Exercise

Strength Training Total Body Workouts

Total Body Workouts

Lifting weights is an important component of any exercise program because it's the one activity that allows you to build lean muscle tissue. That lean muscle is metabolically active, so your metabolism gets a boost, and that muscle also keeps you strong for all the activities in your life.

There are plenty of ways to lift weights, but one of the simplest is total body training.

Total body workouts are perfect for hitting all your major muscle groups in one workout, and they're very forgiving if you have a busy schedule.

You only need to do total body workouts two or three times a week, so if you miss one you can always do it the next day.

More Benefits of Total Body Training

  • Great for beginners. If you're just getting started, total body workouts are the best way to build whole body strength and focus on any weak areas that may come to light when you start exercising.
  • Time-efficient. You don't need to spend hours in the gym to get strong, and total body workouts prove that. Some can even be done in less than 30 minutes.
  • Functional. Your body works as a whole all day long, so it makes sense to work your whole body with weights the same way. All your muscle groups get some attention, giving you overall strength and endurance.
  • Build more strength and muscle. Because you're lifting two to three times a week, all your muscles get worked more frequently than they would with split training or working individual muscle groups.

Basic Total Body Strength Guidelines

If you choose to do total body strength training, you'll want to follow some basic guidelines:

  • Always start with a warm-up. This can be five to 10 minutes of cardio, or you can use lighter weights and do warm-up sets of the exercises.
  • Give yourself at least one day of rest between workouts. Your body only grows stronger during the recovery periods, so make sure you're giving your body enough rest.
  • Listen to your body. One thing about total body workouts is that they involve all your muscle groups, which can zap your energy if you're doing intense workouts. Pay attention to that and avoid doing so many exercises that you feel drained rather than energized.
  • Start with beginner workouts. The beginner workouts are specifically designed to help you ease into exercise. Doing too much too soon can lead to soreness, injury, or even overtraining.
  • Make sure you're progressing. Your body will eventually adapt to any workout you do, so make sure you're lifting heavier weights as you get stronger.
  • Change your workouts about every four to six weeks. How often you switch things up depends on your fitness level and goals. Beginners may want to stick with the same total body workout for a couple of weeks before trying a more intense option. More advanced exercisers may be able to change their workouts every week. One rule of thumb: If you're sore all the time, you should back off and take more rest days.
  • It's normal to be sore. Your body gets sore any time you do something new, so it's normal to feel stiff and a little sore the next day or two. If you can't move without pain, that means you overdid it. Rest, take hot baths, or take anti-inflammatories for the pain and, when you get back to it, back off and do a lighter version of the workout.
  • Don't be afraid to lift heavy weights. Beginners should start with moderate weights, but once your body is stronger, don't be afraid to go heavy, even if you're a woman. Some women are afraid they'll bulk up, but women just don't produce the level of hormones needed to big build big muscles.

 

Total Body Workouts

Below is a wide variety of total body workouts that fit all levels of fitness including beginners, intermediate exercisers, advanced exercisers, seniors, and people who are overweight and need more modifications.

The Equipment

Not all workouts require equipment, but some of the basic gear used in the workouts include:

  • Dumbbells - Most workouts require a variety of weights. If you're just getting started, consider getting three sets of weights: A light set (about 3-5 pounds for women and 5-8 pounds for men), a medium set (5-8 pounds for women, 8-12 pounds for men) and a heavier set (10-12 pounds for women, 12-20 pounds for men).
  • A barbell - Some exercises involve using a barbell. You can find barbell sets at most sporting goods stores or Amazon.com. This Duracast Weight Set is a great buy and goes up to 55 pounds. You can always substitute dumbbells as well.
  • An exercise ball - My favorite is the SPRI Elite Xercise Ball.
  • Resistance bands - It's a good idea to get a set so that you have a light, medium, and heavy band. This set from SPRI includes a variety of bands with different amounts of tension.

The Workouts

Total Body Workouts for Beginners and Special Situations

Absolute Beginner Total Body Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner
Equipment Needed: Light-Medium dumbbells, an exercise ball or chair, and a mat.

This workout is your go-to workout if you've never lifted weights or it's been a really long time. The moves are simple and easy-to-follow, and you'll work all your major muscle groups to build a strong body that's able to do everything you need to do each day.

Basic Total Body Strength - Level 1

Fitness Level: Beginner
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, an exercise ball, and a mat.

This workout is more for the exerciser who's familiar with basic strength exercises, but maybe it's been a while since you picked up some weights. It includes all the classic exercises to build a strong foundation and eases you into strength training with simple, easy to follow exercises. You won't need a lot of weights for this workout, and you shouldn't feel too sore from this one the next day, although you may feel some stiffness.

Basic Total Body Strength - Level 2

Fitness Level: Beginner
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a step or weight bench, an exercise ball, and a resistance band

This total body workout is a step up from the previous workout with more exercises and heavier weights. You're still focusing on all your major muscle groups, but you're progressing by challenging your body with new exercises and more resistance. Try this workout when you've mastered the previous workout.

