A full body workout should do exactly what it is called – work out the entire body. When taking a look at a full body workout routine, you should pay attention to how comprehensive it is. Is it skipping any major muscle groups? If so, this probably isn’t the best full body workout to go with.
What is a good full body workout? A total body workout will include exercises that stimulate the muscles of the back, the arms, the legs and glutes, the chest, the core, and the shoulders. How you decide to carry out the routine out depends on your goals.
Do you plan on going to the gym, or would you prefer to workout at home with minimal equipment? That is entirely up to you. You can see great results through training with weights and equipment, or you can do your routine entirely through body-weight movements, also known as calisthenics.
Luckily for both, there are amazing compound movements where you can work many muscles at once, making workouts efficient and complete. Full body workouts and compound exercises complement each other very well and are effective.
This article will list out the major muscle groups and provide many exercises to accompany them. Depending on if you want to weight train or stick to body-weight exercises exclusively, you can pick and choose. All of the exercises are effective in giving you a full body workout experience. Some people may even decide to incorporate exercises from both categories, giving them the best of both worlds!
The back is a large complex of muscles and it’s a top priority for many people who enjoy exercising; this includes bodybuilders, powerlifters, and fans of calisthenics. Let’s get started with some of the most popular exercises for the back in a full body workout. Keep in mind your biceps will get worked in two of these exercises.
Pull-ups (along with its variations) are an extremely popular exercise because it requires nothing other than a pull-up bar and your own weight. Your own mass is the resistance to this exercise, and it can prove to be challenging for beginners. Over time, you will get stronger at this exercise. Once you get to that point, you can even think about adding more resistance through a weighted vest or holding weight in between your legs.
The bent-over row can be performed in a number of different ways. All you really need is some dumbbells or a barbell with some weights. In order to perform the barbell with dumbbells, you just need to position yourself on a bench, or a similar surface. While bent over, you “row” the weight towards you; your elbows should face the ceiling. With a barbell, you have the ability to load a lot more weight. With this one, you bend over and the barbell should glide close to your quads and towards your belly-button.
A member of the “Big 3” (along with the back squat and bench press), and sometimes known as “the king of all exercises”, the deadlift is often lumped in together with back exercises, but it actually works out many muscles, especially in the posterior chain. This includes :
- Your lower back (quadratus lumborum)
- The spinal erectors
- The legs, especially the hamstrings
- The glute muscles
- The trapezius muscles
- The forearms
Deadlifts are a very powerful compound movement. What all deadlift forms have in common is lifting “dead” weight off the ground, but it’s usually performed by moving a loaded barbell. Since the deadlift hits a lot of muscles, it can make a great addition to a full body workout routine.
We’ve briefly talked about legs with the deadlifts, but this section will provide exercises that are even more well-known for working out the legs. These should be included in your full body workout, no matter what variations you choose to do.
Squats are a beautiful exercise that comes with a variety of ways that you can do them, so even if you don’t have a gym membership, you can still find ways to do these and work your leg muscles in a full body workout routine. Here are some of the many squat variations that are out there:
- Barbell Squats (either in high-bar, low-bar, or front squat form)
- Dumbbell Squats
- Goblet Squats
- Body-weight Squats
- “Third-world” squats (these great for improving mobility!)
Lunges are another great exercise for primarily training your leg muscles. Like the squat, lunges can come in different forms. Here are a few that you can try out:
- Standard Body-weight Lunge
- Walking Lunge
- Reverse Lunge
- Lateral Lunge
What’s also great about the lunges are that you can also easily add weight to them if you want to spice things up. For example, you can hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Some people are also known to make additions to the lunge, like doing a lunge and bicep curls or lunge and overhead press.
Push-ups are one of the exercises that many people start doing when starting a fitness program,
especially a full body workout routine. It requires no equipment (most of the time), so it’s easy to jump right in, but still challenging enough to get a lot of the exercise. This is why it’s a good addition to a full body workout for beginners. A lot of people already have some push-ups at least once in their lifetime, since it’s popular during physical education in schools . Push-ups mainly work out these upper body muscles:
- Serratus Anterior
Dips are also another great pushing exercise which works many of the same muscle groups as the push-up. If you need to, this exercise is a bit easier to add weight to. It also requires some form of equipment, unlike the push-up. The most common way to dip is with some parallel bars, but it’s not rare to see people doing dips off benches, either.
It’s not unheard of that the question “how much can you bench?” comes up between men.
