03 May 2010

Deconstructing the Idiotic Mythos of the Perfection of the Bodypart Split Workout, Take Two, Because It Was Brought To My Attention I Failed to Address the Title

It's no secret that I find bodypart training systems to be, at best, barely useful.  I wouldn't say that they're detrimental to one's physique, as that would be absurd, but the cultish adherence to this nonsensical exercise physiology dogma is tremendously disconcerting, as it is hardly the only way to go.  Much of the criticism people have with my training philosophy stems from the fact that they're incapable of differentiating between clever marketing gimmicks and actual exercise science, so allow me to drop some knowledge on you motherfuckers.

I won't rehash the debate between bodypart training advocates and full-body routine advocates, because one look no further than any online messageboard for interminable disputes between advocates of a double split, bodypart, and full-body workout, which are invariably rife with opinions and bereft of science, bodypart advocates relying instead upon opinions spoon-fed to them by Joe Weider (though they're wholly ignorant of this fact, and just about anything else that could rightly be construed as fact), and full-body guys yammering on endlessly about "natural training" and other assorted poppycock and bullshit.

Most bodybuilding authors will contend, however, that bodypart splits are ideal for building and "shaping" muscle and a physique in general, and scoff at the idea that someone could become "hyooge" by adhering to anything but a bodypart split.  This is their contention, despite the fact that full body routines span the entire history of weightlifting, and even upper/lower splits and the like are still utilized by some of the biggest, strongest people on the planet, like powerlifters and strongmen.  They are idiots, and anyone who parrots their logically and historically unsound nonsense is doubly so, for lacking the ability to see through their obvious lies and blatant disregard for facts staring them straight in the fucking face.
Kroc's not actually jacked- that's an optical illusion.
Having given my unvarnished opinion of these pundits, I'll add the following- I hate the bodypart split for three reasons.  One, my favorite exercises don't fit into them- BTN push presses hit legs, and BTN partials REALLY hit legs when they become OH squat lockouts in the rack; clean and presses hit everything, as do fast curl and presses, snatches, and all of the one arm goodness I love.  Two, what happens if you can't train for a day?  Do you move all of your exercises back a day and throw off your whole schedule?  What if your gym is randomly closed?  You could, ostensibly, go multiple weeks without training a given bodypart due to the fact that you couldn't make it to the gym on certain days.  Finally, they're based on bullshit exercises that people claim isolate certain muscles, only because they're fucking morons with no knowledge of physiology.  Furthermore, if any exercise actually comes close to isolating a muscle, it's likely on a machine, and thus is probably not worth doing.

There's my take.  The debate has raged for some time between the two sides, however, and it's got a shitload of history.  For those uneducated fuckers out there, and you are legion, here's the deal:  bodybuilding in its modern form was founded by two guys who took opposing sides in this debate, a debate about bodybuilding in general, and which seedy underbelly of the sport they'd represent, Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider.  One could argue that the debate actually goes back further than that, and I'll touch on that at the end, but for all intents and purposes, this debate begins here.

