Designing a Full Body Workout

How many exercises does one do per muscle group? For example would you do only one exercise for chest or the three listed on full body workout card?

Full Body Workout Card

On a full body workout (performing all major body parts in one session on 3 non-consecutive days per week), it is suggested you only perform one exercise per muscle group. When you are starting a program (or even starting back after a long layoff), more exercises and sets are not necessary and can sometimes be counterproductive. Since the training response is relative to what you are accustomed to, which is next to nothing, you will make sufficient progress with a minimal exercises. Keep in mind, the greatest gains in strength and muscle mass will occur in the initial stages of your program, seemingly no matter what you do.

Choose basic exercises, movements that work more muscles in fewer exercises. The compound exercises are also typically more functional than the isolated exercises, working the muscles and joints more similar to how they will move in nature.

As in the workout templates, muscles in italics are optional. You may already be working some of these muscles indirectly on other movements. For example, a specific low back movement can be included if you have not already exercised it during your quad/glute, hamstrings, or upper back exercises. Likewise, the biceps and triceps are exercised on the back and chest movement respectively. Including a specific isolated exercise for the arms would essentially be adding a second exercise for the biceps and triceps.

For many beginners, the weight increases on these isolated exercises are much greater than what is typically suggested. For example, if you are using 25 lbs for a workout weight and you prepare to move up to the next weight, 30 lbs, this represents a 20% increase in weight! Keep in mind 5 to 10% graduations are typically recommended. In these cases, it sometimes makes sense to hold off on these auxiliary exercises until greater functional strength is achieved during the compound basic exercises.

Certainly, feel free to choose a few optional movements you may want to target that month. Guys usually pick isolated arm movements, whereas, women may even add an additional hip adduction and abduction movement. Just keep in mind there is no such thing as spot reduction as many info-commercials would have you believe.

Be careful though that you do not make a common mistake in trying to specialize in too many muscle groups. Firstly, during a long full body workout, intensity may inadvertently be compromised, essentially decreasing the efficacy of all other exercises. You will probably end up pacing yourself, if your workout consists of too many exercises and sets. The exercises at the end of the workout will also suffer after a long workout as your energy level diminishes. Secondly, you may also end up spending less time on the cardio exercise or stretches at the end of a long workout. Thirdly, those beginning an extended weight training program may have a greater difficulty in adhering to their program as compared to those who begin a more abbreviated full body workout.

It seems experienced weightlifters who prescribe beginners high volume or intense workouts have forgotten what is was like when they first began lifting. Getting sore will only postpone your ability to recuperate and increase the likelihood of dropping out of your new program.

During your first workouts you only need to workout until you feel comfortable fatigue. Each workout, attempt to perform one or two additional reps until you have reached the upper repetition range (typically 12 reps) then increase your resistance by 5 to 10%. You should be able to continue this progression of reps, then resistance for one to two months. See Identifying Workout Weight and Implementing Progressions.

After a few months of training, you will be able to push yourself much harder than when you first began. Your ability to recover between sets will be enhanced but not to the extent of your ability to workout more intensely. You may find yourself requiring a bit more rest between your sets.

As you continue to perform these exercises, you will find it increasingly difficult to progress as you once did. This is an indication your program is becoming stale. Changing your exercise program every month or two will not only allow for continued progress, but will also make training more enjoyable. It can be quite boring performing the same exercises month after month. In the beginning, it is important to choose exercises you feel comfortable with. Later on, the most effective exercises are the ones you are least familiar. These relatively unfamiliar movements are the exercises you have the most potential to make the greatest improvements.

Some time later, depending upon your goals and available time, you may consider changing to a 2 day split program. This would lend its self to working out 4 days per week, each body part exercised two times per week (see ideal frequencies). This type of program may allow you add volume to your program by introducing an additional exercise for the larger muscles.

Related Articles