The Best Full-Body Exercises For All Levels Of Gym-Goer
Work your upper body, lower body and core in one fell swoop with these beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises.
To accomplish any fitness goals it is necessary to run through a variety of exercises as part of your gym routine – and not just because doing the same exercise over and over again would get boring after a while. However, if you are short on time and want moves that hit multiple muscle groups in one go, turn to these full-body exercises.
We asked Toby Lynes, The Fitting Rooms Gym personal trainer, to name and explain his favourite beginner, intermediate and advanced full-body exercises. Despite the name, these exercises don’t work every single part of the body, but you can be sure they’re going to hit several muscle groups and many of them provide a cardiovascular workout as well.
Beginner Full-Body Exercises
This is a great cardiovascular exercise because it requires you to move your whole body from a horizontal position into a vertical position as quickly as possible. The movement requires a lot of muscle groups to work in co-ordination, including your shoulders, abdominals and lower body, especially your quads and calves. In order to power all these muscles, your heart rate will increase, which also means you’ll burn a lot of calories.
From standing, place your hands on the floor by your feet, then jump your legs back so you end up in a press-up position. Jump your legs back in so your knees are close to your chest, then jump up and raise your hands above your head.
This is a fantastic movement for developing power, strength and speed, as well as burning a lot of calories. The muscle groups worked in this exercise are mainly your abdominals, quads, glutes, calves, back and shoulders.
In a wide stance with your feet either side of the ball, squat down to pick up the ball then stand up on tiptoes and raise the ball above your head as quickly as possible. When you have fully straightened your arms overhead, throw the ball straight down as hard as you can.
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift
This is a great exercise to strengthen your posterior chain – the muscles that run from the back of your neck to the back of your ankles – especially the hamstrings, glutes and back muscles. Hinging at the hip under the load is particularly good at improving your hamstring mobility as well as increasing strength.
Stand holding dumbbells with your palms facing towards you. Draw your shoulder blades back and down, tuck your pelvis under into a neutral position and brace your abdominals. While maintaining this posture push your hips backwards with your knees slightly bent, lowering the weights in front of your legs. Don’t allow your spine to round. As soon as you feel your spine starting to curve, stop the movement and return to the top by bringing your hips forwards.
Intermediate Full-Body Exercises
Add a press-up to the movement to include your triceps and chest in the muscle groups being worked.
From standing, place your hands on the floor by your feet and jump your legs back so you end up in a press-up position. Perform a press-up, making sure your chest touches the floor, then jump your legs back in so your knees are close to your chest. Jump up and raise your hands above your head.
This is one of the best compound exercises for developing strength through your posterior chain.
Stand with your toes under the barbell. Bend your knees, lean over and take hold of the bar with your hands just outside shoulder-width apart and your palms facing you. Push your chest out so your spine is in a straight line and straighten your lower back. Breathe in and brace your abs. Pushing through your feet and keeping your spine straight, lift the bar until you are standing in an upright position. Breathe out at the top, then breathe in and brace your abs again. Keeping your lower back straight and chest out, lower the bar slowly back to the floor.
Dumbbell hang clean and press
The hang clean and press can be very useful for developing power when the load is heavy, but also can be used in a HIIT session to get the heart pumping and burn calories. The main muscle groups worked are the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, shoulders, back and abdominals.
The starting position looks like the halfway point on the way down of a deadlift – back flat and hips pushed back, with arms hanging down, hands holding the dumbbells with palms facing you. From there you stand up as quickly as possible, shrugging your shoulders up to your ears and going up high on tiptoes. This movement creates the momentum to enables you to lift the dumbbells from your sides to your shoulders. Then press the dumbbells above your head, bring them back down to the shoulders and return to the starting position.
Advanced Full-Body Exercises
A man maker consists of a variety of movements strung together. When the dumbbells are heavy this exercise challenges your strength, in particular your core, back and shoulders, as well as your cardiovascular system.
Stand holding dumbbells by your sides. Bend your legs to place the dumbbells on the floor by your feet but don’t let them go, and jump your legs back so you end up in a press-up position. Perform a press-up, then row one dumbbell to your chest at a time while holding the press-up position with the rest of your body. Jump your legs back to your hands and perform a clean by standing up quickly, shrugging and lifting the dumbbells to your shoulders. Then go into a deep squat with the dumbbells resting on your shoulders. When you stand back up, use the power in your legs to create momentum to press the dumbbells overhead. All of that is one rep.
Medicine ball over the shoulder
This exercise is advanced because it requires the individual to learn how to brace correctly through the “corset” of the body – all the core muscles including the lower back – in a rounded or flexed spine position, whereas a deadlift has a straight spine position.
Start in a wide stance with your feet either side of the medicine ball. Squat down as low as you can – don’t worry about trying to keep a straight spine. Hook your hands, wrists and forearms around the ball to get a firm grip. As you pick up the ball, drive your hips forwards, and push up onto your toes to create the momentum and power to enable you to throw the ball over your shoulder. Turn around and repeat, throwing the ball over your other shoulder.
This exercise combines a front squat and an overhead press. It’s great option to add to a HIIT session and it challenges your lower body and shoulders.
Hold the bar in front of your throat so it lies across your collarbones with your palms facing up and elbows pointing forwards. Squat to a good depth then explode up, pushing through your legs, and press the bar above your head. As the bar comes back down, start to lower into your next rep.