If you want a great full body workout routine there are three types of exercise that are essential to cover all of your bases. These could potentially be covered in one type of workout that includes all three. Alternatively, you can ensure you’ve got one workout of each type planned for your week. Or you can mix it up in a way that suits you best.
The FIRST type of exercise that is essential for a full body workout routine
1. Resistance Training
This is the type of training that really works your muscles. It could be in the form of lifting machine weights or free weights in the gym. Alternatively, throwing logs and tyres around, using a resistance band or even just doing body weight exercises can be very effective.
The exercises you do in a resistance-training workout need to be hard enough to elicit a response in the muscles so that you can gain the benefits later on.
What happens when you complete a resistance-training workout to an appropriate intensity is this:
- Your muscles fatigue
- They go through a repair phase
- Then they get bigger and stronger
Stronger muscles will help with your activities of daily living. These include doing the gardening, opening jars, and lifting and carrying shopping bags or even children. Your ability to burn body fat will also be increased. This is because muscle is a very metabolically hungry tissue, as it likes to burn calories. The more of it you have, the more fat you will be able to burn.
For some people, one really intense resistance training session per week is enough. Others thrive on three or four. Start off with less and gradually build up in terms of intensity and frequency of workouts. In a basic sense, your muscles need to have recovered well before your next session and overall you should be getting stronger. If you’re not then something needs to change.
A Full Body Workout Routine Within Your Resistance Programme
It is ideal if you can work on getting a full body workout routine inside your resistance training programme alone. What I mean by this is that your exercise selection is very important. You need to choose exercises or movement patterns that cover the whole body. A basic way to determine whether you are covering your full body is to check that you are doing exercises based on the primary movement patterns. These are (gait), push, pull, squat, lunge, press and twist.
Squat and lunge are pretty self explanatory (as long as you have some experience in the gym). A push exercise could be a push up or a bench press. Pull exercises include the likes of chin ups, lat pulldowns, or seated rows. A press action is overhead, such as a shoulder press. The twist action can be done on it’s own; for example cable twists. In advanced programmes it is often combined with another movement pattern. For example, a squat and twist, or lunge with a twist at the bottom.
You might be thinking that I have missed a very important resistance training movement pattern. If you’re looking for a full body workout routine I bet you’re thinking “she’s forgotten abs”. Don’t worry, when executed correctly, all of the above movement patterns will work your abdominals effectively. In fact, the essential movement patterns I have mentioned all work multiple muscle groups. This helps to give you ‘more bang for your buck’ by working larger portions of your body in less time.
The SECOND type of exercise that is essential for a full body workout routine
2. Cardiovascular Training
The second type of exercise I see as essential to an effective full body workout routine is cardiovascular training. This is the huffy-puffy type of exercise that works your heart and lungs. It ensures blood is pumped around the body efficiently and is great for lowering blood pressure, as well as burning calories. Resistance training is especially good at helping you to burn calories outside the exercise session, and cardio training is great for burning calories during the exercise session.
Types of cardio training include walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, swimming, and many group fitness classes. These sessions keep your body moving and your heart rate up. They can be quite complementary to a resistance-training programme in terms of easing muscle soreness, when carried out at an appropriate intensity. Many types of cardiovascular exercise will get your whole body moving all at once.
What type of cardio training should I do?
In order to cause the heart and lungs to adapt and grow stronger, aim to start off with a steady type of training. Your heart rate should be up enough so that you can still talk but it will be difficult to have a long conversation.
As you become more advanced, you can move on to more intense versions of this type of training, such as interval training. This is where you introduce short, high-intensity bursts working close to your maximum intensity. They are then followed by appropriate periods of rest or light exercise.
Overall, as with any type of exercise it should be specific to the outcome you want to achieve. For example, if you want to run a half marathon, you’ll need to gradually build up your distance with some long, slow runs.
If your primary goal is fat burning then working your way towards higher intensity interval-style cardio will offer the highest calorie burning potential for the time spent doing it. As well as this, high intensity bursts increase the production of human growth hormone. This increases the utilisation of fat by helping the body to break down fat cells more effectively.
Remember that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, and you end up with a higher metabolic rate. Are you naturally experiencing age-related muscle decline and are not doing anything to build or even maintain your muscle mass, i.e. resistance training? If you’re consuming the same number of calories as you did when you had more muscle, then you will likely gain fat.
The THIRD type of exercise that is essential for a full body workout routine
3. Mind-Body Training
Mind-body exercise works to calm the mind and rejuvenate the body. It focuses on lengthening and strengthening the muscles and places high importance on effective breathing techniques.
There are many different forms of mind-body exercise including yoga, Pilates, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and meditation.
Some forms can be quite strong in nature. For example, many yoga and Pilates sessions can be progressed to a very challenging physical level. However some sessions work the opposite way by switching off the muscles and focusing inwardly. Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and especially meditation, have a strong inward focus but that doesn’t mean they come without physical benefits.
In meditation, you do not work the muscles at all. Yet if your training regime also involves resistance work and cardiovascular exercise, you may find it’s actually the meditation (or other form of mind-body exercise) that consolidates what you’ve done in your intense sessions. This allows your body to move through the repair phase faster. Ultimately you become stronger and will be ready for your next intense session more quickly. Therefore, mind-body training is an important component of a full body workout routine.
Are you a stressed person?
If you are highly stressed you will benefit most from this type of exercise. It is often highly stressed people who will most resist mind-body exercise. Do you think that it just doesn’t fit into your fast-paced lifestyle and do you think it’s a waste of your time? Don’t wait until your body is in extreme turmoil, i.e. you are sick all the time and your hair is falling out. Act now if optimal health and fitness is what you’re after.
If you are a rush-rush-rush person you can start with a mind-body exercise session at the more vigorous end of the spectrum. Although the best-case scenario would be for you to do the gentlest type of session, the most important outcome is for something in the rejuvenation category to get done. With any one of these sessions, you will learn to focus on your breath. This will help you obtain benefits that you are not getting elsewhere in your life. Ideally the tools that you learn by doing so will be able to start helping you in other areas of your life.
How do I put my weekly full body workout routine together?
There are endless combinations of what your weekly full body workout routine could look like. If you are already exercising, ask yourself which of the above types of exercise are missing from your programme. Then have a think about where you could fit it in. For example, if mind-body exercise is missing for you, can you add in a yoga or Pilates session to your week? Or could you listen to a short meditation podcast each night?
If cardiovascular training is missing, could you incorporate short bursts of it into your resistance training programme? Or is there a team sport you’d like to try once per week? If resistance training is missing, how about starting with a few body weight exercises at home or at your local park? Check with a health and fitness professional first if you’re not sure which exercises are right for you.
If you are just getting started I recommend sitting down with a qualified health and fitness professional and mapping out a plan. Let them know that you’d like a full body workout routine that incorporates resistance, cardio, and mind-body training into your week.