Total-Body vs. Isolation

A while back, I blogged:
"Another misconception is targeted weight training. A lot of guys will work arms and chest one day, while working back and shoulders another. Although this is great if your goal is to build mass, but not if your goal is to lose weight. If your goal is fatlosss, training every body-part with equal intensity coupled with aerobic/cardio training remains the most effective means of losing fat. On weight training days, I do not focus on only one area per workout. All of my weight training days consists of a full-body workout."

A recent visitor asked:
"Would you kindly explain in more detail why doing weight training consisting a full body workout 2-3 days a week is better than targeting certain areas of the body. But what if I did weight training 6 days a week, targeting different areas? And isn’t building more muscle mass akin to losing weight? Since building more muscle will increase your metabolic rate."

Any workout will burn calories but how much depends on several factors, one of the obvious being the length of the workout. However, most folks don’t want to spend multiple hours in the gym.

The best way to burn more calories during a shorter period is with a full body workout. Working multiple muscle groups throughout the body during each routine boosts the energy system of each working cell to help drive energy expenditure.  These type of workouts usually consist of compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, lat pulldowns, etc which target multiple muscle groups at the same time.  One example: The squat hits 256 muscles with just one movement.

Using more muscles means you burn more calories.  It doesn’t get any simpler.

You are 100% correct that building more mass is akin to losing weight.  Gaining muscle is really the secret to permanent fat loss as the more muscle you have, the more calories you body burns even when resting. In addition, gaining muscle is the key to achieving the firm good looking body that everybody wants but dieting and cardio alone will not give.  However, how much mass you try to obtain will dictate which style of training you perform.  Once again, don’t take my previous blog out of context.  I wasn’t stating that isolation training is bad, however, it isn’t the best for weightloss.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and place for isolation exercises (I use them too), but if your goal is weightloss, your time is more productively spent using compound movements, hence total-body workouts.  Another factor to consider is proper rest.  You should give the muscles that you work out at least 48 hours rest after training.  By doing total-body, three days per week (with a day of rest in between each day), you are allowing your muscles (and nervous system) to repair themselves.  You should be very careful performing strength training 6 days per week.  If it works for you, great, but make sure you don’t work the same muscles on subsequent days.

But don’t take my word for it, do your own research.  There are many articles out there, here’s a couple to get you started.

Multi-Joint Exercises:More Muscle In Less Time

Principles of Strength and Size

Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Strength Train!


  1. Absolutely. This has been the mainstay of my workouts since day 1. Also, see my September 10th post below.

  2. I always thought you had to do cardio everyday to get the benefit of weightloss. I spend an hour at the gym so doing both cardio and weights did not give me enough time. So you are saying that doing cardio three times a week and then doing weight training three times a week will produce weightloss? Thank so much for the help!

  3. When you say you don\’t have tome to do it all in one day, how much time are you spending in the gym per day?When I was in the weightloss mode, I would do cardio on tues, thurs, and sat. On mon, wed, and fri I would do weight training. My cardio was complete in less than 30 mins. Most of my weight training was under 45 mins.

  4. I love your log, it really helps me out. I have a question though. I do cardio for thirty minutes a day then I do upper body three days a week, then lower three days a week. I don\’t have the time to do it all in one day. I need to lose forty pounds. Should I be putting it all in one day to lose the weight?

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