The Definitive Guide to Full-Body Workout Routines

Picking a workout routine can feel like picking a political candidate.

Many people have strong opinions as to which is best and are often quick to denounce all other options.

For instance, after reading about why the push pull legs routine is the best, you’ll find someone claiming that upper lower routines are better, and then another who plumps for body part training, and so on.

It shouldn’t be this complicated, you’ve probably thought to yourself. And you’re right. It shouldn’t, and it doesn’t have to be.

To escape this quagmire, you need to . . .

  1. Clarify your goals.
  2. Survey your options and learn their pros and cons.
  3. Choose the one that’ll help you achieve your ends as efficiently as possible.

Now, if you’re like most people reading this article, your goals are to build a muscular, proportionate, and strong body and maintain low but healthy levels of body fat.

At first blush, full-body training would appear to be a perfect fit for the first goal, because, well, it trains every muscle in your body. Plus, it sounds a lot simpler than training different muscle groups every time you work out.

There are many advocates of full-body workouts who say as much.

This style of training, they claim, is not only simpler and easier to follow than other kinds of workout routines, but also more effective for gaining whole-body muscle and strength.

Furthermore, although full-body workout routines have fallen out of favor in the past few decades, they were the bread and butter of early bodybuilding icons, including the “Monarch of Muscledom,” John Grimek, the sword-and-sandal superstar, Steve Reeves, and the man who started it all, Eugen Sandow.

Other experts disagree, however.

They say that while full-body workout routines might work well for beginners, they quickly lose utility once your newbie gains disappear (after about a year of proper training).

At this point, they argue, you must move on to another split to keep making gains.

Who’s right? Should you follow a full-body workout routine?

Well, they’re both right to some degree, and whose advice you should follow depends on a few different factors.

On the one hand, full-body workout routines can work extremely well depending on your fitness level, goals, schedule, and preferences.

As it happens, full-body training tends to work best for those on the fringes—the people just beginning their weightlifting journey and those who’ve already achieved most of their genetic potential for muscle gain.

On the other hand, full-body workout routines aren’t always optimal (even for newbies or advanced trainees) under all circumstances. Although they have significant advantages over many other approaches, they aren’t without limitations.

So, if you want to learn the pros and cons of full-body workout routines, whether you should use one, and the best way to program them, you want to read this article.

Let’s start by defining exactly what a full-body workout routine is (the answer isn’t as obvious as you might think!).

    Table of Contents

  • What Is a Full-Body Workout Routine?
  • What Are the Pros of Full-Body Workout Routines?
  • 1. Full-Body Workouts May Produce More Muscle and Strength
  • 2. Full-Body Workout Routines Are Flexible
  • 3. Full-Body Workout Routines Are Time Efficient
  • Who Should Follow a Full-Body Workout Routine?
  • How to Make Full-Body Workout Routines Work for You
  • 3 Science-Based Full-Body Workout Routines
  • How to Progress in Your Full-Body Workouts
  • Use Reps In Reserve (RIR) to control your workout intensity.
  • Warm up before each workout.
  • Don’t go to absolute muscle failure every set.
  • Rest 3 to 4 minutes in between each set.
  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.
  • What About Supplements?
  • Creatine
  • Protein Powder
  • Pre-Workout Drink
  • The Bottom Line on Full Body Workout Routines

What Is a Full-Body Workout Routine?


full body workout for mass


If you look at most of the full-body workout routines followed by early bodybuilders, they’re more or less exactly what they sound like:

In each workout, you do exercises that train your full-body—your chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and calves—rest a day or two, do the exact same thing again in your next workout, and repeat ad infinitum.

Despite its obvious workability (look at what those guys accomplished), this approach isn’t optimal for a variety of reasons, which is why it’s largely fallen out of favor among experienced weightlifters, researchers, and bodybuilding coaches.

Instead, the modern “full-body” workout routine is more accurately described as a “high-frequency” workout routine that doesn’t necessarily train all of the major muscle groups in your body (at least directly) in every workout.

We’ll get into the science of high-frequency training in a moment, but the long story short is a growing body of evidence shows that training each muscle group two or more times per week is likely optimal for gaining strength and muscle.

To achieve this level of frequency, though, you more or less have to train multiple different muscle groups in each workout.

Read: The Best Training Frequency for Building Muscle (According to 20 Studies)

You don’t have to train every single muscle group in every workout, however, and you certainly don’t have to do the same exercises in every workout, which is why the new evidence-based take on full-body training differs from the early approach.