On one side, we had Bob Hoffman, a multiple medal winner in WW1 who was apparently a physical specimen his entire life.  Later, Hoffman went on to found York Barbell, where he promoted full body routines based on Olympic lifts, and sponsored a number of the athletes we recognize as greats from that era, like Bob Bednarski.  Hoffman basically funded the US Olympic Weightlifting program himself, and was a one-man army against the Communist juggernaut of that era.  Though he basically hated bodybuilding, he recognized its utility in merchandising, so he started promoting bodybuilding in Muscular Development (which is in my opinion the only extant bodybuilding mag worth a shit).  Hoffman's bodybuilding competitions also reflected his appreciation of strength athletes, and blended weightlifting and bodybuilding to make what would seem in retrospect to be a far more respectable sport.  He, however, was one of the earliest proponents of steroid use (he had to be, as the Russians were leaps and bounds ahead of us in the use of AAS in strength sports), and he was constantly plagued by accusations that his athletes were nothing but the products of drugs.  This, of course, was retarded, but natural lifters will generally blame physical success on steroids whenever they can, blithely ignoring the herculean efforts of the athletes to bolster their own self-worth.  Hoffman, obviously, promoted what could be seen as the basic, time-honored, full body routine favored by strength athletes since weights began being lifted.  That's right- full-body routines predate steroids by hundreds of years, and have been shown, definitively, to work for natural lifters.  Testosterone was only released as a synthetic form, methyltestosterone, in the late 1940's and early 1950's- this means that people were getting jacked on full-body workouts long before that, and will continue to do so until the last real men die off, which scientists predict will occur within the next ten years.  Thereafter, it will only be eunuchs, metrosexuals, and other assorted pussies.
 Lightweight Weightlifter
On the other side, we had Joe Weider. Weider was not the burly badass that Hoffman was.  On the contrary, Weider was a money-grubbing, mustachioed, possibly homosexual Jewish Canadian who published his first homoerotic muscle worship magazine at the age of 17.  Yes, I cast a lot of aspersions in that sentence.  Make of them what you will- Alexander the Great loved the cock, but he didn't turn Macedonian warfare into naked pattycake- he killed motherfuckers.  Weider, on the other hand, published magazines like "Adonis" and "Body Beutiful" and was instrumental in the removal of weightlifting from bodybuilding.  Clearly, gay men are going to be fans of bodybuilding, as it's oily, mostly naked men flexing, so it was probably unnecessary for Weider to strive mightily to remove the last vestiges of manliness from the sport, but he did.  At the same time, he promoted a style of exercise that was a direct counterpoint to Hoffman's- the bodypart split.

 Lightweight bodybuilder

"Split and Double Split Systems of Training  - While it wasn't invented by Joe Weider, more credit should be given to him for this principle. To explain this system, it must be said that bodybuilding throughout the 1930s through the 1950s relied on a typical weightlifting schedule of three workouts per week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, to be exact) and the whole body was to be worked out each session, with one to three sets of only one exercise per bodypart. While there were other muscle magazine publishers around, it was Weider who started publishing the need to break the whole body workout perception and urged bodybuilders to split the bodyparts into two or three sessions and workout two or three times per week. This radically changed one's workout routine to 4-6 workouts per week. A short time later, the "Double Split" principle was created, where the bodybuilder (before a major contest) would divide the bodyparts even further, and workout two times a day, leading to a volume of 9-12 workouts per week. This unheard-of concept stemmed from the theory that one can devote more exercises and sets to a bodypart, thereby creating better mass and shape since it's worked from many angles." (Wikipedia)

Frankly, this was not really "unheard-of" as there's really nothing new under the sun, and I'm completely certain that lifters had dabbled with routines like this prior to Weider, Weider's relentless promotion of this type of routine was certainly unheard of.  Hoffman and Weider battled through their magazines for decades, but in the end it was Weider who won the war.  Various pundits have attributed Hoffman's demise and Weider's success to a variety of things, but that's not really the point at issue- their routines are.  It basically boils down to function vs. form, and the sport that ultimately became modern bodybuilding turned its backs on function as they embraced form, and modern trainees came to ape their forebears in their criticism of full-body routines without realizing that the opinions they hold are the outgrowth of a marketing war, rather than any sort of factual basis.  Thus, you have natural trainees who believe that full body routines will invariably lead to "overtraining", because anyone who uses a full body routine HAS to be using steroids.  Had Hoffman one, these internet fucktards would likely assert that anyone doing bodypart schemes was a shallow, intellectually, spiritually, and physically weak homo.  Yes, I know, Hoffman should have won that battle, as it seems he was likely right, haha.  The real shame here is that Weider affirmed the belief most people have that homosexuality confers physical weakness, which is likely untrue, as some studies have shown that homosexuals have higher natural test levels, and that most homosexuals had higher than normal prenatal test levels. Irony is a motherfucker.

For those curious about the history of the bodybuilding vs. weightlifting debate, the author of Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors asserts that it began with George Jowett and Alan Calvert, two mail order program magnates of the very early 20th Century.  Jowett was a strongman, weightlifter, and blacksmith, and based his programs on weightlifting, while Calvert promoted high rep training and "strict form". Neither really managed to grab the market completely, in the way Weider did, but Calvert seemed to have to make concessions to weightlifting and strongman in the same way Hoffman had to with bodybuilding thereafter.  Calvert did say, in defense of his program, that "for every one man who wants to be as strong as Sandow, I'll show you a hundred who want to look like him."  Sad, but true.