The bench press, along with the overhead press, is one of those exercises that is a great indicator of upper body strength . The bench press takes skill and practice, but it’s also one of the most rewarding; you will build a great chest, along with working your triceps and your anterior deltoids (front part of the shoulder). Here are some variations of the bench press that you can enjoy in your full body workout:
- Flat Bench
- Incline Bench
- Decline Bench
- Close-grip Bench
Luckily, there are still options available to you and your full body workout, if you are not quite comfortable with benching with a barbell. Dumbbell bench presses are great if you don’t have a spotter, and it will also work the stabilizer muscles; both arms work independently. You can set the weight down easier, or even just abandon them if you reach failure. Other than that, you can also get a great chest and tricep workout through cable movements, if they’re available to you.
Your core will still get worked if you decide to do compound barbell movements such as the deadlift and squat; however, there are ways to effectively isolate your abs and give them more direct work in your full body workout routine. These are great to start with:
Planks can really make your core burn. You just need a floor in order to do this exercise, but using an exercise mat will make things considerably more comfortable. The starting position looks very similar to a push-up, but you can rest your elbows on the surface of the floor (at a 90-degree angle). You can either hold the position for as long as you can, or you can use a set time, by using a stopwatch.
Sit-Ups and Crunches
Sit-ups and crunches only require a floor as well. These will work your ab muscles along with the obliques and lower back. Unlike the planks, you will be typically doing these in reps, rather than holding for an extended period of time. The result will be the same, and it should develop the core.
Leg raises can also be performed on the floor, but using a parallel bar is a great option too. The main thing about these exercises is raising your legs so that they form a 90-degree angle. Leg raises can be performed in reps, or you can hold the position. Therefore, it has some aspects of the previous two ab exercises.
You won’t go wrong by including any of these into your full body workout. A stronger core is all part of having a balanced physique. Giving the abs some direct work can be beneficial in supplementing many of the big lifts that are listed in this article.
Having boulder shoulders are an excellent goal to have, making sure your shoulders are nice and healthy is important. Despite this, the shoulders are only listed last in this article because direct shoulder work requires equipment. Your deltoids still get worked in push-ups and dips, but effectively working the shoulders requires some extra work. These will make fine additions to your full body workout:
There’s something always impressive about lifting the weight over your head, especially if it’s a loaded barbell. Some form of overhead pressing should be included in a full body workout.
Not only does the overhead press work the shoulders, but it will also work your core if you are standing up. The body needs to be stabilized and in control when lifting the weight overhead as well as during the descent . Here are some different ways you can perform an overhead press:
- Strict Overhead Press
- Behind-the-Head Overhead Press
- Dumbbell Overhead Press
- Z-Press (named after the strongman Zydrunas Savickas)
Like the Z-press, most of these overhead press variants can be performed sitting down or laying on an incline bench at the correct angle. The only exception here is the push press, which uses some leg drive in moving the weight. Regardless, the overhead press is a very powerful movement for the shoulders; add it to your total body workout!
Face-pulls are normally performed at a cable station, using the dual-rope attachment, and setting the start point right around chest-height. Stand back a bit further than you would if you were doing a cable triceps or biceps exercise, and pull the ropes towards your face. Your end position should look similar to if you were flexing your biceps.
This exercise is a great exercise for healthy shoulders, and it’s common to use it as a “prehab” exercise as well as a rehab one. It primarily works the rear deltoid, which is often an overlooked muscle. The rear delt and nearby supporting muscles are significant in helping to keep your shoulders balanced, and it can provide relief to common shoulder injuries, as well as prevent them from happening in the first place . Preventing injuries will allow you to work out longer and reach your goals faster.
Summary and Conclusion
This is the ultimate full body workout because it is extremely comprehensive and it considers the needs of different people. Some people love body-weight workouts, some really enjoy working with equipment and taking on those big barbell movements, in a full body gym workout. Some also like having a little bit of everything.
This list provides options for you and gives you some guidance on what you can expect from a full body workout routine. It does exactly that; you have exercises that will work all of the major muscle groups. Some of them hit multiple muscles at once as well! For instance, you will work your triceps and shoulders when doing push-ups.
There are benefits to doing a total body workout. The most obvious one is that you can be sure that you are getting a full session by working out all of your muscle groups. It can also save time. Some workout routines are split solely into major body parts, and this can consist of 3 to 5 days a week. Depending on the individual, someone can go twice a week and still get a complete full body workout on both of those days. These aren’t just full body workouts for men; anyone can learn these movements and perform them.
No matter how often you go, choosing exercises from this article will give you a total body workout experience with a variety of options. This should keep your full body workout routine interesting and make you want more!
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- Graham, J. (2008). Barbell Overhead Press. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 30(6), 70- doi:10.1519/ssc.0b013e318189a9fe
- Glassman, G. (2003). The Push-Up. CrossFit Journal, (7). Retrieved from http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/07_03_Pushups.pdf
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