Getting a full body workout means that you are working every muscle group in your body. You do this with a series of target exercises that manage to work, in one way or another, all your major muscles groups. This varies from a "split routine," which works different areas of your body on different days. For example, you do leg exercises on Monday, chest and back exercises on Wednesday, and shoulders and arm exercises on Friday.

I hear what you're thinking -- there's no possible way you have time to work out your entire body every day. The good news is, you don't have to and, in fact, you don't want to. There, feel better?

If you're just starting out on an exercise program or don't have time to work out every day, a full body workout gets in a full range of exercises in a short amount of time. This comprehensive approach allows beginners to ease into a routine as they become more fit. It also helps experienced athletes squeeze a full range of exercises into a busy schedule.

Who Should Do a Full Body Workout?

Instructor teaching a woman how to do a hanging cable push ups

No matter what your current workout regimen may be, converting to a full body workout can be very taxing. In the above split routine example, your legs may have a whole week to recover before you stress them again. In a full body workout, you are working all your muscle groups at every workout, giving them less rest. On the other hand, by using a full body program, you'll be able to skip a day or two at the gym, which gives you more flexibility.

Beginners

If you are just starting on a workout routine, a full body workout can let you ease into your new regimen. You can work as hard or as often as you are comfortable through the entire range of exercises. If you have been exercising for a while, you have probably made it part of your daily routine. With a full body workout, you have the option of skipping a day or two without putting one group at risk.

Full body workouts can also work well for many older adults. Even those with specific health issues can alter their routine to accommodate their current fitness level. For people who prefer doing an intense cardio workout, a full body workout can get that heart rate up with every workout. Even if you only work out a couple of times a week, you can keep your pulse up without strength training.

Pros and Cons of a Full Body Workout

Woman showing her ripped back

Just like any other human endeavor, there are pros and cons. Some things will be seen as benefits of a full body workout, while others may not appeal to everyone. Here are some of the pros and cons of a full body workout.

Pros

One of the best benefits of a full body workout comes if you miss a workout for whatever reason. Missing a session or two will not throw your routine out of balance. You will have already worked all your muscle groups during your last workout and will again next time.

By working every muscle group in each workout, you will also be building a more balanced body. This is how your body more naturally develops. Each muscle group is affected by every other muscle group. Consequently, a light full body workout makes it easier for your body to recover from than an intense split routine.

Cons

Sometimes you want to focus on a particular muscle group. If you need to do more work on your legs than anything else, a full body workout may make that more difficult. If this is the case for you, you may want to build up your legs first, and then switch to a full body workout.

You could be overtraining. If you do not organize your workouts correctly, you can overtrain some muscle groups, which means they'll take much longer to recover. You can avoid this by reducing the number of repetitions for certain exercises or even lowering the weight used for those muscle groups.

Sustaining an intense workout several times per week can sometimes be difficult. When you reach more advanced stages of your workout (or lift heavier weights), you may need to adjust your routine.


Choose from These Full Body Workout Types

Woman holding a pair of dumbbells while looking at the mirror

There are several types of full body routines that you can do, some with heavy equipment and some with no equipment at all. Choose a routine that fits your resources. If you're on a budget, you can choose body resistance or resistance bands to get in shape. With a small investment, you can get in a full body workout with an inexpensive set of dumbbells.

Free weights

The idea of lifting weights for exercise dates back centuries. It builds muscle and burns body fat. However, there is always a risk of doing damage to your joints, tendons, and muscles, so always choose your weight carefully. Start with light weights and slowly move up to heavier weights as your workout begins to feel easier.

One benefit to the free weight workout is the simplicity of the equipment and the ability to increase the level of challenge on a gradient. Simply by adding more weight, you can increase your strength. If you start with a basic set of barbells, dumbbells, and weight plates, you can also add to your collection as you need without a major investment in equipment. Purchase additional weight plates as needed.

Bodybuilding.com provides an excellent full body workout routine for free-weights based on your proficiency level. Alternatively, try this 30-minute routine from BodyFit that works your entire body with nothing but a set of dumbbells.

Exercise machines

For this type of workout, the most popular method is to do Pyramid Sets. This means you start with more repetitions and less weight. Over time, you begin adding slightly more weight and reducing the numbers of reps. This causes your muscles to engage more muscle fibers as you increase the workout intensity.

The major benefit of using exercise machines, as opposed to free weights, is that they reduce the chance of injury. The machines help stabilize the load and help ensure that you keep better form for a more effective and safer workout. You need not worry as much about your muscles giving out from overstress and causing an accident with the weights.