The first bodybuilder in the modern sense, i.e. a guy who stands around mostly naked, posing and being weak as a kitten, was Bobby Pandour, to my knowledge.  Pandour started out as a gymnast and later promoted lifting only 10 lb dumbbells for hundreds of reps, then flexing a shitload.  Before you get too impressed, he was only 160 lbs, and dropped dead at the age of 38.  Yay repetition lifting.

So, who's to say which is better?  I'm betting on the tradition, here, rather than slick marketing.  Whichever side you choose, however, go against the grain know your shit before you start blabbering on like you know what the fuck you're talking about.


  1. I sort of hate Weider. And Pandour. Especially Pandour, man.

  2. I used to do business with Hoffmann now and then in the late sixties and seventies, and while he was a royal pain to deal with -- possessing an ego bigger than Alexeev's belly--he was without doubt a great benefactor of weightlifting and strength sports in general. He felt that Weider had won the war by emphasizing and capitalizing on sex, i.e., how a better body will get you laid. Hoffman pandered in a small way to selling sex, but he was too old fashioned to compete with Weider in that department. Weider constantly splashed his magazines with glossy photos of big-titted bimbos (including his wife) hanging all over the top bodybuilders, and looking like they were creaming their bikinis just by being on the same beach with them. Weider's articles also implied that weightlifter=fat slobs who can't get a date. Not too subtle.

  3. Had Hoffman one?

  4. Just checked in to your blog after a few weeks away - still enjoy it.
    Keep up the good work mate.

  5. The title should really be "Retracing the Idiotic Mythos..." instead of "Deconstructing the Idiotic Mythos...."

  6. I have used body part splits and full body workouts for numerous periods of time. Currently I'm working of legs, pull, push cycled twice per week - which is not something called I'd call full body but I know others would.

    What I have found is that the training split, unless it is totally retarded, success in your matters fuck fanny all, success in your endevours is much more of a personality trait rather than anything else. If you are stubborn enough and have the smarts to train according to your goals and adjust when needed then you'll get to where you want to be.

  7. http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Macfadden/MuscleBuilder/Feb25/mb-Feb25-01.htm

    "Personally, I have divided all athletes into two classes -the honest-to-God workers and the bedroom or parlor types. There is probably some benefit in stalling through a few kindergarten movements, standing on an Oriental rug, while a talking machine grinds out jazz; and walking on the sunny side of the street for a half hour at luncheon time. At least it won't harm anyone." -Jack Dempsey, who also laughs at the "pill peddlers" way back in 1925
    Nothing really changes, yo.

  8. @lupoleboucher

    so true, the guys in my gym who grow the most, the best in their gym, are the ones who CONSISTENTLY work the HARDEST. I think there is something to be said for honesty when lifting too.

    It really is as simple as that, everybody wants something for nothing these days and they think they can buy it with supplementation or with some kind of secret formula.

  9. I train in a gym that has one Elite powerlifter and several guys with decent powerlifting totals for their weight classes; we also have a few respectable bodybuilders. The three or four dudes who train Westside-style are the strongest, but I see a lot of training methods, whole-body and split, and my observation is that every method works for the guys (i) who train hard and frequently, AND (ii) who do squats/deadlifts frequently. The guys who mainly just bench and do upper body work are generally unimpressive. On the other hand, everyone-- split-routiner or whole-body-er -- who squats and deadlifts heavy and regularly IS impressive.

  10. Finally someone who sees sense. Joe Weider sucks.

    But just wanted to say... pyros dimas was a middleweight lifter. Not LW.
    And Kroc does do a bodypart split. Moreso now that he's doing bodybuilding, but even when powerlifting he did 'bench' day, 'squat' day, 'back' day, and 'bench assistance' day like ed coan.

  11. The advantage of whole body workouts is that when you force a large percentage of your total muscle mass to fight against significant resistance, it temporarily releases significant amounts of testosterone. Some testo gets produced with curls and French presses, but the big movements make the big contribution. So if you DO split, at least do your big upper body moves first: dips or benches and bent rows, for example, or heavy BTN pushes and weighted chins. This will make the man-juice course through your veins. Of course,squats and deads accomplish this even better.

