Full body workouts are an incredible training strategy for getting serious results!
A well thought out, full body workout routine will do wonders for your progress and goals. Sometimes we just feel the need to switch up our routine/s.
Maybe you do a split currently and want to give full body a try. Or maybe you were unsure about how you can make your current full body workout routine even more effective…
Well, a superior full body program will include the best combination of exercises for each body part. This will ensure you’ve maximized your time efficiently, and no muscle group should be without soreness after a session.
So, hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll make the switch over from a split to a full body routine…
Why Train Full Body?
There are several reasons why someone may opt for full body workouts.
- Less time spent in the gym or training period.
- Convenient for really busy individuals.
- You can train all muscles one day and rest for a few days.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing a training split. But, for the reasons mentioned above, full body just seems so much more appealing.
And the benefits, apparently, go even further…
Full Body vs. Training Split
Well, both training routines showed similar improvements in strength and mass gains with equal total sets performed.
Another study found no differences in strength but forearm flexor muscle thickness was significantly more in the total body training group when compared to a split training group.
This should be enough evidence for you to want to do more full body!
How to Program a Full Body Workout?
It’s quite simple actually. Cut the volume down and increase the training frequency. But, implementing a smart strategy will keep you injury-free.
For training volume, instead of doing 9 sets per body part as you would during a split, you’d do half of this or even less depending on how many days per week you train.
If you do a full body routine twice per week, then 4-5 sets per body part is sufficient. But, if you train three days per week, 3-4 sets per body part is recommended. Any more volume than this and you’ll find it to be too taxing on your body.
However, the more experienced you become, the more volume you can include in your training. And that’s the beauty of increased training frequency.
You can do more volume per session without achieving complete exhaustion. But, you have to work your way up to this point.
But, it’s important to know that volume is necessary for growth and strength. In fact, a study showed multiple sets to increase hypertrophy by 40% compared to a single set. (4)
Compound movements should be a staple in every serious training routine. And that’s because they work multiple muscle groups at once.
This allows for maximum muscular overload (Hypertrophy and strength benefits) and actually saves time.
They also burn more calories, improve dynamic flexibility and intermuscular coordination, plus they increase heart rate which is beneficial for fat loss and cardiovascular health. (5)
But, including isolation exercises will allow you to reduce overall stress on your body and nervous system. Isolation movements are also good for really targeting an individual muscle.
In fact, research shows both compound and isolation exercises to be equally effective for building muscle and strength. (6)
Balance is healthy when it comes to safe and effective training.
Full Body Workout Routine
Full body training means you’ll be training more frequently (2-3 times per week). So, doing at least one compound and one isolation exercise per workout is recommended.
This is so you’re hitting the target muscles effectively, and not overtaxing your body. You don’t want to do high volume with when doing high-frequency training.
Now, before you get into these working sets, it’s essential you warm up your joints and muscles.
Warm-up Instructions: Your first warm-up set should be 30% of your one-rep max at about 10 reps. The second warm-up set should be 50-60% of your one-rep max.
This routine is ideal because it’s simple, effective, and it’s suitable for higher frequency training.
- 3-4 sets x 12-15 (1-minute rest in between sets)
To perform the front squat, un-rack the bar across your front deltoids while crossing your forearms to grip the bar. Maintain an upright posture with your chest forced upward and keep your core tight. Your feet should be wider than hip width and then squat down past parallel.
Push upward through your heels and repeat for reps.
Exercise tip: The front squat is for sure more difficult than the barbell back squat. So, do not attempt to lift as much as you would during the back squat. If you’re not experienced you can really hurt your back.
Having perfect form is imperative for this movement.
Lying leg curl
- 2-3 sets x 12 reps (45-second rest)
Lie face down on the leg curl machine and secure your ankles under the lever padding. Flex your hamstrings and squeeze your glutes as you complete a full repetition. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly lower your legs but do not lock your knees out during the extension.
Exercise tip: Always use a full range of motion. If you find it hard to fully contract your hamstrings, lighten the weight.
Bent-over barbell row
- 3 sets x 12-15 reps (45-second rest)
Utilizing a quality barbell is the first step in executing a proper bent-over barbell row. Grip the barbell with hands shoulder-width distance apart from each other. Bend your knees, straighten your back and lift the barbell off of the floor but remain bent over. Now, pull the barbell up toward your sternum while keeping your shoulder blades retracted.
Lower the barbell down but do not lock out your elbows.
Exercise tip: The barbell bent-over row is a mass builder so you can train with heavy loads. But, you must have a strong core to execute this exercise with minimal risk of back discomfort.
Otherwise, start light and do higher reps while maintaining good form.
Cable lat pulldown
- 2 sets x 12 reps
Sit on the lat pulldown machine and secure the padding to your thighs. Then, stand up and grip the bar while again, securing your legs under the padding. Lean back just slightly and then pull the bar down to your sternum area while contracting your back muscles.
Extend your arms upward until they’re nearly straight but do not lock out your elbows.
