- Main GoalBuild Muscle
- Workout TypeFull Body
- Training LevelBeginner
- Program Duration12 weeks
- Days Per Week3
- Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
- Equipment RequiredBarbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells
- Target Gender Male & Female
- Recommended Supps
- Workout PDF Download Workout
Full body workouts have always been popular.
Many bodybuilding greats (including the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Reeves) used them to build the foundation of their lean muscle mass.
The reason for their effectiveness is they allow you to train hard and only 3 days a week. This type of programming allows most to optimally recover between training sessions.
They’re perfect for any experience level. Beginners will thrive when using full body workouts. Intermediates will continue to notice progress towards their goals. And advanced lifters will be able to maintain their size and slowly build upon their established foundation.
In this article, we’ll discuss 5 of the most important exercises you should include into your full body workout routine. Then, we will give you an excellent full body workout routine to help you achieve your goals.
Lastly, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding full body workout.
5 Best Exercises for Full Body Workouts
When it comes to writing an effective full body workout, exercise selection is key.
Since you aren’t training frequently throughout the week, the exercises you choose to do should provide a lot of bang for your buck.
The best way to accomplish this is by including compound exercises in your workouts. Compound exercises are exercises that require multi-joint movements to achieve the full range of motion. As a result, they recruit more muscles to perform resulting in a higher calorie burn and more muscle stimulation.
The 5 we’ve listed below are arguably the best to perform. We’ve listed them in their most traditional variations, however, most can be performed a number of different ways to meet the individual needs of the person using the program. Experiment or work with a trainer to find the best variation for yourself.
The deadlift could very well be the most important movement you learn throughout your lifting career. It is a hip-hinge movement that builds the entire posterior chain. Perfecting your deadlift form and becoming relatively strong at the exercise lends itself very well to keeping one healthy and injury free throughout life.
As a result, the deadlift will be included in most workout routines you find online. That being said, not everyone is comfortable performing the conventional deadlift. Luckily, there are many deadlift variations out there and most people can find one they’re able to comfortably perform.
The most popular among beginners is the trap bar deadlift, as it puts the lifter in a more favorable upright lifting position. If you struggle with the deadlift, seek out the help of a trained professional to find an appropriate variation to perform.
The squat is another classic exercise you’ll find in most workout routines online. It is a compound exercise that trains a very fundamental movement pattern. Like the deadlift, the squat is a movement pattern that requires a lot of mobility and it is important to build and maintain efficiency throughout life.
The most popular variation of the squat is the barbell back squat. It also happens to be one of the more advanced variations one can perform – so if you need to, begin with an easier variation such as the goblet or front squat.
The squat is a complete lower body builder. Simply by getting good at squats, you’ll notice that your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves all grow. And since they are one of the toughest movements to perform, you’ll also burn a ton of calories in the process of your workouts by including them.
The barbell bent over row is an often overlooked exercise, but there’s a reason the golden era bodybuilders performed them consistently. They’re an absolute back mass building exercise.
If you want to build the coveted V-taper, perfecting the row movement pattern is key. The stronger you get at them, the denser your back will appear.
Most don’t have issues performing the barbell bent over row. However, if you notice your shoulders or elbows build up nagging injuries there are plenty of alternatives you can perform.
One could build an impressive and strong, albeit not completely aesthetic, physique simply by utilizing these first 3 exercises alone.
4. Bench Press
To round out the aesthetic appearance, you need to include some of the press movements into your routine. Unfortunately for some, especially beginners, it’s easier to focus on the press movements while neglecting the three prioritized higher on this list.
That being said, they are still very important to train. The horizontal push is very much a foundational movement pattern and the bench press is the easiest way to become super-efficient at the movement.
Like the barbell row, if you suffer from some nagging joint discomfort, you may want to research and experiment with alternate variations of the horizontal push until you find a variation you’re comfortable performing.
The bench press works the muscles of the chest, shoulders (primarily front delt) and triceps. By perfecting the movement and becoming stronger at it, you will build all of these muscle groups.
5. Overhead Press
The final movement pattern everyone should include into their full body workout routines is the overhead press. The overhead press trains the important vertical push movement pattern.
Overhead presses primarily target the muscles of the shoulder but will also indirectly target the triceps and require a ton of core stability to perform efficiently.
Perfecting this movement pattern and getting stronger at it equates to better shoulder development and a strong and sturdy core.
