Biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, back, abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves . . . this full body workout with weights engages every muscle group. That’s right! In just one training session every major muscle group will be engaged.
The scope of this workout makes it ideal for those that want to consolidate their training into a single session. Having a whole-body workout in your training toolbox prevents the possibility of neglecting a muscle group.
It doesn’t take much to throw your week out of whack when you train a specific zone of the body each workout (arms and shoulders on Monday, chest and back on Wednesday, legs and abs on Friday). Missing Monday can send your routine into disarray and, if you can’t cram that zone into another workout, you might have to forgo pumping those guns – at least until next week.
Full body workout with weights X 4
Because this full body workout features a range of resistance equipment and slight exercise variations, it can be completed multiple times across the week. Furthermore, by incorporating a range of exercise kit – barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands – it is more accessible to a wider audience.
In addition, a full body workout with a barbell provides an entirely different training experience than one with a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells.
Thus, though each workout activates the full body, they do so in their own unique way. This attribute makes for a goldmine of training and should keep you in workouts for weeks to come.
Benefits of full body workout with weights
The first and most obvious benefit of these workouts is that they exercise your entire body. As listed in the opening sentence, ten major and minor muscle groups are activated.
That’s just the targeted muscles. Whenever we lift weights, even during isolation movements, many additional muscles (‘synergists’) are recruited to assist the lift.
The scattershot of sinews stimulated will ensure that when you walk away from any of the workouts, you’ll do so in the knowledge that your whole body has been trained. And if you make the following four workouts a permanent feature of your training routine, you could enjoy an increase in ‘muscle hypertrophy and lean body mass, and decreases in percentage of body fat’ – all positive outcomes commonly associated with regular resistance exercise (Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance).
Build complete strength
As well as enjoying an engaging training experience, you’ll also build full body strength. And not just muscular strength. The author of Strength Training | A Complete Guide, tells us that weightlifting ‘also develops inner strength’ which can give you a ‘terrific sense of accomplishment.’
In addition to fostering a ‘positive mental attitude’ and ‘enhancing confidence’, developing muscular strength can decrease injury risk. When we lift weights, we engage the connective tissues which also get stronger. Increasing the durability of the tendons and ligaments improves joint stability.
Furthermore, lifting weights ‘stimulates the production of collagen proteins’ in the connective tissues ‘causing an increase in structural strength’ (Strength Training). You’ll be surprised to learn that there are many more benefits to resistance training. In conjunction with those outlined above, weightlifting can:
Slow the aging process
Help reduce body fat
Increase bone density
Reduce blood pressure
Enhance sports performance
Enhance muscle endurance
Each full body workout features two training options. The first option is designed to build strength while the second option is designed to enhance muscle endurance.
To achieve these training aims the set and rep ranges have been structured accordingly. Option 1: Strength is comprised of 1 to 3 sets of between 1 to 10 reps. Option 2: Muscle Endurance is comprised of 3 to 6 sets of between 10 to 40 reps.
Of course, achieving either outcome depends on the resistance selected. If you want to develop strength, you must select a load above 75% of your one-repetition max (1RM). For muscle endurance, the load is anything below 75% 1RM (Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance).
How to do this full body workout with weights
In the interests of avoiding confusion, the training method is the same for three of the four workouts. As briefly mentioned above, there are two training options to choose from.
Option 1 aims to develop muscular strength. This aim accounts for why the reps and sets are short: 1 to 3 sets of 1 to 10 reps. If you’re used to high-volume training – circuits and CrossFit – Option 1 will seem a little lacking in substance. However, to promote strength gains we’ve got to push the poundage above 75% 1RM. To maximise each lift, it’s important to keep the sets and reps low and to take extensive rest periods between 2 to 3-minutes.
To build strength and size, ‘you need to train according to basic power principals – fewer reps and sets, more rest between sets, but with increased poundage,’ (The Encyclopaedia Of Modern Bodybuilding).
Option 2 can support you in the pursuit of improved muscular endurance. In contrast to Option 1, the sets and reps are higher. To accommodate this increase in volume you will have to select lower loads – below 75% of 1RM. Also, to remain within the muscle endurance training zone, you should keep rest periods short – 1-minute max.
The single outlier here is the full body kettlebell workout. As explained in more detail above the session plan, with this workout you will be completing a series of AMRAPs (as many reps as possible). For the stipulated duration the objective is to maintain a consistent output.
Ensure to warm-up
Warming up prior to exercise is of paramount importance. As I outline in this All-Purpose Gym Warm-up, a thorough warm-up prepares you for physical activity by raising muscle and core temperature. By doing so performance will be improved and injury risk reduced.
Before engaging in the resistance workouts, spend 5- to 10-minutes engaged in a whole-body cardio exercise. The best warm-up exercises included rowing, skipping, and the cross-trainer.
