The 7 Best Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

man bending down on one knee in the middle of a workout
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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 really all the time you’d need to boost the overall stability and tensegrity of your musculature, 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 keystone of a great full-body workout is one that improves your core while strengthening your lower and upper body at the same time. You can save even more time by doing these quick workouts at home. 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 you make the most out of what little time you have to exercise, we spoke to Vytas Baskauskas to narrow it down to the seven absolute most-effective exercises for a killer full-body workout. Paired with a HIIT workout to build muscle and burn fat, these 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 exercise routine. Throw on your favorite workout gear, lay out a mat, and let’s get to work.

Plank

Planks are one of the most effective exercises 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 Ab Workouts

Single-Leg Deadlift

Vytas beautifully 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.

Side Plank

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.

Overhead Squats

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.

Split Squats

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

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

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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