Although there is a lot of discussion about the benefits of doing a body part split routine in which you focus your strength training workout on just one or two regions of the body or muscle groups, many people still prefer to perform full body workouts.
The primary benefit of doing a full body workout is that it is an extremely efficient way to strength train. If you are a busy person or do not want to spend most days of the week in the gym lifting weights, you can perform full body workouts 2 to 3 times per week and still meet the strength training guidelines for physical activity.
In this article, we will discuss how to get a great full body workout and provide step-by-step instructions for the following full body exercises and compound exercises to improve strength, definition, and overall fitness:
- Lateral Lunge with a Biceps Curl
- Forward Lunges with Triceps Extensions
- Walking Lunges with Lateral Raises
- Reverse Lunges With Trunk Twists
- Medicine Ball Burpees
- Dumbbell Thrusters
- Renegade Rows With Push-Ups
Let’s dive in!
How to Structure the Best Full Body Workouts
Before we delve into the specifics of the exercises that should be included in the best full body workouts, it can be helpful to briefly discuss what we mean by a “full body workout“ or “total body workout.“
As the name describes, a full body workout typically refers to a workout that will work all of the major muscles in your body.
As such, a full body workout should include at least one or two exercises that target or utilize the following muscle groups:
- Muscles in the arms: biceps, triceps, brachioradialis, forearm muscles, and grip strength muscles, including the wrist flexors in extensors and finger flexors.
- Muscles in the shoulders: deltoid and rotator cuff muscles.
- Muscles in the chest: pectoralis major and minor.
- Muscles in the back: lats, traps, rhomboids, serratus anterior, posterior deltoid, rotator cuff muscles, levator scapulae, erector spinae, and multifidus.
- Core muscles: abs and low back muscles.
- Muscles in the legs: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shin muscles, adductors, abductors, and hip rotators.
There are different ways to perform full body strength training workouts. In most cases, people will perform various compound and isolation exercises for the different muscle groups listed above.
The exercises included in these types of total body workouts do not necessarily work every single muscle simultaneously.
Rather, you might perform overhead presses for your shoulders, squats for the lower body and core, etc., and the sum total of the exercises that you include end up working all of the muscles in your body to give you a full body workout.
However, it can also be fun and time efficient to do a full body workout that relies primarily on full body exercises.Some of the best full body workouts combine different compound movements into one exercise to really engage most of the muscles in the body simultaneously.
For example, you might perform a lateral lunge with a simultaneous biceps curl, you might do a squat with an overhead press like a thruster exercise, and you might do dynamic full body exercises like burpees or mountain climbers.
Not only are full body workouts efficient, allowing you to get a lot of strength training work done in a short amount of time by combining movements and working multiple muscle groups simultaneously, but they also help improve functional strength, coordination, caloric expenditure, and the cardiovascular endurance of the exercise.
Your muscles have to work synergistically, and if your upper body and lower body are performing different movement patterns at the same time, your core muscles have to engage to help provide a stable base of support to facilitate safe and effective movement.
The more muscle groups you are working simultaneously, the greater the metabolic and cardiovascular demand, helping increase your heart rate to accelerate your calorie burn and improve fitness.
It’s not always possible to come up with enough full body exercises to get a complete full body workout relying only on these types of combined compound exercises, but many of the best total-body workouts do include several of these dynamic total-body exercises.
The Ultimate Full Body Workout
Here are some of the best total-body exercises for a full body workout:
#1: Lateral Lunge with a Biceps Curl
This full body exercise involves performing a side lunge with a biceps curl. Hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand to the leg that you are stepping to the side for the lunge.
Complete all of your desired reps and then switch sides.
#2: Forward Lunges with Triceps Extensions
Another great full body exercise is the dumbbell forward lunge with triceps extension.
This exercise strengthens not only your quads, glutes, and triceps, but also the smaller stabilizing muscles in your ankles and hips, along with your core.
Because the lunge is a unilateral exercise, these stabilizing muscles are activated to help maintain your balance on a narrow base of support.
It is also a good exercise to improve your coordination.
Here are the steps to perform this exercise in full-body workouts:
- Stand upright with good posture, chest up, shoulders down, and a dumbbell in each hand.
- To get into the starting position for your arms, bring your arms straight up overhead and then bend your elbows so that the weights come back down behind your head. Your elbows should be bent as much as possible, preferably creating an acute angle (less than 90°). This will be the starting position for the triceps extension.
- Take a giant step forward with one leg, bending both knees to drop down into a forward lunge.
- Hold the bottom position of the lunge where your front thigh is parallel to the ground. From there, straighten your elbows to lift the weights all the way up overhead to the lockout position. Keep your upper arms fixed in place throughout the duration of the movement, with your biceps positioned around your ears. Only your lower arms should be moving up and down.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells back down behind your shoulders as you press through your feet and engage your glutes to stand back up to the starting position.
- Perform all your reps on one leg and then switch sides.
#3: Walking Lunges with Lateral Raises
Perform the same forward lunge, but walk forward as you do so. Instead of doing triceps extensions, perform lateral raises.
This deltoids exercise involves bringing the dumbbells straight out to your sides like a letter T.
#4: Reverse Lunges With Trunk Twists
This is another excellent full-body exercise to add to your total-body workouts.
Like the forward lunge with the triceps extension, this movement is another combination of a unilateral lower-body exercise and an upper-body and core exercise.
The trunk twist portion of the exercise will engage your obliques, rectus abdominis, deeper transversus abdominis, your spinal stabilizers, all of the muscles of the shoulder girdle, and arms.
Accordingly, this is truly one of the best full-body exercises.
You can use any form of weight for this exercise, but a medicine ball, kettlebell, or dumbbell works best. You will hold the implement between your two hands.
Here are the steps for performing this move in your full-body workouts:
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back. Look straight ahead, holding weight against your chest with your elbows together.
- Take a big step forward with your right foot, placing the ball of your foot on the floor in front of you.
- As you take this step, bend both knees until they reach 90 degrees. Your right knee will be just above the ground, and your left thigh will parallel the floor.
- As you step forward, engage your core and rotate your torso to your right, holding the weight against your chest.
- Rotate back to the center and return to your starting position.
- Alternate sides.
- Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
#5: Medicine Ball Burpees
Burpees are a challenging total-body exercise that involves performing a squat, push-up, and then vertical jump.
Adding a medicine ball makes the exercise much harder because you have added resistance, and the push-up has a narrow base of support.
For the squat, push the medicine ball straight out like a chest press.
As you drop down for the push-up, place your hands on the top/sides of the medicine ball, and for the jump, thrust the ball up overhead in your hands.
#6: Dumbbell Thrusters
The thruster is one of the best full-body workout exercises because it combines a squat with a push press.
Therefore, this move works your entire lower body, core, shoulders, upper back, and arms.
To perform a thruster:
- Hold dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing forward.
- Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and then stand up, simultaneously pressing the dumbbells straight up overhead.
- Return the dumbbells to your shoulders as you squat down for the next rep.
#7: Renegade Rows With Push-Ups
Renegade rows involve performing rows in the push-up position with hex dumbbells.
After each rep, perform a full push-up and then row one arm when you are back up. Switch sides with each rep.
Looking for more total-body workouts? Check out our full-body gym workout here.