Exercise tips: Avoid swinging your torso back and forth as this can hurt your back and make the movement less effective. Do not perform this exercise behind the neck as this is dangerous for your rotator cuff. (7)
Barbell bench press
- 3 sets x 12-15 reps (45-second rest)
Lie on the bench and grip the bar with hands wider than shoulder width. Tuck your elbows in slightly and at a 45-degree angle to your sides while keeping your back arched. Unrack the bar and lower it to your sternum area. Press the barbell upward while contracting your chest muscles and push through your feet.
Exercise tip: Make sure to always keep your elbows in toward your torso. This is crucial for protecting your shoulder joints. Pushing through your feet into the ground will assist you in completing the movement.
Pec dec fly
- 2 sets x 12 reps
Sit on the pec dec machine and adjust the seat so the levers are at mid-chest level. Grip the handles and lower your elbows slightly to prevent shoulder pain. Bring both handles together against the resistance while contracting your chest muscles.
Reverse the movement until you feel a slight stretch in your chest.
Exercise tip: Always keep your elbows slightly bent and lowered to protect your joints and only allow the levers to come back far enough to feel a small stretch. Too deep of a stretch and you can end up with an injury.
Dumbbell lateral raise
- 3 sets x 10-12 reps (30-second rest)
While holding two dumbbells down by your sides, bend your knees and lean forward slightly. Turn your thumb side up slightly to prevent internal shoulder rotation and raise both dumbbells laterally with elbows slightly bent.
Lower your arms and repeat the movement.
Exercise tip: Never internally rotate your shoulders but tipping the dumbbells forward. This will cause long term issues and increase your chance of developing a shoulder impingement problem.
Reverse pec dec fly
- 2 sets x 15 reps
Adjust the seat so the levers are shoulder height. Move the lever all the way inward and lock in the last notch closest to the machine. Sit facing the weight stack and grip then handles so arms are extended. Do a reverse fly by pulling the weight back with your rear deltoids and hold for 2 seconds.
Reverse the motion back to the starting position.
Exercise tip: Avoid going too heavy on this exercise. You can really experience some pain and discomfort in the joints by being careless with this movement. Drop your elbows slightly as this will prevent stress on the shoulders.
Arms (Biceps and Triceps)
- 2 sets x 12 reps (30-second rest)
Grip the barbell with a shoulder-width hand position and bend your knees slightly. Pin your elbows to your sides and curl the barbell while contracting your biceps. Slowly lower the barbell but don’t lock out your elbows at the bottom.
Exercise tip: Never try to max out or train below 6 reps with this exercise as too much strain can result in a torn bicep. Make sure to keep your elbows pinned to your torso to prevent your front deltoids from taking the tension off of the biceps.
Dumbbell hammer curl
- 2 sets x 10-12 reps (30-second rest)
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral (Hammer) grip. Curl the left dumbbell across your body toward your right shoulder and bend your wrists away from your body. Slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position and curl the right dumbbell toward your left shoulder.
Alternate as explained for each set.
Exercise tip: Bending your wrists outward will activate the brachialis even more which give wideness to the arms.
Straight bar cable pushdown
- 3 sets x 15 reps (30-second rest)
Set the cable pulley to the highest point on the machine. Grip the barbell with hands shoulder-width distance apart and place one foot in front for balance. Tuck elbows in and press the bar down by flexing your triceps and hold for 2 seconds.
Allow the bar to rise back up but stop when your forearms are parallel to the floor. Then repeat.
Exercise tip/s: Higher reps are ideal to prevent elbow issues. Avoid bringing forearms above parallel to the floor.
- 2 sets x 12 reps (30-second rest)
Sit on the bench and grip the edge with hands shoulder-width apart. Place your legs straight out and lower your torso down until your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle.
Push up and contract your triceps. Repeat.
Exercise tip: During the negative, avoid going down too low as this places stress on the shoulder joints.
Full body workout routines are popular because there are really no negatives (Unless you like training every day).
High-frequency training has its obvious benefits and advantages over a training split. And that should be all the evidence needed to put an effective full body routine into action.
So, we hope this full body workout routine will serve you well in your training endeavors and be sure to adjust as needed.
Oh… and enjoy all the gains too!
1- THOMAS, MICHAEL H.; BURNS, STEVE P. (April 1, 2016). “Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training”. International Journal of Exercise Science. 9 (2): 159–167. ISSN 1939-795X. PMC 4836564. PMID 27182422.
2- Schoenfeld, Brad J.; Ratamess, Nicholas A.; Peterson, Mark D.; Contreras, Bret; Tiryaki-Sonmez, Gul (2015-7). “Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 29 (7): 1821–1829. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000970. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 25932981.
3- “Skeletal muscle hypertrophy”. www.unm.edu.
4- The Effects of Resistance Training Frequency On Muscle Hypertrophy And Strength In Healthy Trained Individuals: Literature Review
5- “5 Benefits of Compound Exercises”. www.acefitness.org.
6- Gentil, Paulo; Soares, Saulo; Bottaro, Martim (2015-6). “Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy”. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. 6 (2). doi:10.5812/asjsm.24057. ISSN 2008-000X. PMC 4592763. PMID 26446291.