Also, in your warm-up include a few of the exercises from the workout. Remember, though, because you are still in the preliminary stages of your training session, you should keep the resistance low. For more ideas on how to prepare for a workout, see our article Warm-Ups & Cool-Down.
Full body workout with weights | #1: Barbell
This pared-down full body workout can be completed with just a single barbell, an assortment of weighted discs (bumper plates are best), and a weightlifting bench. The exercise order follows a top-down approach. Starting at the arms and finishing at the claves, all the major muscle groups are targeted at least once.
Related: The ultimate Olympic Barbell
Of course, if once is not enough for you, feel free to broaden the workout by including additional exercises.
Workout key points
Select the training option that aligns with your fitness goals.
Applying the appropriate sets and reps formula, progress down the list of exercises.
Remember, each exercise is visited only once. However, you can extend the workout by incorporating other exercises.
Rest periods have not been stipulated. But as a rule, longer rests are taken when training for strength – usually 2- to 3-minutes.
Full body workout with weights | #2: Dumbbells
The dumbbell exercises selected for this full body workout are variations of the barbell exercises used above. Yet, though the two session plans share similarities, the training experience differs enormously.
Related: Adjustable Dumbbells for the home gym
In contrast to exercising with a barbell, which is like trying to sculpt a statue with a sledgehammer, dumbbells are precision training tools that enable you to target and isolate specific muscles.
So, in addition to stimulating the big muscle groups – and many synergists – this workout will enable you to sculpt a lean, define physique.
Workout key points
Select the training option that will best support you to achieve your desired fitness goal.
Use the session plan as a full body workout to-do list and tick them off as you go.
Implement rest periods that reflect the training approach – 2- to 3-minutes for strength and 1-minute or under for muscle endurance.
Full body workout with weights | #3: Kettlebells
Kettlebells weren’t designed for conventional forms of weight training. Anatomically speaking, they’re just not suited for isolation exercises. In the eyes of a girevik, it’s sacrilege to perform bicep curls or triceps extensions with a kettlebell.
In addition to being a formidable training tool – one that, in the words of Pavel Tsatsouline, offers a ‘greater challenge than dumbbells, barbells, not even to mention wussy machines’ – kettlebells are for forging functional fitness, explosive power, and muscle endurance.
Related: Best Competition Kettlebell
Thus, because I’m a kettlebell connoisseur (self-appointed), I have created a whole-body workout that features only traditional(ish) exercises. Granted, certain muscles aren’t specifically targeted like they are in the barbell and dumbbell workouts.
However, unlike those workouts, this one will engage all the major muscle groups while promoting aerobic fitness. That’s right, few realise that ‘ballistic kettlebell drills,’ such as snatches, swings, and plyometric squat jumps, develop ‘extreme cardio’ and respiratory capacity (Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
Workout key points
Warm-up well before attempting this workout.
Kettlebell weight selection is something to consider. Because you’ll be completing a series of AMRAPs (as many reps as possible), you will need a weight that presents a physical challenge but doesn’t cause early-onset fatigue after a couple of reps.
Select a difficulty level commensurate with your current level of fitness and kettlebell handling skills.
Once you’ve completed an AMRAP, take a 2-minute break before progressing to the next exercise.
Full body workout with weights | #4: Resistance band
Resistance bands are seldom used by fitness pilgrims. If they’re not tied in a technicolour knot or discarded in an obscure corner of the gym gathering dust, resistance bands are passed by without so much as a second glance. Most people see them as a soft training aid prescribed by physios for the elderly, infirm, or for rehabilitation purposes. So unfair!
If used correctly, resistance bands offer a novel exercise alternative to conventional cast iron, cables, and machines. As well as being super-versatile (legend has it that they boast more exercise configurations than Rubik’s cube) they can build strength and muscle endurance.
Furthermore, because the resistance of the band increases across the range of movement, they can improve strength at peak contraction points. Something standard weights can’t do – at least not without modification; hence the recent adoption of bands and chains.
A final noteworthy attribute of resistance bands is that they do not force your body into anatomically unnatural positions. Try this experiment. With a light Olympic barbell perform 50 biceps curls. Then do the same with a resistance band. When you’re done ask yourself which one felt more comfortable, which one left a lingering ache in your wrists and elbows?
Workout key points
The process for this final full body workout with weights is the same as its predecessors. After selecting the training option – strength or muscle endurance – proceed through the exercises.
It’s helpful to have a selection of band resistances to hand. By doing so you’ll be able to engage each muscle group appropriately.
Unlike the kettlebell workout, here there are no time pressures. After a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, gather together an assortment of bands, sequester yourself somewhere quiet, and enjoy the exercise experience. That’s a slice of training heaven right there.
Enjoyed these full-body workouts?
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