Full body workouts have always been popular.
The reason for their effectiveness is they allow you to train hard and only 3 days a week. This type of programming allows most to optimally recover between training sessions.
They’re perfect for any experience level. Beginners will thrive when using full body workouts. Intermediates will continue to notice progress towards their goals. And advanced lifters will be able to maintain their size and slowly build upon their established foundation.
In this article, we’ll discuss 5 of the most important exercises you should include into your full body workout routine. Then, we will give you an excellent full body workout routine to help you achieve your goals.
Lastly, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding full body workout.
5 Best Exercises for Full Body Workouts
When it comes to writing an effective full body workout, exercise selection is key.
Since you aren’t training frequently throughout the week, the exercises you choose to do should provide a lot of bang for your buck.
The best way to accomplish this is by including compound exercises in your workouts. Compound exercises are exercises that require multi-joint movements to achieve the full range of motion. As a result, they recruit more muscles to perform resulting in a higher calorie burn and more muscle stimulation.
The 5 we’ve listed below are arguably the best to perform. We’ve listed them in their most traditional variations, however, most can be performed a number of different ways to meet the individual needs of the person using the program. Experiment or work with a trainer to find the best variation for yourself.
The deadlift could very well be the most important movement you learn throughout your lifting career. It is a hip-hinge movement that builds the entire posterior chain. Perfecting your deadlift form and becoming relatively strong at the exercise lends itself very well to keeping one healthy and injury free throughout life.
As a result, the deadlift will be included in most workout routines you find online. That being said, not everyone is comfortable performing the conventional deadlift. Luckily, there are many deadlift variations out there and most people can find one they’re able to comfortably perform.
The most popular among beginners is the trap bar deadlift, as it puts the lifter in a more favorable upright lifting position. If you struggle with the deadlift, seek out the help of a trained professional to find an appropriate variation to perform.
The squat is another classic exercise you’ll find in most workout routines online. It is a compound exercise that trains a very fundamental movement pattern. Like the deadlift, the squat is a movement pattern that requires a lot of mobility and it is important to build and maintain efficiency throughout life.
The most popular variation of the squat is the barbell back squat. It also happens to be one of the more advanced variations one can perform – so if you need to, begin with an easier variation such as the goblet or front squat.
The squat is a complete lower body builder. Simply by getting good at squats, you’ll notice that your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves all grow. And since they are one of the toughest movements to perform, you’ll also burn a ton of calories in the process of your workouts by including them.
The barbell bent over row is an often overlooked exercise, but there’s a reason the golden era bodybuilders performed them consistently. They’re an absolute back mass building exercise.
If you want to build the coveted V-taper, perfecting the row movement pattern is key. The stronger you get at them, the denser your back will appear.
Most don’t have issues performing the barbell bent over row. However, if you notice your shoulders or elbows build up nagging injuries there are plenty of alternatives you can perform.
One could build an impressive and strong, albeit not completely aesthetic, physique simply by utilizing these first 3 exercises alone.
4. Bench Press
To round out the aesthetic appearance, you need to include some of the press movements into your routine. Unfortunately for some, especially beginners, it’s easier to focus on the press movements while neglecting the three prioritized higher on this list.
That being said, they are still very important to train. The horizontal push is very much a foundational movement pattern and the bench press is the easiest way to become super-efficient at the movement.
Like the barbell row, if you suffer from some nagging joint discomfort, you may want to research and experiment with alternate variations of the horizontal push until you find a variation you’re comfortable performing.
The bench press works the muscles of the chest, shoulders (primarily front delt) and triceps. By perfecting the movement and becoming stronger at it, you will build all of these muscle groups.
5. Overhead Press
The final movement pattern everyone should include into their full body workout routines is the overhead press. The overhead press trains the important vertical push movement pattern.
Overhead presses primarily target the muscles of the shoulder but will also indirectly target the triceps and require a ton of core stability to perform efficiently.
Perfecting this movement pattern and getting stronger at it equates to better shoulder development and a strong and sturdy core.
Again, the barbell variation isn’t for everyone. You may find it bothers your shoulders or elbows. If this is the case, research and work with someone to find an appropriate variation for yourself. Then, proceed to perfect the movement pattern.
M&S Full Body Schedule & Overview
This is a muscle and strength building program for beginner and early intermediate lifters. It is designed to target all major and minor muscle groups, allowing you to maximize hypertrophy (the muscle building process) through the use of progressive resistance.
You will be training 3 days per week, resting at least one day in between sessions. Here is a sample schedule:
- Monday - Workout A
- Wednesday - Workout B
- Friday - Workout C
M&S Full Body Workout Notes
How to work ramped 5x5 sets
The first 2 sets are "working warm up" sets. The weight you use for your warm up sets will be based upon the resistance used during your 3 working sets. Here is the set up:
- Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
- Sets 3-5 - 100% (working weight) x 5 reps
So if you are using 200 pounds as your working weight for sets 3, 4 and 5, your workout would look like this:
- Set 1 - 120 pounds (60%) x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 160 pounds (80%) x 5 reps
- Sets 3-5 - 200 pounds (working weight) x 5 reps
Ramped 3x5 sets for deadlifts
This is performed in the same way you worked your 5x5 ramped sets, but with only one working set:
- Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
- Sets 3 - 100% (working weight) x 5 reps
Workout C - Ramped 3x5 squats
If your squat sets during Workout A felt manageable, try to add 5 pounds to your working set during Workout C. Here's how your Workout C squatting would look like:
- Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
- Sets 3 - Workout A's working weight + 5 pounds x 5 reps
How much weight to use per set
For a given exercise, use the same weight for each set. When this amount of resistance feels manageable, add another 5-10 pounds to the bar. You want to focus on progression at all times, so when you are able to, load the bar.
