Build a Total Body Workout
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
Total body workouts. Do they work? Yes! Do I use them both for myself and for clients? Absolutely! Total body workouts are great for the person who can schedule only 2 days to workout. They allow you to still hit all of the major muscle groups usually more than once throughout the week. But how do you build them? It really is quite simple and there are a few ways to go about it. Before you start building your workouts I highly suggest you create an exercise library. Create a big list of exercises you are comfortable and/or capable doing and break them down. Organize them by body part or muscle/muscle group and movement pattern. This will be very handy when you start building your workouts! I’m going to give two examples of how to build a total body workout. They may sound very similar because they are, but they are not the same and each have their place. They are building the workout by body part and building the workout movement pattern. By Body Part Building a total body workout by body parts is exactly what it sounds like. This type of workout is great for the person short on time. We’re talking 45 minutes which includes the warm up, core work, and workout. At the moment, we are only talking about the “workout” part or lifting part of the workout. This is also super beneficial for the beginner. You don’t need a whole lot of exercises in your library to make this work. Now, how do you build this workout? For each body part, you pick an exercise. 1 leg exercise, 1 chest exercise, 1 back exercise, 1 shoulder exercise. That simple. I tend to suggest two leg exercises so we can hit both a quadriceps dominant exercise and a hamstring or glute dominant exercise, but if time does not permit this, then just pick one. If you can only pick one per workout, make sure to alternate each workout. The repetitions and sets in this case are likely to be in the 2-4 sets for 8-12 repetitions ranges based on you and your goals. Let’s see what this looks like for someone who has two days they can workout per week.
Workout #1 2-4 sets, 8-12 repetitions each exercise Legs: Goblet Squats Chest: Push Ups Back: Dumbbell Row Shoulder: Dumbbell Overhead Press Workout #2 2-4 sets, 8-12 repetitions each exercise Legs: B-Stance Deadlift Chest: Dumbbell Bench Press Back: Cable Lat Pull Down Shoulder: Dumbbell Lateral Raise
In this case we are only looking at major body parts. As someone improves or even gains more time to workout, other body parts can be added or make them more specific. For example, legs can become two exercises, hamstrings and quadriceps. You could add biceps and triceps or even calves. This is just a good place to start when you are new to working out and/or if you’re short on time. By Movement Pattern Before we can discuss how to build a workout based on movement patterns, we have to know what the movement patterns are. For beginners or those short on time I usually start with squat, hinge, upper body push, and upper body pull. Squats are a knee dominant movement, hinges are a hip dominant movement, upper body push is usually chest dominant, upper body pull is usually back dominant, upper body push or pull can also be shoulder based. These are very basic movement patterns. Once someone is more experienced lunge, curl, adduction, and abduction and other movement patterns can be added. For now, we’ll stick with the first four. When we use movement patterns there can be a few more exercises per workout. Usually an additional leg exercise and at least one extra upper body exercise. Therefore, building workouts this way is usually better for someone with a little bit more time. Keeping the days, repetitions, and sets the same, let’s look at some examples.
Workout #1 2-4 sets, 8-12 repetitions each exercise Squat: Goblet Squats Hinge: Hip Thrust Upper Body Push, Chest: Incline press Upper Body Pull, Back: Cable Row Upper Body Push, Shoulder: Dumbbell Overhead Press Upper Body Pull, Shoulder: Forward Raise
Workout #2 2-4 sets, 8-12 repetitions each exercise Squat: Barbell Back Squat Hinge: Romanian Deadlift Upper Body Push, Chest: Bench Press Upper Body Pull, Back: Pull Up Upper Body Push, Shoulder: Arnold Press Upper Body Pull, Shoulder: Upright Row
These are just two examples of ways to build total body workouts. Remember, I used only two-day option. Three or four days could work as well. I also only recommend these repetitions and sets if they are beneficial toward your goal. The workouts listed here are only examples and may not be right for everyone. Heck, total body workouts might not be for everyone or all goals! But they are an option! You got this!