A full body workout is exactly what it sounds like—a way to work your full body. If you’re trying to get in shape, lose weight, build muscle, or just generally be healthier, you need to work the full body.
Even if the key problem is that extra belly fat you want to get rid of, you need to work the full body not just your belly. In this guide, we’ll talk about the why and the how of crafting a full body workout that helps you accomplish your fitness goals. We’ll also give you a few bonus tips to help you get the most out of your workout!
How Do Different Workouts Affect Your Body?
Every single type of workout can be divided into 2 broader categories: cardio and strength. If it gets your heart pumping and requires a lot of sustained movement, it’s cardio. If it pushes your muscles to their limit but doesn’t use much movement, it’s strength. Think of it as the difference between running a marathon and bench pressing a heavy barbell.
So what’s the difference between these workouts in terms of their effects on your body? Let’s take a quick look at each:
Cardio gets your heart pumping which sends the whole body into action. Whether you’re running or swimming, cardio will wake up every muscle and organ in you from your head to your toe.
The main advantage of cardio is fat burning. It wakes up your metabolism and uses up a lot of calories to power you through the activity. So if you need to burn a lot of calories, cardio is going to do more for you than strength training.
To make it even more appealing, cardio raises your resting metabolic rate as well. That is, when you’re just sitting down, your body still burns calories to maintain basic bodily functions. After a workout, it burns even more calories to maintain basic bodily functions than it would if you hadn’t worked out.
However, the best cardio workout can only do so much if it’s not complemented by strength training. That’s because muscles burn more calories than fat. So without building some muscle, you’re limiting the total number of calories you can actually burn during your cardio workout.
So, in short: cardio is the fat and calorie killer. But to do the best it can at its job, it needs a little help from strength training.
Strength training is all about building muscle. That doesn’t necessarily mean bulking up into a bodybuilder. Building muscle can be as simple as toning those arms so they don’t jiggle or as hardcore as winning a bodybuilding championship. You’ve got a lot range to work with here and plenty of strength training workouts to help achieve your specific goals.
Strength training doesn’t burn a fraction of the calories that cardio does. But it’s not about burning calories. It’s about strength. It triggers muscle growth which you need even if you’re not trying to bulk up because getting rid of the jiggle of extra fat is just as much about building a base of muscle underneath so that when you burn that fat away, you’ve got an amazing toned body to show off.
However, some people who focus on building muscle tend to look down on cardio as a waste of time. But the truth is, strength training without cardio will limit your muscle building results.
That’s because muscles need oxygen, protein, and other nutrients in order to grow. And the way that they get those nutrients is by having blood circulate through them. The way to make sure your circulation is at its optimal rate is to do cardio to help improve it.
In other words, without some cardio to complement your strength training program, your muscles are going to starve. And starving muscles won’t grow no matter how hard you work them. More importantly, starving muscles are more prone to damage and injury.
The key to keep in mind here is that neither cardio nor strength training are the “best” workout. Like a healthy relationship, they support each other and work best when they are kept together to provide that support.
The choice you are making, then, is not “should I do cardio or strength training?” but “what proportion of each should I include?” And that depends on your goals. Here is a general guideline to help you find the right balance between the two:
· Maximize weight loss – mostly cardio with a little strength training.
· Maintain current body – half cardio, half strength training.
· Maximize muscle growth – mostly strength training with a little cardio.
Full Body Workout for Weight Loss
If you’re looking for a full body workout to lose weight but you don’t relish the idea of spending your hard earned cash on a gym membership, you’ve come to the right place. Luckily, there’s no need to spend hours in a stuffy, smelly gym in order to shed that extra weight.
You can do it at home, outside, or anywhere else where you’ve got space to move! Below you’ll find a beginner full body workout and a more challenging full body workout routine.
Full Body Circuit Workout
A cardio circuit workout is a great way to keep your routine interesting. If running for a full hour bores you to tears, a circuit workout is the answer. This involves moving through a series of 8-10 different cardio exercises for a full workout session.
Here is an example of a great cardio circuit workout you can do at home:
· 1 minute jump rope (or jumping jacks if you have no rope).
· 1 minute squats
· 1 minute pushups
· 1 minute lunges
· 1 minute plank leg lifts
· 1 minute crunches
· 1 minute squat jumps
· 1 minute burpees
Depending on fitness level, go through this circuit 2 or 3 times (or more if you can).
Make sure to do a 5 minute warm up before you start this circuit. Your warm up can be anything you like. It can even be one of the exercises in this circuit. Just make sure you do it at an easy, comfortable pace. Warmups are not for pushing yourself to your limits. They’re for warming your muscles & increasing circulation so that your body is ready for the workout.