So much so that many contemporary “full-body” workout routines don’t contain a single true “full-body workout,” because the goal isn’t to merely train every major muscle group in each session but to achieve optimal weekly training and volume frequency for each major muscle group.

For instance, let’s say you’re following a body-part “bro” workout routine, which has you training each muscle group once per week, like this:


Typical-Body-Part-Workout-Routine(1)


To train each muscle group two to three times per week, you’d reshuffle your workouts to something like this:


Full-Body-Workout-Routine(1)


 

And here’s a chart that explains what changed . . .


Original-and-Modified-Workout-Routines(1)




As you can see, there’s not a true “full-body workout” in the program, although Monday, Wednesday, and Friday come close.

And that’s perfectly fine, because training every major muscle group in one or every workout isn’t desirable in itself—achieving optimal weekly volume and frequency for each major muscle group is.

Thus, from here on, when I refer to “full-body” training, read “almost-full-body training that involves training two or more muscle groups per workout so as to train each major muscle group at least twice per week.”

That definition allows for a lot of variability, and so this style of full-body training comes in all different shapes and sizes, and can be tailored to almost any person or goal, from complete beginners to advanced weightlifters.

For example, many people new to weightlifting have tremendous success with full-body workout routines like Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5.

And at the opposite end of the spectrum, many high-level powerlifters thrive on full-body powerlifting programs like Smolov and Sheiko.

And then you have a gazillion effective full-body workout routines for intermediate weightlifters, like the one I’ll share with you later in this article.

Summary: Most modern “full-body” workout routines are more accurately described as “high-frequency” workout routines that involve training two or more muscle groups per workout and each muscle group at least twice per week.

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What Are the Pros of Full-Body Workout Routines?


how much exercise per day to lose weight


This depends on what kind of full-body workout routine you’re talking about.

A program like Starting Strength has different perks than one like Sheiko, which has different advantages that the Legion full-body program I’ll share with you here.

That said, if you’re talking about a full-body workout routine that mostly conforms to the modern definition above, here are the main benefits.

1. Full-Body Workouts May Produce More Muscle and Strength

Many people think an effective muscle- and strength-building workout involves “bombing and blasting” one major muscle group with a slew of sets and a variety of exercises.

While this can work, it’s suboptimal for most people for reasons explained here.

A better approach revolves around two vital training principles:

  1. Progressive tension overload. This involves increasing tension levels in your muscle fibers over time, and the best way to accomplish this is to get stronger, especially on compound exercises like the bench and military press, squat, and deadlift.
  2. Doing more hard sets. This involves doing more heavy, muscle- and strength-building sets that are taken close to technical failure (the point where you can no longer continue with proper form) for each muscle group.

Read: Is Getting Stronger Really the Best Way to Gain Muscle?

In other words, the more weight you can lift, and the more sets you do with heavy weights, the more muscle you’ll build.

Specifically, the winning formula is using weights that are at least 60% of your one-rep max for most of your workouts, and doing about 10 to 20 hard sets per muscle group per week, with the lower number of sets being suitable for beginners and the higher end for advanced weightlifters.

If you get just those two things right with your programming, everything else is of secondary importance—progressive tension overload and hard sets are the 20% of your actions that’ll produce 80% of your results.

Accordingly, while things like exercise order, rep range, rest periods, and so forth are also important, they’re part of the 80% of potential actions that’ll produce no more than 20% of your results.

One way full-body training helps you better implement the 20% to achieve the 80% is how it limits muscle soreness and fatigue.

First, when you’re working out, soreness and fatigue caused by an exercise at the beginning of your session will negatively affect your performance on subsequent exercises.

Unsurprisingly, research shows that you’re generally going to perform better on the exercises early in the workouts, when you’re feeling freshest. As you get deeper into your workout, your muscles get sore and drained and you start to tire out.

Second, the same principle applies over the course of a week.

If you “crush” your chest on Monday (naturally), it may still be sore when it’s time for overhead presses on Thursday, which may limit your performance. Similarly, if you “blitz” your back on Tuesday, it may still be sore when it’s time for squats on Friday, which also may prevent you from working as hard as you could’ve otherwise.

Full-body training avoids these problems in two ways.

First, by separating the training volume for major muscle groups throughout the week, you experience less muscle soreness and fatigue from individual training sessions.

