonna take a hit.

And we have at least one good study on Ramadan fasting that shows that during Ramadan fasting one group that’s decreased volume by I think 33%. Depending a bit on which muscle you look at had better strength progression. They didn’t muscle growth, I think, but they had better strength progression than the group that stuck with the same volume they were doing before.

So basically an energy deficit is a recovery deficit and you can actually make better progression. Sometimes if you take that into account and not push yourself too much, whereas while booking, you can really push yourself 

Mike: to the limit. That’s interesting. The I’ve never heard it put that way in terms of the deficit, the size of the deficit in the reduction in volume, but practically speaking.

Yeah. You should be reducing your volume a bit for sure. I mean, if you’re going from a lean bulk to a cut, if you don’t, you will be forced to, at some point, there just will be a point where you realize, all right, this is not happening. This is not working. 

Menno: Assuming you were training super hard before, at 

Mike: least, you know, Yeah, true.

True. Is there, I’m sure there are. So what are the scenarios where you would recommend a different kind of split or maybe not? Actually, I’m not, I don’t think that your position is that full body is best always for everyone, but maybe it is. I’m just curious. Yeah, 

Menno: actually I would be, that’s not my position for sure.

I basically scale up frequency along with training advance. So basically anyone that I have do full body is like, at least late intermediates, but unless they’re training like two or three times a week, like I said, cause then full body, I think makes sense for almost anyone, but based on purely on the literature, it’s actually very hard to make a case of why just always training full body is actually detrimental.

Because pretty much, like I said, if you just, all the studies together, like you don’t care about any other factor, like energy deficits, plus how advanced they’re, whatever, then basically literature chef. Well, we’re getting at higher for slower frequency. We have, I think it’s like 15 to 20 studies that find neutral.

So it doesn’t really matter what frequency do. And you have like six or so let’s say either significantly or very strong trends or benefits of higher frequencies. And only one study for one out of six study muscle groups found significantly greater progression in the lower frequency. And that was more a case of the higher frequency group, just not having any bicep growth for some reason.

Whereas the other lower frequency group did have growth that was more comparable to all the other muscle groups. So I’m not sure if that study really. Should be met with should have a lot of weight, basically. The overall turn is like it’s probably neutral or beneficial. And if you also look at recovery, Inis higher, frequencies are generally positive.

Like they’re gonna increase how much volume you do. They’re gonna decrease soreness. They’re gonna improve your testosterone, cortisol ratio. You know, it’s actually quite hard to make a case I’d say against doing full body, but in practice you do see that people can end up with two high volumes and beginners.

Even if it’s just one hard set, they may get injured or just even one hard set per day. Like every day, they simply too much for them 

Mike: already. Yeah, that’s what I was gonna ask about is there’s just that recovery point is, can you recover fast enough from, cause you gotta strike that balance right? Between the recovery and the amount of volume you need to do in each workout to hit your weekly volume.

And so the question is, can your body do it right? . And so that just, again, comes down to the individual and like you said, it’s gonna be more intermediate and advanced weightlifters who are gonna be able to do it right. Who don’t get too sore, who basically don’t walk away from, let’s say five hard sets for a muscle group with a bunch of muscle damage.

That’s gonna take five days to repair. . 

Menno: Yeah. So I would say though that, like, I would definitely agree, like an untrained individual don’t wanna have them do even one heart Saturday, probably, but with there are still ways to actually make it very effective. Cuz the, I think the two studies in the literature that reported the highest ever muscle growth rates, they were with blood flow restriction training, every muscle group twice a day in untraining individuals.

So at least in the short term that can actually end with plus restriction training, which is it’s debatable. If that’s it’s easier to recover from, for the joints, it certainly. But even then, you know, it might work, but it’s definitely unconventional and requires a bit different training programming practice.

So I’m not an advocate of it, but and 

Mike: you can only do it for your limbs. I mean, so it’s also limited in that regard, like, yeah, that might be good for 

Menno: your arms and yeah, you can actually implement bus restriction training also for non included muscle groups, as long as the limb is a limiting factor in the performance.

Okay. So yeah, that’s probably something to get into in a different podcast because I have to go in one minute. Yeah. But yet it is a, an interesting. Finding and research 

Mike: mental note, cuz I’ve only used it and spoke about it in the context of you got your arms and you got your legs. There you go.

Menno: yeah. So yeah, that’s a traditional way to implement it. 

Mike: Totally. Okay. Good. Well that actually coincides with the, that was the last point I had that I wanted to ask you about. So I think this has been a great in depth discussion of full body training and. For people who want to, if they wanna do some of your workouts, for example, because I think we’ve done a good job covering the big moving parts, but there might be some still some questions like, all right, how do I actually turn this into a workout program I can use.

Can people find some full body workouts of yours on your website? Or do you sell 

Menno: them? Or I don’t really sell workouts. I just have coaching in my PT course, but you can get a lot of information for free. If you go to my website, be and then writes on the main page. There’s a big button that says like free email course, putting your email click hit.

You get like a tour of my most popular contents, which also include training frequency and some previews for my PT course. Some excerpts, just a lot of free information. Of course, after that, I’m gonna teach you with like full course and everything, but that’s probably the best way to, to learn more about this or just search training frequency on my website.

Cause there’s. A ton of stuff on there. 

Mike: Okay. Perfect. Perfect. And is there anything else you’d like people to know about before we wrap up here? Anything new and exciting, or do you wanna talk about your PT course as well? No, 

Menno: they’ll they’ll see all of that. If they’re interested in, they they do free course or browse on the website.

I’m not best salesman, so 

Mike: yeah. Yeah, no, I just wanna get, I just. To always like to ask, cuz sometimes people do have things like, oh, I do have this thing coming up or I’m about to release this new thing, you know? Yeah. 

Menno: What I have coming up is a client consult, so 

Mike: okay. Perfect man. Well, thanks taking the time I look forward to the next one.

Menno: Yeah, it was a great talking to you and let me know when this goes online now. Be sure to share it. Okay. 

Mike: Thank you. All right. See ya. All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or.

Wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in because that not only convinces people, that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility and thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well.

And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes, Then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at Mike muscle for, just muscle F or and share your thoughts on how I can do this better.

I read everything myself and I’m always looking or constructive feedback, even if it is criticism. I’m open to it. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well. Or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with. Definitely send me an email that is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at multiple

And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode. And I hope to hear from you soon.

View Complete Transcript