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The 7 Best Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

A man bending down on one knee in the middle of a workout.
Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash

A quick full-body workout has plenty of benefits, regardless of time (or the lack thereof due to meetings and appointments). You’d be amazed how much ground you can cover in as little as half an hour, but that’s all the time you’d need to boost your musculature’s overall stability and tensegrity, giving you a sense of confidence and power. Full-body workouts maximize time and efficiency, targeting multiple muscle groups simultaneously so you can finish your workout faster and get back to working, living, or relaxing sooner.

The hallmark of a great full-body workout is one that improves your core while strengthening your lower and upper body. You can save more time by doing these best 20-minute home workouts. And if you have another 30 minutes to spare, then you can do a full-body workout.

“Our bodies are complex organisms that function at their greatest potential when everything is working together,” says Vytas Baskauskas, FitOn app trainer. “Full-body workouts help create synergy and harmony amongst our different parts. No real-world movement is done in a vacuum, so it is important that we train as such.”

To help squeeze in with what little time you have for exercise, we spoke to Baskauskas to narrow it down to the best exercises for a full-body workout. Paired with the best HIIT workouts to build muscle and burn fat, these killer exercises provide a strong foundation for your muscles, which helps you later on down the road when you have time to incorporate weight training into your fitness routine. Throw on your favorite workout gear, lay out a mat, and let’s get to work.

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Plank

A man doing planks on a mat while looking at his iPad.

Planks are one of the best ab workouts for targeting the upper and lower body as well as firing up the core. When planking on your elbows, your biceps and shoulders are holding up the most of your body weight while your core helps stabilize. Vytas calls planks the “ultimate low-impact full-body pose,” and we couldn’t agree more.

  • Targeted Muscles: Abs, back, biceps, and shoulders
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Sets: 3 sets of 30-second holds
  • Execution: Hold your body in a push-up position on your forearms, engaging your core. No sticking your butt in the air!

Read more: Best Lower Ab Workouts

Single-Leg Deadlift

Marcus Filly performing a single-leg deadlift with a kettlebell.

Baskauskas describes this move as a “symphony of hip stability, core strength, and breath awareness.” Excellent for hamstring mobility, deadlifts help to build power in almost every muscle in your lower body. This variation of the classic deadlift targets a single leg using bodyweight alone, which helps improve balance and strength.

  • Targeted Muscles: Back, core, legs, and arms
  • Equipment Needed: Kettlebell
  • Sets: 3 sets of 10 slow reps
  • Execution: Standing with your feet hip-width apart and parallel, lean forward at the hip, shifting your body weight onto one leg and letting the other leg hinge behind you until your body forms a “T” shape. Don’t hunch or arch, and go slow.

Read more: Best Kettlebell Workouts

Side Plank

A man doing a side plank on a mat in a home gym.

This plank variation is lateral strength at its finest. It strengthens your core without stressing your back while improving the balance and overall endurance of your front and back abdominal muscles.

  • Targeted Muscles: Abs, back, legs, and obliques
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Sets: 3 sets of 30-second holds
  • Execution: Start on your side with your feet together. On one forearm, engage your core and lift your hips until your body creates a straight line. Be sure to make it a full-body pose, keeping the shoulders broad and tailbone tucked in.

Read more: Best Oblique Exercises

Overhead Squats

A man performing an overhead squat using a barbell.

Overhead squats are the epitome of a total body exercise. Reaching the arms overhead while we squat is no small feat, especially when trying to avoid arching or rounding. If you’re new to this move, try it with light resistance until you master proper form, as this one can feel slightly awkward at first.

  • Targeted Muscles: Glutes, quadriceps hamstrings, upper back, shoulders, and core
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell and plate weights
  • Sets: 3 sets of 10
  • Execution: Begin standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Hold the barbell on your upper back, and with your elbows underneath the bar, drive the barbell upward overhead while dropping into a squat position, making a “Y” with your body. Repeat.

Read more: Best Arm Workouts

Split Squats

A man uses two dumbbells to perform a split squat.

This targeted movement is a unilateral leg exercise that increases lower-body strength, builds muscle, and improves balance. The split squat also helps with mobility and flexibility, helping you squat lower and get into that deep range of motion that fires up those quads.

  • Targeted Muscles: Quadriceps, glutes, and core
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Sets: 3 sets of 15
  • Execution: Get into a standard lunge and simply stay there, squatting up and down, bending both knees (get low) on an inhale, and slowly straightening both legs on the exhale. Once you have that down, do it without tilting your pelvis forward and backward. Use your core to stabilize.

Reverse Plank

Marcus Filly doing a reverse plank.

This one move has all the benefits and fun of the standard plank, except on the posterior side of your body. The reverse plank targets the often-ignored muscles in a totally unique way. These posterior muscles are important in weight training and sports but rarely get any attention in isolated exercises.

  • Targeted Muscles: Lower back, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Sets: 3 sets of 30-second holds
  • Execution: From a sitting position, place your heels on the ground in front of you and your hands directly under your shoulders. Turn the hands out to the sides and flex the feet, lifting the hips high. Allow your head to look up.

Sumo Squats

A man doing sumo squats in a park.

Sumo squats differ from regular squats in that they place more emphasis on the inner thigh adductors, which move your legs toward your body. It’s also a challenge for the core because you’re putting your body in a new alignment, and it needs stability to keep from rocking forward or backward.

  • Targeted Muscles: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Sets: 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Execution: Spread the legs about a foot wider than from a normal squat. When squatting down, try not to stick your butt out. Let the knees spread wide and stay vertical with your torso. Drive through the floor, squeeze the glutes to stand up, and keep those knees tracking wide.

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