For instance, let’s say you do the Monday workout in the body-part workout program I shared earlier in this article, which looks like this:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press
  • Cable Fly
  • Machine Chest Press

After several sets of bench press, your chest, triceps, and shoulders will have accumulated some soreness and fatigue, which will knock your performance down on your incline barbell bench press.

And by the time you get to the machine chest press, your chest, triceps, and shoulders will be bushed, meaning you’ll need to use a lot less weight than if you were starting a workout with it.

Now, let’s compare this to the Monday workout in the full-body workout program I shared earlier, which looks like this:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Hamstring Curl
  • Dumbbell Side Raise

After bench press, your chest, triceps, and shoulders will be aching, but your lats and biceps will be fresh. Thus, your initial pressing shouldn’t interfere much with your pulling.

That is, you’ll probably perform about as well on your lat pulldowns after bench press as you would doing lat pulldowns first in your workout, assuming you rest enough between sets.

The same is true of hamstring curls, since neither bench press nor lat pulldowns hit your hamstrings.

Finally, although your shoulders were trained during the bench press, they’ve also been resting while you did lat pulldowns and hamstring curls. Thus, you’ll perform well on your dumbbell side raises, too.

What about neurological/systemic fatigue, though?

Aren’t you still going to be worn out by the end of full-body workouts, and especially if you’re training several major muscle groups with heavy weights and compound exercises?

Not necessarily.

The reason your performance declines in a workout with each subsequent set you do for an individual muscle group has very little to do with “neurological,” “neural,” or “central nervous system” fatigue, and more to do with muscle fatigue.

In case you aren’t familiar with this concept, the theory of central nervous system fatigue is that during the course of a workout, your brain becomes less efficient at sending out signals for your muscles to contract, reducing your strength.

While this does occur to some degree, you have to do a lot of strenuous exercise to produce any meaningful amount of central nervous system fatigue. And even then, it disappears in a matter of minutes.

In other words, most of the exhaustion you feel during and after workouts is in the muscles themselves.

(Researchers still aren’t entirely sure what causes fatigue, but it’s likely a combination of factors such as the buildup of metabolic waste products and inflammatory molecules, the depletion of muscle glycogen, and others).

Listen: Menno Henselmans on the Myth of Central Nervous System Fatigue

So, the key takeaway here is this:

Full-body training can reduce intra-workout fatigue, which can improve your performance and thereby increase muscle growth and strength gain over time.

The second way full-body workout programs can help mitigate soreness and fatigue is more general.

With many workout routines, you thoroughly exhaust one muscle group with a variety of exercises and many sets in one workout and then rest the muscles for several days to a week before doing it again.

While your muscles do recover faster as you gain more weightlifting experience, training a muscle group with a significant amount of volume in one session (six or more hard sets) will require more time for recuperation than a moderate amount (three hard sets).

With full-body training, however, you train a muscle group with one or two exercises and a handful of sets multiple times per week, meaning you rarely train any one muscle group to the point of exhaustion.

Thus, whole-body fatigue and soreness levels tend to be significantly lower with full-body workout routines than with body-part workout splits.

In practice, this also translates into better performance in your workouts, which further enhances long-term results.

Some people say that spreading your sets out like this isn’t as effective as doing all or at least most of them in individual workouts, because there’s a minimum amount of volume required in a single session to “trigger” muscle growth.

While that’s an interesting theory, research shows that so long as you do around 10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week with sufficiently heavy weights, you’ll get similar results regardless of how you distribute those sets throughout the week.

That said, as you now know, there’s reason to believe that spreading volume out over more rather than fewer days per week may offer some advantages.

This is particularly true if you’re doing the higher number of sets (15 to 20 per major muscle group week), as the last half of such marathon sessions can quickly become a sloppy and unproductive affair.

What’s more, although most studies haven’t found major advantages to high-frequency training, there has been a consistent trend for people to gain more strength and muscle while following higher-frequency programs.

So while the benefits may be small, they probably do exist.

Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that with a well-designed full-body workout program, you’ll boost muscle protein synthesis in each major muscle group more frequently than with other workout splits.

Read: The Definitive (And Practical) Guide to Muscle Protein Synthesis

Theoretically, this “should” lead to more muscle growth over time, but scientists aren’t sure if that’s the case.

It’s not clear multiple that smaller increases in muscle protein synthesis throughout the week are better than fewer larger ones, and even if there are benefits to boosting muscle protein synthesis more frequently, it’s probably only meaningful in experienced weightlifters.