Equally important is a 10 minute cooldown. That is, 10 minutes of deep, slow stretches. You want to stretch while your muscles are still warm from the workout. This prevents injury and excessive strain.
Full Body HIIT Workout
This can be done on a treadmill or outside. If you do it outdoors, it’s helpful to have an activity tracker on your phone, or even just a small timer. However you choose to do it, follow this pattern:
· Sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds.
· Slow down to a moderate, easy pace for 30 seconds.
· Repeat this pattern for 20 minutes. That will be 20 sets of sprints and 20 sets of easy jogging.
As your fitness increases, increase the high intensity (sprinting) portion. For example, do 40 seconds of sprinting followed by 30 seconds of moderate jogging. Work your way up to 60 seconds of sprinting and 30 seconds of jogging. Once you reach this 60/30 split, start increasing the total workout time—do 25 minutes then 30 then 35 and so on.
You can also increase intensity by increasing the incline instead of the speed. Running uphill is a great combination of cardio and muscle building!
In this workout, the form of cardio used is running. But you can easily adapt this routine to any other kind of cardio you prefer whether it’s running, stair climbing, swimming or something else. You can even change it up from week to week to keep these routines fresh and exciting.
Above all, make sure you do a 5 minute warmup and a 10 minute stretching cooldown after your HIIT workout—see warmup & cooldown tips above for the circuit workout.
Full Body Strength Workout
Whether you’re looking for a rigorous routine to maximize muscle growth or you just want something to complement your cardio program, the following strength workouts can be adapted to meet your needs.
With strength training workouts, crafting it to fit your needs is as simple as adding or taking away sets. If you want to pack on muscle, add more sets (or more reps to a set). If you are just building a base to maximize fat burning, do a minimum number of sets (or reps in that set).
You can also easily modify these as you progress. When 10 reps gets to be too easy, add more reps or cycle through each set another time.
Full Body Dumbbell Workout
Here is an invigorating strength workout using dumbbells to help you trigger muscle growth. You will need 2 dumbbells. They shouldn’t be the max weight you can handle. Pick something a little more moderate that you can handle for sustained periods of time.
· Dumbbell squats. These are normal squats but you hold a dumbbell in each hand. As you squat down, bend your arms to raise the dumbbells up toward your shoulders, hands facing outward. Do 10 reps.
· Straight leg deadlift. Hold a dumbbell in either hand, bend forward. Lift up without bending your arms. Keep legs straight but don’t lock your knees. Do 10 reps.
· Lying press. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Push dumbbells upward and then bring them together above you. Bring them back down. Do 10 reps.
· Crunches: lie down in the same position as above. Hold 1 dumbbell with both hands straight out above your chest. Raise your head and shoulders to do a crunch, keeping the dumbbell lifted straight out in front of your chest. Lie back down. Do 10 reps.
Repeat this sequence 2-3 times or as many times as you like. Focus on slow, carefully controlled movements instead of racing through the sets as fast as you can.
Kettlebells are also a great alternative to dumbbells. This has existed for a while but the kettlebell has recently achieved a new found level of popularity in the last few years. Check out these exercises for a full body kettlebell workout.
Full Body Workout – No Equipment
This is a great full body home workout that is especially suited to those who are prone to injury or only looking for a strength workout to complement their cardio rather than bulk up. That’s not to say this won’t result in any muscle definition.
But, by using your own bodyweight alone, that muscle definition will take on a more natural, toned look rather than massive bulk. That said, if you’re looking to bulk up, you can use this as a beginning step but eventually you need to incorporate some equipment into your routine.
· Mountain climber – 10 reps
· Lunges – 10 reps
· Plank – 30 seconds
· Calf raises – 30 reps
· Pushups 10 reps
· Swimmers – 30 seconds
· Plie Squats – 10 reps
Do at least 1 set of each of the above exercises. Add more sets depending on how much strength training you would like to do or what your fitness level is.
Here are some additional no equipment exercise options.
A Special Note on Supersets
Doing a full body superset workout is a great way to maximize the results from your strength workout. You can do supersets with absolute any kind of strength workout. Because all it is pairing 2 exercises together.
How does that differ from any strength workout using 2 or more exercises? Well, it’s a matter of how you pair them. Here is a great guide on various ways to pair exercises to create a superset that accomplishes very specific goals. For a full body workout, we recommend the antagonist supersets which pair various muscle groups together.