  12. This whole "Test releasing by compounds"-Myth thing is marginal at best. My opinion. But back to topic. The strongest and biggest mofos on this planet are doing splits. Just sayin´.

  13. "The strongest and biggest mofos on this planet are doing splits. Just sayin´."

    There might be a reason why. Class, homework time:


  14. I don't know how I feel about that, considering how before steroids, I believe nearly every single guy who had a claim on being one of the strongest and biggest mofos on the planet did NOT work on a split, or with anything short of mad volume with heavy-ass weights.

  15. What you "believe", Dray, is as irrelevant as Steve Shaw's completely off-point "reason" people benefit from splits.

    As someone mentioned above, Kroc uses a split. Westside templates--used by guys totalling Elite---are not full body. And I recall reading Glen Chabot had a 705 bench press, and got there by doing DB bench work and so-called "bodybuilding" type exercises for the upper body. Again, not full body.

    Enough of this fucking parroting.

  16. Wow, look at this shitty anonymous troll stepping in and...well, technically making a fairly good point but still not really proving a thing.

    Seriously though. The fact that the majority of training programs BEFORE steroids were full-body routines doesn't say anything? Seriously? It's completely irrelevant? REALLY?

    Arthur Saxon (hurrr, guess he's not really one of the biggest) and Hermann Goerner having used full body training has nothing to do with this? The fact that Olympic lifting is in and of itself full body is ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT?

    Which reminds me, i sort of loath that olympic lifters aren't included among the strongest in the world.

  17. "Different anonymous"

    I did note that kroc used a split, and so do many powerlifters, but weightlifters sure don't. And I'd say that, on the whole, oly lifters are stronger than PLers. I wasn't trying to disprove anything.

    Most of the top strongman competitors use only very basic splits, (front squat/press one day, deadlift/bench another day) but they still train mainly full-body.

    Powerlifters are pretty much the only strong guys who use splits. And some bodybuilders who are real strong too.

  18. Never claimed that there weren't strong/big guys doing full body routines pre-steroid era, but let's be real about this: It's absolutely im-fucking-possible to just assume that because Saxon, Goerner, and several other CnP "Baddest Motherfucker" candidates did full-body routines that the MAJORITY of strong/big people were. It's an overly generalized statement that stems from a fucked up misinterpretation of splits (such as assuming split routines lack volume, intensity, compound exercises, and of course the assumption that split-users are always on steroids).

    You mean to tell me you've never known even one person who was a hell of a lot stronger and bigger than you were, who used splits and was natural? Get outta here.

    Dont think we necessarily disagree, but I read a lot of comments on here (yes, usually from shitty anonymous trolls) who seem to just parrot everything written on this website, despite not having given CnP (or any routine for that matter) enough time and dedication to even be able to make such statements and judgements.

    -Shitty Anonymous Troll

  19. Perhaps I was unclear- I lump upper/lower splits in with full body. This was anti-bodypart splits.

    To the person who claims Kroc does bodypart splits, he does not- his workouts appear to be lift-, not bodypart-, centric.

  20. Aaahhhh. Okay, now it all makes sense. Now we can get back to lifting and not arguing with each other. Haha

    Shitty Anonymous Troll signing off.

  21. yeah the Weider Hoffman war which sucked in Dan Lurie, the kick in the ass is that Weider screwed Lurie over which should have told Hoffman that Lurie would make a good allie and Lurie also advocated full body workouts three times a week same as Hoffman did which would make one think that Hoffman would team up with Lurie but nope Hoffman and the guys at York just slammmed him every chance they got and put down his training routines and contradicted anything Lurie printed. The weird thing is Luries posi train system is very much like the York training course

  22. btw Full body is the only way to go all these douche bags "oh i missed my arm day boo hoo" ya know why they get all girl pissy ? cuz their fake fucking muscles disappear in a matter of a few missed workouts "body part" training and mutiple set workouts just add to the pussification of a generation at this rate in 10 years dykes with strap ons will be artificially enseminating men