Why?

Because people who are new to weightlifting benefit from a much more prolonged increase in muscle protein synthesis after a workout.

For example, in a study at the University of São Paulo, the researchers found that average muscle protein synthesis was about three times higher among untrained weightlifters than trained weightlifters over the two days following an intense workout.

You can see the relative change in muscle protein synthesis among the two groups in this chart:


Muscle-Protein-Synthesis-1


So, after training on Monday, a new weightlifter’s muscle protein synthesis levels might still be elevated come Friday or even the next Monday. Thus, training their chest again during this time might not be necessary or beneficial.

This could be why some research shows that high-frequency training doesn’t increase muscle growth in beginners.

You can think of it this way:

If your body’s muscle-building machinery is already redlining, stomping on the gas isn’t going to make you go any faster.

Read: Everything You Should Know About Newbie Gains, According to Science

It’s a different story for more advanced weightlifters, though, who only get several hours of elevated muscle protein synthesis rates after a workout. In this case, pumping on the gas several times per week could indeed increase muscle growth over time.

Another nice theory, but do we have any evidence it works better in the real world?

Yes . . . sort of.

A good example of the benefits of full-body workout routines comes from a study conducted by scientists at Methodist University of Piracicaba.

The researchers split 18 resistance-trained men in their mid-twenties into two groups, both of which trained five days per week:

  1. A body-part workout routine group that trained each muscle group once per week (technically the biceps and triceps were trained twice per week, but close enough).
  2. A full-body workout routine group that trained each muscle group five times per week.

The participants were also intermediate weightlifters who could bench over 200 pounds on average and had been strength training at least three times per week for a year before the study.

Both groups followed their programs for eight weeks, and the researchers tested their squat, bench press, and machine row one-rep maxes (1RMs) and biceps, triceps, and quad muscle thickness before and after the study. The scientists also measured the participants’s levels of fatigue after each workout based on their rating of perceived exertion (RPE).

In the end, the full-body workout routine group gained substantially more muscle in every muscle group measured (although the results weren’t statistically significant for the triceps) as well as nearly twice as much strength on their squat one-rep max.

You can see the outcomes for yourself in this graph:


Muscle-and-Strength-Gain-After-Training-5x-per-Week-vs-1x-Per-Week(1)


Additionally, the full-body group was able to do more reps and add weight to their exercises faster, but their average level of fatigue was about the same as the body-part workout routine group.

That is, they were able to do more total work without feeling more tired.

Several similar studies have found more or less the same thing: in intermediate to advanced weightlifters, full-body (or really, higher frequency) workout routines tend to work better than body-part ones.

Summary: Full-body workout routines may increase workout performance by reducing soreness and fatigue, and this may lead to more muscle and strength gain over time.

2. Full-Body Workout Routines Are Flexible

Many workout routines don’t accommodate schedule changes.

For example, let’s say you’re following a simple body-part routine and can’t make it to the gym on Friday to train your legs. Unless you can do your leg workout over the weekend, you won’t train legs for two weeks.

The same thing is true of other splits, too.

If you’re following a push pull legs routine, and you miss your pull workout, you won’t do any pulling for about two weeks.

This is bad juju for three reasons:

  1. You lose out on muscle gain.
  2. Your technique on certain exercises can rust a little, making it harder to lift as much weight as you normally would.
  3. You’ll probably get more sore after the extended break, which can interfere with your other workouts during the week.

Full-body workout routines are more forgiving in this regard.

Using the example full-body workout routine I shared earlier, let’s say you skip your Tuesday workout, which involves your back, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Not ideal, of course, but you still train each of these muscle groups at least three other times throughout the week, so the downsides of a missed workout are far less pronounced.

Summary: Full-body workout routines ensure that even if you miss a workout here and there, you still train each muscle group at least once per week.

3. Full-Body Workout Routines Are Time Efficient

One effective and evidence-based way to finish your workouts faster without compromising your performance is with antagonist paired sets.

You can read this article to learn more about the science behind this method, but it’s very simple in practice:

You use shorter rest periods than usual and alternate between exercises that train different muscle groups, typically ones that perform opposite functions (known as “agonists” and “antagonists”).

For example, when the biceps contract to flex the elbow, the triceps are the antagonist, because they do the opposite—they extend the elbow. Thus, when the biceps contract (agonist), the triceps get a break (antagonist), and vice versa.