Beginner Total Body Resistance Band Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Equipment Needed: A resistance band

This simple workout uses a resistance band to target all of your major muscle groups. For some exercises, you'll need to attach one end of your band to something sturdy, like a stair railing or something similar. You're in charge of the resistance, so moving away from the anchor point will make the moves more intense, while moving closer will make them easier. This is a great workout for small spaces or travelers.

Postpartum Strength Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, an exercise ball, a resistance band, and a mat. 

This workout is designed for exercisers getting back to working out after having a baby. You'll work all the muscles in the body, including the hips, glutes, thighs, chest, back, shoulders, arms, and abs. This workout is short and simple—a great way for new moms to get back to strength training. Just make sure you get clearance from your doctor to exercise.

Seated Total Body for Overweight Exercisers

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Equipment Needed: A chair, resistance bands with various tensions, paper plates, a medicine ball, various weighted dumbbells.

This total body workout is designed for overweight or obese exercisers who are new to exercise and want to start with something simple and doable. All the moves are done from a seated position, so your body gets the extra support you may need as you start exercising. Once you master this workout, your body will be ready for more intense exercises.

Total Body Home Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a bench or step (you can use the floor if you don't have one)

This total body home workout has all the classic exercises for working your entire body. All you need are a few sets of dumbbells and these basic exercises. All of these moves will hit the major muscles of your body, including the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and abs in a short period of time. It's great for the home exerciser who just wants to get the job done and move on.

Total Body Dumbbell Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a bar or stick (e.g., broomstick or a lightly weighted bar) and a mat.

The total body workout is one that anyone can do at home with just a few sets of weights. You'll target all your muscles, including the hips, glutes, thighs, chest, back, shoulders, and arms. The workout is full of tried and true classics, from squats and lunges to pushups and more.

Total Body Resistance Band Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various different resistance bands (a light and medium tension)

This workout will work for almost any exerciser from beginner to advanced. You'll hit all your major muscle groups using a resistance band and doing a wide variety of exercises. The great thing about this is that you control the tension of the band, so you can easily make exercises easier or harder by moving to different places from the anchor point or adjusting your hand or foot position.

Total Body Strength Workout for Older Adults

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a bar or stick (e.g., broomstick or a lightly weighted bar) and a mat.

This total body workout targets all the important things we need to work on as we get older: Building strength, balance, stability, and flexibility. All the moves are designed to work your entire body to get you stronger and fitter. This is great for building a healthier, more functional body. 

Total Body Workouts for Intermediate/Advanced Exercisers

Intermediate Total Body Strength

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a barbell (sub dumbbells if you don't have one) 

This workout takes you to the next level with heavier weights and new, more challenging exercises than in the beginner workout. Some of the exercises include barbell squats, pushups, chest presses, and more compound exercises, which will really challenge you.

Advanced Total Body Workout

Fitness Level: Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a barbell, an exercise ball, and a step or bench.

The name of this workout says it all. This very advanced workout is designed to challenge every muscle in your body with a variety of tough, total body exercises. This is set up as a superset workout where you'll put together two to four exercises for the same muscle group to keep the muscles warm and the body working.  

Quick Total Body Vacation Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: A resistance band

This ultra-quick workout targets the major muscles of the body for a quick, efficient workout. This workout is perfect for when you're traveling or you don't have much time. You'll do compound exercises that involve working both the upper and lower body at the same time, adding intensity to your workout and saving lots of time. Go through the circuit as many times as you can. 

Short Total Body Strength Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, bench or chair

This 10-minute workout is short, but it's very intense, including a variety of compound exercises where you'll target the lower body and upper body all at the same time. You do each exercise for a full minute and go through the circuit as many times as you have time for. This workout is perfect for when your schedule is crazy, you're on the road, or you just want to squeeze in a quick workout. 

Total Body BOSU Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: A BOSU, various weighted dumbbells.

This total body workout is all about balance and really engaging your stabilizer muscles as you go through a variety of BOSU exercises. The BOSU adds some instability to your workouts, forcing you to engage your core and involve all of your muscle fibers to keep you from falling off. You should have some experience with a BOSU before trying this exercise.

Total Body Pull Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a barbell, a step or platform, and a resistance band 

This workout involves all of your "pulling" muscles, including the butt, hamstrings, back, and biceps. You'll do deadlifts, step-ups, rows, and more to really work your body. You'll want to alternate this one with the next workout, The Push Workout, which targets the opposing muscles.

Total Body Push Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, an exercise ball 

This workout focuses on all of the "push" muscles of the body, including the chest, quads, outer thighs, shoulders, and triceps. Do this on alternate days with the previous workout, Total Body Pull Workout, to make sure you're working all of your muscle groups.

Total Body Strength Circuit

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Exercise ball, various weighted dumbbells, a step or bench

This workout is a little different, involving some tough strength circuits. The workout includes both compound exercises as well as muscle-specific moves, so you're really giving your body a great workout. This is a short one, but you can easily go through the circuit as many times as your schedule allows. It moves fast, making this an efficient and effective workout.  