Progression of weight drives gains. It is essential, and this program will not yield gains without it.
Rest between sets
For major lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and barbell rows, rest about 2 minutes in between sets. You can use 60 to 90 seconds rest between sets for all other movements.
|Bench Press (Ramped)||5||5|
|Barbell Row (Ramped)||5||5|
|Ab Wheel Roll Out||3||10-15|
|Seated Overhead Press||3||8-10|
|Pull Ups or Inverted Rows||3||10-15|
|Standing or Seated Calf Raise||3||12-15|
|Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||3||10|
|One Arm Dumbbell Row||3||10-15|
|Seated Arnold Press||3||10-15|
|Cable Tricep Extensions||3||10|
|Ab Wheel Roll Out||3||10-15|
FAQs about Full Body Workouts
In this section, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about full body workout routines according to google.
If you have any additional questions about the routine listed above or full body workouts in general, please feel free to leave us a comment below.
1. Can you do full body workouts every day?
You can, yes. However, for most, it won’t provide that much benefit.
Those who primarily perform a full body workout every day are generally on contest prep. If you’re simply looking to improve your physique and/or health, performing a full body workout 2-4 times per week is plenty.
If you’re thinking working out more frequently will equate to you achieving results faster, think again. Building muscle, getting stronger, and losing body fat all take time. It’s a process and takes consistent dedication.
Instead of opting to go to the gym every day, look to modify other behaviors in your life to ensure you get the best results possible and seek out other hobbies that are conducive to the overall lifestyle you’d like for yourself.
2. Is it better to do a full body workout?
Better is subjective. Full body workouts are a good fit for most recreational lifters as they provide a sufficient amount of work in an efficient amount of time for most peoples’ lifestyles.
However, for those who have goals to become completive lifters or competitive strength athletes, once you surpass a certain training threshold, you may require more stimulus to achieve the results you’d like.
That being said, getting to this point will take quite a bit of time and it’s important when weight training to always opt for the lowest total amount of work it requires to achieve the maximum amount of results.
3. How many times a week should you do full body workouts?
For most performing a full body workout routine anywhere between 2-4 weight training sessions per week is sufficient to build strength and improve body composition.
This particular routine calls for 3 full body workouts per week. That falls into the range listed above and will result in great progress for most individuals.
Start out slow. Improve upon your lifts. Build up your strength and lean muscle mass slowly over the years. Once things stop working, look to modify slightly.
4. Can you build muscle with a full body workout?
Full body workouts are extremely effective for those looking to build lean muscle. They accomplish everything required to stimulate hypertrophy.
They allow you to maximize your workload in any one training session. They allow you to train each muscle with a higher training frequency throughout the week. And they provide an optimal amount of time in between training sessions to promote muscle recovery.
However, to build muscle, you will need the nutritional stimulus as well. You’ll have to eat in a caloric surplus and you will have to eat a sufficient amount of protein each day.
Taking things a step further, to completely optimize your muscle growth you’ll want to consume your protein periodically throughout the day and at ~25-40g per meal.
Lastly, you’ll want to ensure you get your sleep as it may very well be the most critical part of the muscle building equation.
5. How long should full body workouts be?
It depends on the total amount of work being performed in the session. Most full body workouts will generally take anywhere between 45-90 minutes to complete.
This will depend on several different factors including weight used, rep tempo, rest times, rep and set counts, etc.
6. Should you perform cardio on your rest days?
Yes, you can perform cardio during the rest days of a full body workout routine. You will want to be conscious of your individual ability to recover and your overarching fitness goal, however.
For those looking to build lean muscle mass, performing HIIT on rest days doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only are you increasing the amount of calories you’ll need to consume to build muscle, you’ll also be jeopardizing your ability to recover in between training sessions.
For most, a light cardio session such as walking on rest days seems to work best. It can help alleviate muscle soreness, promote recovery, and burn calories without sacrificing muscle tissue.
7. Are full body workouts or splits better?
It depends on your goal, experience level, and the split you’re talking about. As mentioned throughout this article, full body workouts are great for most individuals. It allows you to get in a lot of work to promote muscle growth without having to dedicate your entire life to the gym.
If you have competition goals or are more advanced, however, you may require more stimulus to achieve the results you want.
Most will be able to progress from their full body workouts into an upper/lower split and see phenomenal results. Others who are even more advanced may need to increase their training frequency and progress from upper/lower splits to push/pull/legs splits.
Most will want to avoid body part splits as they require a lot of time to perform and don’t allow you to get as much work in as you could utilizing the other split styles.