With antagonist paired sets, you’re using sets for one muscle group as rest periods for another. As a result, you don’t have to rest quite as long in between sets, which helps you finish your workouts faster.

This method works for training any two muscle groups that don’t overlap in function. For example, you could alternate between sets of dumbbell side raises and calf raises, because while you’re training your shoulders, your calves are resting, and vice versa.

(Sometimes people refer to these as alternate sets, since you aren’t training antagonist/agonist muscles).

Read: Should You Use Supersets to Build Muscle Faster? What 18 Studies Say

The effectiveness of this technique isn’t merely theoretical—it has been demonstrated in scientific research.

A 2010 review from researchers at the University of Ballarat concluded that antagonist paired sets allowed athletes to finish their workouts in less time, while using weights that were just as heavy (and in some cases, heavier) than traditional programming.

Full-body training allows you to easily take advantage of this method, because each workout involves training several unrelated muscle groups.

For instance, if you wanted to shorten the Thursday workout from the full-body workout routine I shared earlier in this article, you’d first alternate between sets of the barbell military press and leg press.

Here’s how this would look if you were doing a total of three sets each of both the barbell military press and leg press.

  1. Barbell military press: Warm-up and 1 hard set
  2. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  3. Leg press: Warm up and 1 hard set
  4. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  5. Barbell military press: 1 hard set
  6. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  7. Leg press: 1 hard set
  8. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  9. Barbell military press: 1 hard set
  10. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  11. Leg press: 1 hard set

Then, you’d alternate between sets of the one-arm dumbbell row and cable triceps pressdown using the same method, like this:

  1. One-arm dumbbell row: 1 hard set
  2. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  3. Cable triceps pressdown: 1 hard set
  4. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  5. One-arm dumbbell row: 1 hard set
  6. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  7. Cable triceps pressdown: 1 hard set
  8. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  9. One-arm dumbbell row: 1 hard set
  10. Rest 1 to 2 minutes
  11. Cable triceps pressdown: 1 hard set

You may have noticed there are no warm-up sets, and this isn’t a mistake.

While I’m a proponent of proper warm-ups and believe they serve several important purposes, you don’t have to warm-up before every exercise when doing full-body workouts.

The main reasons to warm up are:

  1. To raise your muscles’ temperature, which likely improves performance (although some research shows this may not be that important for people who are new to weightlifting).
  2. To practice your technique, because the better you get at exercises, the better you can perform.

And, uh, that’s about it.

And that’s why you typically don’t need to warm up on more than one or two exercises when doing a full-body workout.

For instance, using the Thursday workout I shared a moment ago, the only technically challenging exercise is the barbell military press, which is why it’s a good idea to do a few warm-up sets to groove in your form before doing your hard sets.

The leg press, on the other hand, is a simple exercise that doesn’t require practice, but it does involve heavy weights, and so can still benefit from a quick warm-up.

From there, however, you have the one-arm dumbbell row and triceps pressdown, which don’t require warm-up sets. Neither of these exercises are technically demanding, and your upper-body muscles will already be primed from military pressing.

Thus, full-body workouts don’t generally entail more warm-up sets than most other types of workouts, allowing you to reap all of the time efficiency benefits of antagonist paired/alternate sets.

Summary: Full-body workout routines make it easy to use antagonist paired and alternate sets in your training, which helps you finish your workouts faster without compromising your performance.

Who Should Follow a Full-Body Workout Routine?

The short answer is this:

The people who stand to benefit the most from full-body workout routines are beginners and advanced weightlifters, but for very different reasons.

The primary benefit to beginners (people with less than six months of proper weightlifting experience) is full-body training allows them to practice (do) key exercises several times throughout each week.

Like any sport, the more often you practice weightlifting, the faster your technique will improve for key pushing, pulling, and squatting movements.

That said, I’ve found most people can learn good technique in just a month or two of performing the big compound exercises once or twice per week. What’s more, since novices respond remarkably well to heavy weightlifting, they can make outstanding progress training each muscle group just once or twice per week, like you do with my programs for men and women new to strength training.

Thus, for most newbies, a full-body workout routine won’t outpace other well-designed splits in muscle and strength gain.

And not to toot my own horn, but I’m not just whistling Dixie.

I’ve sold over 1.5 million books, fielded hundreds of thousands of questions from readers and followers, and seen firsthand how tens of thousands of people have gained a tremendous amount of muscle and strength training each major muscle group just one or two times per week.

For instance, here are several examples of men and women who’ve completely transformed their bodies following my Bigger Leaner Stronger program for men . . .


