Is Working Out One Body Part a Day Effective?

If you've just taken up strength training or are looking to ramp up your workouts, training just one body part per day is a viable option. But while focusing all of your energy on a single body part during each workout may be beneficial, there are also potential downsides to this style of training.

Working one body part a day has its benefits as well as its downsides. (Image: Mireya Acierto/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

The American Council on Exercise recommends choosing exercises that train all major muscle groups two to three times per week as a more effective muscle-strengthening approach — not to mention reaching your fitness goals more quickly.

Get 'Er Done

One body part a day training has several potential benefits for muscle building and strengthening. A single-muscle workout schedule can enable you to train efficiently by keeping your strength-training sessions shorter, because you don't have to do exercises for your entire body in each workout.

In addition, training one body part per day allows each body part to have plenty of recovery time before the next workout for that specific body part. One body part a day muscle training may also allow you more daily time for aerobic activity, a key component of overall health and fitness.

Stimulus Instead of Fatigue

Designing your workout plan with one body part worked each day has some downsides. Working individual body parts every seven days may not provide sufficient stimulus for muscle growth or strength gains. In addition, this type of training may not improve overall fitness as much as workout plans that use compound exercises along with aerobic or sports-specific training components.

Finally, exercising your muscle groups in isolation doesn't really mimic real-world movements the way compound exercises do. Compound exercises engage multiple muscles to complete each repetition in a set, instead of fatiguing a single muscle or muscle group in isolation.

Single-Muscle Workout Schedule

The possibilities for a one body part a day training schedule are limitless. Take care not to schedule compound exercises, such as pushups — which work both the chest and arms — on consecutive days. For true one body part a day training, select exercises that isolate specific muscles or muscle groups over compound exercises.

An example of a one-day, one-muscle workout plan would be: Monday, chest; Tuesday, back; Wednesday, hamstrings; Thursday, arms; Friday, quadriceps; Saturday, shoulders; Sunday, abdominals.

Give Yourself Choices

Ultimately, your choice of training methods depends on what sort of goals you're trying to reach. If the benefits of single-group muscle training don't sound like a good match, you have other options to choose from. One common workout program involves full-body training, which entails less frequent workout sessions that work your entire body.

Another potentially beneficial alternative is an upper/lower program, which alternates between workouts that focus on upper-body muscles and those that target lower-body muscles. You often hear about someone doing a "leg day" at the gym. That's what you would be doing.

Whichever you choose, you'll likely perform a variety of compound exercises that together target all of the body's major muscle groups on two or more days a week, as suggested in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. A schedule like this gives you days with no lifting during which you can rest or focus on fitting aerobic and/or sports-specific training activities into your workout plans.

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