Tips for Achieving Your Fitness Goals
Achieving fitness goals is not just a matter of picking the right workout. Yes, that is definitely very important. But there is more to it than that. Here are a few tips that will help you make sure you actually achieve your goals:
· Set realistic expectations. No that doesn’t mean give up on your dream. But it does mean have realistic expectations for when you can achieve it. Going on a crash diet coupled with a super intense workout will shock your body into dropping some pounds but as soon as you return to your normal routine, those pounds will be back and they’ll have brought friends with them. For true strength and weight loss, you need to chip away at your goal at a healthy, steady pace.
· Cross Train. The best full body workout is one that is balanced. In fact, the best workout is one that works the full body. That’s because your body works together as a single machine. If you want to shed belly fat, a leg strengthening stair climbing session will be just as important as those ab-busting crunches. So always make sure you are incorporating different kinds of workouts into your weekly workout program.
· Craft your plan. If you’re trying to go from couch to beach bod, you’ll definitely see some early results if you just get out and hit the pavement without a plan. However, the chances of you sticking with any workout long enough to actually achieve your end goal is low if you don’t have a plan. Create a weekly schedule or set weekly targets (for example weekly calories burned or weekly targets for hours spent working out). This will keep you on track.
· Tailor that plan to your goals. While you want a balance of strength and cardio no matter what, the actual ratio will depend on your goals. If weight loss is your top priority, cardio should fill out as much as 90% of your workout schedule. The 10% strength training is mainly there to help build the muscle you need to accomplish more during cardio sessions. At the other end of the spectrum, if bodybuilding is your top priority, strength training can be as much as 90% of your program with 10% cardio to help you build endurance and improve circulation so that your body can deliver blood and oxygen to your muscles.
· Set short, medium, and long term goals. That’s not a list of options to choose from. Use all 3! Short term goals help motivate and encourage you since they provide short term gratification. Medium term goals act as milestones to let you know you are still on track to meet your long term goals. And long term goals help provide overall guidance and direction so that you know what you are hoping to gain and can find the perfect routine to get there. Set these goals in reverse order. For example, your long term goal might be the total amount of weight you want to lose, let’s say 60 pounds. Medium term goals would be weight loss checkpoints for example—lose at least 15 pounds in 30 days. Short term goals can be anything from “go for a run today” to “run for 10 minutes straight without stopping”—anything that helps get you to your final destination!
· Change your eating habits. Notice we did not say the word “diet.” We don’t want you to think of eating in terms of a diet regimen. Instead, focus on filling yourself with nutritious whole foods—fresh meat, produce, whole grains, healthy fats. Healthy food doesn’t have to taste terrible. Experiment with different flavors and recipes. If you’ve got bad eating habits right now, this might be just as challenging as the workout itself. However, it WILL get easier. As your body starts to recognize the better quality food you are giving it, it will be thankful. Your tastes will change. No, you won’t necessarily start hating donuts and cookies. But you will start craving veggies and other healthy foods. Just stick with it. Your tastes will adapt.
· Drink water. This seems like a simple one but the overwhelming majority of the US population is chronically dehydrated. Being dehydrated causes you to bloat up with extra weight, feel tired and unmotivated, and can lead to a number of serious health problems. On workout days, you should drink 1 oz. of water per pound of bodyweight. On rest days, you can do about half that. If you are one of the many who are chronically dehydrated, even this simple change will lead to weight loss. The bloating will go down. Your cravings for junk will decrease. You will feel fuller after a meal for longer. You will feel more energized for your workout. You will perform better at your workout. The benefits are endless.
· Positive over negative reinforcement. Many people make the mistake of treating diet and exercise as punishment. They think a healthy diet has to be bland and boring and that a workout has to be repetitive, tiresome, and dull. But that is a recipe for failure. Instead, treat this as a positive. If you’re not usually an active person, spend your first few weeks of working out exploring different options. Try running, biking, yoga, kickboxing, spinning. Find something that makes you feel good and that you enjoy doing. Make healthy eating an adventure by trying out different recipes. Skip the low-fat, low-calorie bland packaged “diet” foods and head for the fresh meats and produce. They’re healthy AND full of flavor. Reward yourself with treats for accomplishing medium term goals. Eat that piece of cake you’ve been drooling over or better yet, buy yourself a new outfit to fit that awesome new body you’re crafting! Getting in shape IS a fulfilling and enjoyable experiment so don’t fall into the trap of treating it like a punishment!
Above all, a great full body workout is the one that you actually stick with for the long run. You can jump around from type to type in the first couple of weeks while you’re still trying to find the one that works for you but in the end, you need to stick with it.
A workout is not something you do for a few weeks or months until you lose the extra weight. It’s something that should become a permanent part of your lifestyle even after you’ve reached your goal. If you want to maintain that body you worked so hard to achieve, you need to stay active.
So use this guide to help you find a way to break a serious sweat and have fun at the same time!