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Kennedy-K-featured



ron-r-featured


And my Thinner Leaner Stronger program for women . . .


Jenny-C.-1



legion-success-erica-v featured



legion-success-heather-m-featured-1


Thus, if you’re relatively new to weightlifting, you can follow a full-body workout routine if you’d like, but if I were programming your workouts, I’d do it a little differently.

Specifically, I’d have you follow a hybrid of the push pull legs and upper/lower splits (which is exactly what you find in my books).

Why?

The goal of a full-body workout routine is to maximize your training frequency and volume and minimize fatigue. As a beginner, your training frequency and volume doesn’t need to be that high and thus fatigue isn’t usually a major impediment to progress, so full-body training doesn’t have much to offer.

I’ve also found that many people who are new to weightlifting prefer to train one or two muscle groups per workout, as it makes the workouts easier to remember.

As a result, a moderate-volume, moderate-frequency push pull legs or upper/lower split tends to fit the bill.

If you’re an experienced weightlifter, however, you stand to benefit more from full-body training.

As we’ve covered, with full-body training, you’ll experience less soreness and fatigue than with other splits, and you’ll ensure you train each major muscle group a couple of times per week. And over time, these advantages will likely add up to better results.

One other reason to try full-body training isn’t what you may expect given the complexion of this article thus far:

It might be more fun than what you’re currently doing.

Don’t discount the value of this one, either.

If your workouts have gotten stale and you feel like you’re just going through the motions, switching to a new routine can make you look forward to and enjoy your workouts again.

And if you’re more excited about your workouts, you’ll be more consistent and work harder to progress, and this alone can help you break out of a rut.

Read: What Got You Here (Probably) Won’t Get You There

So, at bottom, while full-body workout routines aren’t always the best choice, they can work for just about anyone and any goal when programmed correctly.

Here’s a helpful chart for deciding whether or not you should give full-body training a whirl:


The-Pros-and-Cons-of-Full-Body-Workout-Routines


Summary: Advanced weightlifters stand to benefit the most from full-body workout routines, although they can work for anyone and any goal when programmed correctly.

How to Make Full-Body Workout Routines Work for You


full body workout with weights


As you now know, you can program full-body workout routines in an infinite number of ways.

There are a few principles you should follow, however, to make the most of this style of training:

1. Emphasize one or two movements or muscle groups in each workout.

Although you’re training multiple muscle groups in each workout, you still want to pick one or two to prioritize. This simplifies your programming and ensures you’re emphasizing the muscle groups you most want to develop.

2. Do your compound exercises at the beginning of your workouts.

That is, do the most physically and technically demanding exercises at the beginning of your workouts.

For instance, even if you care more about building your biceps than your legs, it’s still usually best to do squats before curls, because it’s harder to maintain good form on your squats when you’re fatigued.

The exception to this rule would be in the case of specialization routines, which can involve training smaller muscle groups first. Here are a few examples of what these look like:

⇨ The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns

⇨ How to Get Bigger and Stronger Biceps in Just 30 Days

⇨ How to Get Bigger and Stronger Triceps in Just 30 Days

3. Train each muscle group with one or two exercises and three to six sets per workout and do 10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week.

By using moderate levels of training volume in each workout, you’ll minimize soreness and fatigue that would cut into your other workouts, and by doing 10 to 20 sets per major muscle group per week (and the high end if you’re experienced), you’ll give your muscles a powerful signal to grow.

All right, now that we have all the theory out of the way, let’s get to the fun part!

3 Science-Based Full-Body Workout Routines

Each of the following workout routines embody all of the key principles we’ve discussed so far.

And anyone familiar with my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger routines will immediately recognize that these full-body workouts are basically higher-frequency adaptations of those programs.


The-Legion-5-Day-Full-Body-Workout-Routine




If you look at the first exercises in each workout, you can see it’s basically a push legs push pull push routine, with some extra training volume for other muscle groups thrown in afterward.


The-Legion-4-Day-Full-Body-Workout-Routine


In this case, you basically have a push legs pull push routine, again with some additional volume for other muscle groups.


The-Legion-3-Day-Full-Body-Workout-Routine


Finally, you have a push legs pull routine with additional volume for other muscle groups tacked on.

Since you’re limited to only training three days per week on this routine, you do more compound exercises and sets in each workout.