Muscle and Fitness provides a great basic 30-minute full body workout to do at your local gym. For beginners, the following video shows how to use the workout machines at your gym to get a full body workout in about 12 minutes.

Band resistance

Resistance bands are becoming increasingly popular as exercise tools. While free weights are large, bulky, and heavy, bands are small, convenient, lightweight, and easy to store. You can even take them when you travel so you won't miss a workout. If used properly, they are practical for exercising all muscle groups.

One of the most significant benefits of a band resistance program is that they're easier on your joints and ligaments than dumbbells or kettlebells. They're also very inexpensive. For people who aren't looking to bench press 250 pounds, resistance bands offer adequate resistance for strength training without breaking the budget.

The Daily Burn offers an excellent resistance band full body workout. Or you can try this 30-minute workout from HASfit.

Body weight resistance

It's possible to do a full body workout without going to the gym or purchasing any additional equipment at all. Not only is a bodyweight routine an effective full body workout, but you can also do it anywhere and at any time. With a body resistance workout, you use the resistance offered by gravity to build strength. You may also use your muscles against each other, such as in isometric exercises.

The most outstanding benefit of a body weight resistance workout is that it's completely free. It's an especially good choice for beginners. If your goal is to get completely buff, but you've been sedentary for some time, a body resistance workout will help you work up to a more strenuous routine while avoiding injury.

And even if you are not a beginner, you can burn off fat, build some muscle, and get a full body workout. This series of lunges, squats, and other exercises from Nerd Fitness use just your body weight for resistance, and you'll still feel the burn. Or try this 30-minute routine from BodyFit.

Tips for Starting a Full Body Workout Routine


Once you've chosen one of these workouts, you should approach a new routine thoughtfully. First of all, consult your doctor and make sure that you're physically up to working out. This is especially important if you've had recent health problems, are over 35, or have been sedentary for several years. It doesn't take as long as you'd think to get out of shape if you haven't been active. These additional tips will also help you adapt to a full body workout routine with optimal results and minimal injury.


Warm up

In some ways, warming up can be more important than your actual workout. Prepare your body to face the stress and strain you are about to subject it to. You can avoid strains, pulls, and cramping by doing an adequate warm up before your full routine. This will not only help keep you from being injured, but it will also get you at full power quicker once you begin.


Only train every two or three days

Bodyweight Exercises For Women

Bodyweight Exercises For Women: Simple Exercises to Help you Lose Weight and Sculpt your Body (Fit Expert Series)
  • Andy Charalambous
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Edition no. 1 (05/30/2014)
  • Paperback: 168 pages

When you train every two or three days, you can use the days between muscle straining workouts to heal. You may also want to use that time between workouts to do your cardio workout. Doing cardio at the end of a full strength training session may be too much for one day. And if you're going for muscle bulk, often the recovery time is more critical than the actual workout. Give your body a chance to heal and rest.


Train equally hard in all segments

100 No-Equipment Workouts

100 No-Equipment Workouts Vol. 1: Fitness Routines you can do anywhere, Any Time
  • Neila Rey
  • Publisher: New Line Publishing
  • Edition no. 0 (11/06/2013)
  • Paperback: 210 pages

Some people who start a full body workout will inadvertently hold off on some muscle groups and go hard on others. However, if you are not going hard for the entire workout, you won't get the full benefits of the program. This applies equally to weight training, machine-based workouts, band resistance workouts, or body weight resistance routines. Try to keep the weights and pressure as consistent as you can without jeopardizing safely.


Set the goal of finishing your routine in less than an hour

Overly long workouts can overtax your muscles and cause fatigue that may discourage you from keeping your schedule. For that reason, maintaining a workout time of 60-minutes or less seems to be ideal for a full body workout. Many sports health experts have found that shorter workouts are often just as effective as longer ones.


Keep track of your progress

As long as you have committed to your full body workout, make sure you have a way to determine if it is working. Write down your vital statistics and monitor them regularly. Many take measurements and record their weight on a weekly basis. It's a good idea to make this an "off-training" day so that dehydration or muscle swelling doesn't skew your results.

Keep track of your reps, sets, and weight lifted, too. You'll see how you have progressed over time, and how far. It can also tell you if you need to go harder in some areas and pull back a bit in others. And it will certainly help motivate you when you need an extra push.


Are Your Ready to Start Your Full Body Workout?

Woman performing yoga while on the beach

Exercise is hard, time-consuming, aching, smelly work. But, the benefits will eventually outweigh the effort if you give it enough time and stay dedicated. No routine is guaranteed to work on every individual. And none of them work overnight. Hopefully, we've provided a few tips to get you started and stay on track while your new fitness routine becomes second nature. The demands are great, but the rewards are greater.

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