Total Body Superset Blast Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: A barbell, an exercise ball, a resistance band, and various weighted dumbbells

This intense workout uses supersets, blocks of exercises that work the same muscle groups, to increase intensity, keep your heart rate elevated, and save time. For each superset, there's no rest between exercises, so this workout moves quickly. You have the option to complete one set of each superset or up to three, depending on your fitness level and time constraints.

Total Body Superset Challenge

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: A barbell, various weighted dumbbells, medicine ball, resistance bands, gliding discs (you can use paper plates as well), an exercise ball and a mat. You can always use dumbbells if you don't have a barbell.

This superset workout is a little easier than the previous workout because you're alternating an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise with no rests in between. This type of workout is less intense because you're not working the same muscle groups as you do in the other superset workout. It does move quickly and you have the option of doing one to three sets of each superset.

Total Body Strength, Balance, and Stability Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: An exercise ball, medicine ball, resistance band, and various weighted dumbbells

This workout includes exercises that target three important areas of fitness: strength, balance, and stability. The workout includes seven supersets, each with two different exercises with an emphasis on unilateral exercises and moves that engage the core.

Total Body Tri-Set Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a barbell, a pull-up bar (or resistance band), an exercise ball, and a step or platform.

This workout is all about the intensity with tri-sets: a set includes three different exercises, some for the same muscle groups and some for different muscle groups. This workout moves fast and you'll do the exercises with no rest in between. You can do one to three sets of each tri-set depending on how hard you want to work and how long you have to exercise.

Total Body Workout With Gliding Discs

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Gliding discs (or paper plates), various weighted dumbbells, and a mat

This total body workout adds a little fun to the mix with some different equipment. You'll use gliding discs to add intensity and resistance to a variety of exercises. With these discs, you'll engage multiple muscle groups while stabilizing your body using your core. If you don't have gliding discs, you can use paper plates, a towel on hardwood floors or even a Frisbee.

Total Body Circuit Workouts

Basic Strength and Cardio Circuit Workout

Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Equipment Needed: A medicine ball and various weighted dumbbells

If you're new to circuit training, this is a great place to start. This workout introduces you to circuit training, doing one exercise right after another with little or no rests between exercises. The idea is to move quickly and keep your heart rate elevated so you work your entire body, burn more calories, and increase the effectiveness of your workouts.

Cardio Strength Circuit Challenge

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a BOSU (you can use a step as a substitute), a medicine ball, and a resistance band.

This workout includes high intensity circuits that will help you burn tons of extra calories. This isn't for the faint of heart because you're moving fast, doing intense, whole body exercises and hitting all of your muscle groups. For each circuit, you'll do a high intensity cardio exercise before moving into the strength training moves for a total of four killer circuits.

Fat Burning Strength and Cardio Circuit Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, a barbell (you can use dumbbells as a substitute), step or bench, exercise ball, and a mat

This circuit workout focuses on helping you burn more fat by doing a wide variety of exercises interspersed with short bouts of cardio. For each circuit you do three to four exercises, all targeting the hips, glutes, abs, thighs, and upper body. This is a long workout, so you'll want some extra time to finish the exercises.

Jump Rope Circuit Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: A jump rope, various weighted dumbbells, and a medicine ball

This Jump Rope Circuit Workout is a fun one. You'll do a mix of jumping rope along with compound, total body exercises that hit all the major muscles in the body. You'll get just enough cardio to keep the heart rate elevated while building both strength and endurance.

One Hour Killer Cardio and Strength Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weighted dumbbells, and a step or platform

This workout is a little different because you start off with about 30 minutes of cardio with an option to do interval training. You'll increase and decrease your speed and/or resistance so that you're working harder for short periods of time and then recovering. After the cardio workout, you go right into a strength circuit with tons of whole body exercises that will really work your body. You'll do everything from squat presses to hammer curls with a power squat to keep your heart rate up and burn those extra calories.

Tabata Strength Workout

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weight dumbbells

If you really want to take things up a notch, this Tabata Strength Workout will do the trick. For each Tabata, you'll do 20 seconds of a strength training exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeating the exercises for a total of four minutes. The moves are very complex and the workout goes fast, so you'll want to be an experienced exerciser for this one. The good news is, it flies by and leaves you both stronger and fitter at the end.

Short Strength and Power Travel Circuit

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Various weight dumbbells

If you want a short, intense, and satisfying workout, this one does the trick. Whether you're on the road or just short on time, you'll work your entire body with fun, dynamic moves. For this workout, you'll alternate a high intensity strength move with power exercises, so you're building strength and endurance with this tough workout.

Whole Body Calorie-Burning Circuit

Fitness Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Equipment Needed: Light and heavy dumbbells, a kettlebell (optional), a mat, and an exercise ball (optional)

This circuit workout is the perfect total body program that moves fast and works all of your major muscle groups. There are only two circuits in this workout, each including both cardio and strength moves. If you repeat each circuit twice, you'll get a 30-minute workout, perfect for those days when you don't have much time.

 

Source:

Acsm's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2017.

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