How to Progress in Your Full-Body Workouts

As a natural weightlifter, here’s something you can take to the bank:

If you want to keep getting bigger, you have to keep getting stronger.

This is more important than getting a pump, increasing time under tension, and incorporating special training techniques like rest pause sets, periodization, and the like.

The reason for this is the number-one rule of muscle building is progressive overload, which is the process of gradually increasing the amount of tension on your muscle fibers over time.

And the best way to do this is to lift heavier weights for more sets.

That’s why the biggest guys and gals in the gym are generally the strongest.

With that in mind, here are several guidelines that will help you get the most out of your full-body workouts.

Use Reps In Reserve (RIR) to control your workout intensity.

So, how much weight should you use in your workouts?

My favorite system is something known as Reps in Reserve (RIR).

I describe this system in more detail in this article, but the gist is simple: 1 RIR = 1 rep shy of failure, 2 RIR = 2 reps shy of failure, and so forth.

And for all of these workouts, I recommend you use an intensity of 1 to 2 RIR, which means you want to do as many reps as you can within the prescribed rep range until you feel you can only do 1 or 2 reps more and then stop.

For example, if you’re doing a workout that calls for 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps of squats, you want to pick a weight that allows you to finish each of your sets feeling like you could have done 1 or 2 more reps if you absolutely had to, while completing at least 4 reps and not more than 6.

In my case, that would be around 275 pounds, which I can get 4 to 6 reps with until my form starts to break down (1 to 2 RIR).

When you first start a new program, it’s a good idea to stay further away from failure (2 RIR) while you familiarize yourself with the exercises and rep ranges. As you groove in your technique and add weight, though, you can progress to taking all of your sets to 1 RIR.

If this seems confusing, don’t worry—it’ll become second nature after a bit of trial and error and a few workouts.

Warm up before each workout.

Before your first set of your first exercise of each workout, make sure you do a thorough warm-up.

A warm-up accomplishes several things:

  1. It helps you troubleshoot your form and “groove in” proper technique (which is particularly important when you’re learning a new exercise).
  2. It literally warms up your muscles, which can boost your performance and thus muscle and strength gain over time.

In weightlifting, a warm-up consists of doing one or two light sets of an exercise, followed by one or two heavier sets until you’re using a weight that’s about 70% as heavy as the heaviest weight you’ll use that day for that particular exercise.

As you learned earlier in this article, though, you don’t necessarily have to warm-up before every exercise. Instead, a thorough warm-up before your first exercise should adequately prepare you for the rest of your workout.

For example, in the Workout 1 of the Legion 5-Day Full Body Workout Routine, your first exercise is the barbell bench press, which will effectively warm up your upper body muscles.

Thus, warming up for the barbell bench press will also warm up all of the muscle groups trained by the seated cable row and dumbbell side raise, which come after the bench press. And what about hamstring curls, which come at the end of your workout?

You can warm up for this exercise if you want to, but you don’t have to. Personally, I usually don’t, as isolation exercises like this don’t take much practice to maintain good form, and I haven’t found warming up to aid all that much in performance.

Thus, I recommend you do a thorough warm-up before your first exercise of a full-body workout, and then consider warming up for any other exercises purely optional.

When you do warm up for an exercise, here’s the protocol you want to follow:

  • Estimate roughly what weight you’re going to use for your three sets of flat barbell bench press (this is your “hard set” weight).
  • Do 10 reps with about 50 percent of your hard set weight, and rest for a minute.
  • Do 10 reps with the same weight at a slightly faster pace, and rest for a minute.
  • Do 4 reps with about 70 percent of your hard set weight, and rest for a minute.

Then, do all of your hard sets for your first exercise, and then the rest of the exercises for that workout.

If you want to learn more about the importance of a proper warm-up and how to warm up for different workouts, check out this article:

Read: The Best Way to Warm Up For Your Workouts

Don’t go to absolute muscle failure every set.

Absolute muscle failure is the point where you can no longer keep the weight moving and have to end the set.

We should take most of our sets to a point close to technical failure (one or two reps shy of the point where our form breaks down), but we should rarely take sets to the point of absolute failure.

Personally, I never train to failure for more than two to three sets per workout, and never on the squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press, as it can be dangerous.

Instead, I reserve my failure sets for isolation exercises like cable flyes, triceps extensions, biceps curls and the like, and it’s usually a natural consequence of pushing for progressive overload as opposed to deliberate programming.

