Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

8 of the best full-body exercises to get you in shape

Get fit with these incredible full-body exercises

Some of the best workouts you can perform require little or no equipment. Full-body exercises have plenty of benefits, and they’re simple to complete regardless of time (or the lack thereof because of work or family engagements). One of the best parts is that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym and instead, only need to invest about thirty minutes to reap great results. That’s all the time you’d need to boost your musculature’s overall stability 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 20-minute home workouts. And if you have another 30 minutes to spare, then you can do a full-body workout.

A man bending down on one knee in the middle of a 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 full-body exercises. 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 when you have time to incorporate weight training into your fitness routine (and if you’re just starting out with weight training, there are other exercises, too, that are great for beginners). So throw on your favorite workout gear, lay out a mat, and let’s get to work.


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 both the upper and lower core. When planking on your elbows, your biceps and shoulders are holding up most of your body weight while your core helps stabilize. Baskauskas 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!


Man doing burpees.

One of the best overall bodyweight exercises you can perform is the burpee. It is simple and effective, and if you do more than a few, can be a grueling mental challenge. The burpee can help you not only build strength, but it can also help you blast body fat as it is often used in cardio protocols as well.

  • Targeted Muscles: Chest, back, core, legs, and arms
  • Equipment Needed: None
  • Sets: 3 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Execution: 
    • Start by assuming an athletic position, on the balls of your feet, shoulder width apart
    • Squat down toward the ground, placing your hands right outside of your starting stance
    • Jump (or step) your feet backward, transitioning into the top position for a push-up
    • Perform a push-up
    • Jump (or step) your feet back toward your hands
    • Rise back to starting position
    • Upon fully rising, jump towards the ceiling, for full arm extension
    • That is one (1) full burpee

Single-Leg Deadlift

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

We love a good kettlebell exercise, and Baskauskas describes this one 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

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 obliques and 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

Man overhead squatting with 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.

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.
Costantino Costa/Alamy

Sumo squats differ from regular squats in that they place more emphasis on the inner thigh adductors, which move your legs toward your body (though they’re both great squat exercises for leg day). 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.

Sometimes less is more. Full-body exercises are just that, requiring little to no equipment to get amazing results. If equipment is available, then adding weight to any of these exercises is a great way to further challenge yourself, too.

Editors' Recommendations

Sasha Hanna, MS, RD
Sasha is a registered dietitian whose career path has spanned the areas of community health, worksite wellness, recipe…
10 effective oblique exercises to build and tone your abs
Get better abs with these amazing exercises
best oblique exercises ezgif com gif maker  2023 01 20t151135 202

Nearly everyone wants a six-pack, and many people stick to only working the rectus abdominis — the abdominal muscle that runs up the center of your torso. While we want this muscle to be strong, all the core muscles as a group need attention, which means adding some of the best oblique exercises to your ab workout routine!
Having a functionally strong core that effectively provides your body with the support and balance you need to perform both athletic and daily life activities optimally requires all the muscles that comprise your core to be equally strong. Focusing solely on just one or two muscle groups will create imbalances that cannot only detract from your movement efficiency and power but also increase your risk of injury.

One of the unsung heroes but key players in the orchestra of ab muscles are the obliques. The obliques are the muscles on the sides of your torso that enable side-to-side bending, torso rotation, and spinal flexion. There are actually two layers (the internal and external obliques), and both layers also play a pivotal role in stabilizing and protecting your spine by resisting excessive rotation of the spine.
Since these are clearly all important functions for everyday life and athletic performance, incorporating exercises that target your obliques into your workouts is critical. Moreover, because the obliques participate in several distinct functions, an effective training program should take a well-rounded approach to strengthen them by including multiple exercises that hit all the different functions and demands of the obliques.
Ahead, we share our best oblique exercises to strengthen and tone your “side abs.” Try incorporating a handful of the moves into your workouts each week, switching up the ones you perform each workout.

Read more
The best Peloton classes for beginners
Try these amazing Peloton classes for beginners
peloton landing page for beginners.

Have you recently purchased a Peloton as part of your new year promise to adopt a healthier lifestyle? If so, you might be overwhelmed by all the classes available to you— we're here to help.

And if you don't have a Peloton? You can still partake. It's understandable that you would think you need the Peloton bike or Tread to participate in a Peloton class. However, you can get access to the best Peloton classes for beginners without this equipment! There is a huge library of on-demand and live-streaming classes that you can do with the exercise equipment you already have at home. This workout app can also be utilized at the gym and provide you with many different guided, motivating, and challenging workouts for a modest monthly fee.
However, if you’re a beginner and new to fitness, Peloton classes and workouts may seem reserved for hardcore, fit athletes and indoor cycling fanatics with quads so chiseled they belong on fitness models. Though many Peloton classes are intense and geared toward experienced riders, yogis, runners, and athletes, some great beginner Peloton classes are perfect for those just getting started. Moreover, you don’t have to hop on an indoor cycle to take advantage of Peloton workouts.
Even though Peloton has essentially become a household name in the indoor cycling or spinning space, the brand's digital membership also offers hundreds of Peloton classes in other exercise modalities and disciplines, including strength, running, yoga, cardio, stretching, and more.
That said, much like how the litany of options on Netflix can make it difficult to settle on something to watch, the sheer number of choices of workouts in the Peloton app can be daunting and overwhelming to newcomers. Fear not—consider us your concierge service, helping you hone in on the best Peloton classes for beginners for each of the primary fitness categories they offer. So, if you’re not sure where to start, keep reading for our recommendations of the best Peloton workouts for beginners.

Read more
The 14 best workout apps for men in 2023
These fitness apps will help you stay on track this year

No matter if you're a seasoned fitness vet with over 20 years of experience, or just starting out on your journey, everyone has the plan to go to the gym and work out until ya don't; life happens and things come up. No matter if you established your own workout space at home or invested in high-quality budget home gym equipment like the best dumbbells deals or treadmills for 2023, working out at home can be your answer. With the ability to be convenient, the no-excuses solution to fitting exercise into your busy schedule, at-home workouts can benefit everyone. However, if you're a beginner and prefer the direction and structure of workout classes or professionally-designed exercise routines, working out at home can feel directionless and unmotivating. It can be hard to know exactly where to start.

The solution? Workout apps and streaming fitness classes. Ideal for people on the go or just can't seem to fit a gym membership into the budget or don't have time for the hassle of gyms (even if you have your own at home), workout apps allow you to access a plethora of exercises using your device anytime, anywhere -- from the hotel room to your backyard. One bright side to come from Covid, online workout classes also are the new fitness trend, with well-informed enthusiasts and veterans taking advantage of technology to get fit and healthy. Finding the right workout app that will suit your needs might be too overwhelming, especially if you're a newbie, so we took the time to test drive over two dozen workout apps. If you're ready to get fit at home, keep reading for our picks for the best workout apps for men in 2023.

Read more