You can learn more about to take sets close (but not to) failure in this article:

This Is the Best Guide to the RPE Scale on the Internet

Rest 3 to 4 minutes in between each set.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

If you want to learn more about how long you should rest between sets, check out this article:

How Long Should You Rest Between Sets to Gain Muscle and Strength?

Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you barbell bench press 135 pounds for 6 reps on your first set, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set.

If, on the next set, you can get at least 4 reps with 145 pounds, that’s the new weight you work with until you can incline bench press it for 6 reps, move up, and so forth.

If you get 3 or fewer reps, though, reduce the weight added by 5 pounds (140 pounds) and see how the next set goes. If you still get 3 reps or fewer, reduce the weight to the original 6-rep load and work with that until you can do two 6-rep sets with it, and then increase the weight on the bar.

This method is known as double progression, which you can learn about in this podcast:

How to Use Double Progression to Get More From Your Workouts

What About Supplements?


supplement buyers guide


I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s less important than proper diet and training.

Supplements don’t build great physiques—dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements—the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your PPL (and other) workouts.

Creatine

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements—the subject of hundreds of studies—and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

  • Build muscle and improve strength,
  • Improve anaerobic endurance
  • Reduce muscle damage and soreness

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called Recharge.

Recharge is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)

Whey+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

I also have the slow-digesting Casein+, which is perfect as your pre-bed protein, or Thrive if you want something that’s 100% plant-based.

Pre-Workout Drink


pre-workout-creatine


There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,” which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement.

It’s called Pulse and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

  • Alpha-GPC. Alpha-GPC increases the activity of a chemical in the brain known as acetylcholine. This helps increase power output and increases growth hormone levels.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine is good for more than the energy boost. It also increases muscle endurance and strength.
  • Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and can accelerate muscle growth.
  • Citrulline Malate. Citrulline is an amino acid that improves muscle endurance, relieves muscle soreness, and improves aerobic performance.
  • Betaine. Betaine is a compound found in plants like beets that improves muscle endurance, increases strength, and increases human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 production in response to acute exercise.
  • Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea that reduces the effects of mental and physical stress, increases the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow, and improves alertness, focus, attention, memory, mental task performance, and mood.

And what you won’t find in Pulse is equally special:

  1. No artificial sweeteners or flavors.
  2. No artificial food dyes.
  3. No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

The Bottom Line on Full Body Workout Routines

Full-body training is das it girl right now, yet many of the popular routines making the rounds online don’t use “full-body workouts,” per se.

Why?

Simple: they don’t train every muscle group in every workout.

Instead, most involve training two or more muscle groups per workout and each muscle group at least twice per week. And so they’re more like “almost-full-body routines.”

And that’s okay, because this method of training is superior to true full-body training, and regardless of whether you call them “full-body” or “high-frequency” routines, they have a lot to offer.

Namely, these modern full-body workout routines . . .

  • Are helpful for quickly learning exercise technique
  • Allow for more flexibility in your workout schedule (missing workouts now and then is less penalizing)
  • Make it easy to use antagonist paired sets and alternate sets in your training, which helps you finish your workouts faster without compromising your performance
  • May reduce soreness and fatigue during and between workouts, which could lead to more muscle and strength gain over time
  • May help optimize muscle growth in advanced weightlifters by allowing for optimal training volume and frequency

Full-body workouts can also give you something new and interesting to try, which is reason enough to go for it if you’ve made it this far and are itching to mix it up in the gym.

This approach to training isn’t with downsides, however.

The primary disadvantages of full-body workouts is they can be more complicated to program correctly and most of the benefits are only relevant to experienced weightlifters.

Also, if you like doing multiple exercises for the same muscle group in one workout (as many people do), you may find full-body training less enjoyable than other popular splits like push pull legs or upper/lower.

So, in the final analysis:

Full-body workouts routines aren’t much better or worse than other effective options for most people. They’re just another means to the same end (getting more jacked).

If you want to try a full-body workout routine, here are the main points to keep in mind when planning or picking one:

  1. Emphasize one or two movements or muscle groups in each workout.
  2. Do your compound exercises at the beginning of your workouts.
  3. Train each muscle group with one or two exercises and three to six sets per workout and do 10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week.

Do that, and focus on getting stronger (progressive overload), and you’ll make more strides toward your best body ever.

If you liked this article, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you like to hang out online! 🙂

What’s your take on full-body workout routines? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

The post The Definitive Guide to Full-Body Workout Routines appeared first on Legion Athletics.

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