Again, the barbell variation isn’t for everyone. You may find it bothers your shoulders or elbows. If this is the case, research and work with someone to find an appropriate variation for yourself. Then, proceed to perfect the movement pattern.
M&S Full Body Schedule & Overview
This is a muscle and strength building program for beginner and early intermediate lifters. It is designed to target all major and minor muscle groups, allowing you to maximize hypertrophy (the muscle building process) through the use of progressive resistance.
You will be training 3 days per week, resting at least one day in between sessions. Here is a sample schedule:
- Monday - Workout A
- Wednesday - Workout B
- Friday - Workout C
M&S Full Body Workout Notes
How to work ramped 5x5 sets
The first 2 sets are "working warm up" sets. The weight you use for your warm up sets will be based upon the resistance used during your 3 working sets. Here is the set up:
- Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
- Sets 3-5 - 100% (working weight) x 5 reps
So if you are using 200 pounds as your working weight for sets 3, 4 and 5, your workout would look like this:
- Set 1 - 120 pounds (60%) x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 160 pounds (80%) x 5 reps
- Sets 3-5 - 200 pounds (working weight) x 5 reps
Ramped 3x5 sets for deadlifts
This is performed in the same way you worked your 5x5 ramped sets, but with only one working set:
- Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
- Sets 3 - 100% (working weight) x 5 reps
Workout C - Ramped 3x5 squats
If your squat sets during Workout A felt manageable, try to add 5 pounds to your working set during Workout C. Here's how your Workout C squatting would look like:
- Set 1 - 60% x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 80% x 5 reps
- Sets 3 - Workout A's working weight + 5 pounds x 5 reps
How much weight to use per set
For a given exercise, use the same weight for each set. When this amount of resistance feels manageable, add another 5-10 pounds to the bar. You want to focus on progression at all times, so when you are able to, load the bar.
Progression of weight drives gains. It is essential, and this program will not yield gains without it.
Rest between sets
For major lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and barbell rows, rest about 2 minutes in between sets. You can use 60 to 90 seconds rest between sets for all other movements.
|Bench Press (Ramped)||5||5|
|Barbell Row (Ramped)||5||5|
|Ab Wheel Roll Out||3||10-15|
|Seated Overhead Press||3||8-10|
|Pull Ups or Inverted Rows||3||10-15|
|Standing or Seated Calf Raise||3||12-15|
|Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||3||10|
|One Arm Dumbbell Row||3||10-15|
|Seated Arnold Press||3||10-15|
|Cable Tricep Extensions||3||10|
|Ab Wheel Roll Out||3||10-15|
FAQs about Full Body Workouts
In this section, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about full body workout routines according to google.
If you have any additional questions about the routine listed above or full body workouts in general, please feel free to leave us a comment below.
1. Can you do full body workouts every day?
You can, yes. However, for most, it won’t provide that much benefit.
Those who primarily perform a full body workout every day are generally on contest prep. If you’re simply looking to improve your physique and/or health, performing a full body workout 2-4 times per week is plenty.
If you’re thinking working out more frequently will equate to you achieving results faster, think again. Building muscle, getting stronger, and losing body fat all take time. It’s a process and takes consistent dedication.
Instead of opting to go to the gym every day, look to modify other behaviors in your life to ensure you get the best results possible and seek out other hobbies that are conducive to the overall lifestyle you’d like for yourself.
2. Is it better to do a full body workout?
Better is subjective. Full body workouts are a good fit for most recreational lifters as they provide a sufficient amount of work in an efficient amount of time for most peoples’ lifestyles.
However, for those who have goals to become completive lifters or competitive strength athletes, once you surpass a certain training threshold, you may require more stimulus to achieve the results you’d like.
That being said, getting to this point will take quite a bit of time and it’s important when weight training to always opt for the lowest total amount of work it requires to achieve the maximum amount of results.
3. How many times a week should you do full body workouts?
For most performing a full body workout routine anywhere between 2-4 weight training sessions per week is sufficient to build strength and improve body composition.
This particular routine calls for 3 full body workouts per week. That falls into the range listed above and will result in great progress for most individuals.
Start out slow. Improve upon your lifts. Build up your strength and lean muscle mass slowly over the years. Once things stop working, look to modify slightly.
4. Can you build muscle with a full body workout?
Full body workouts are extremely effective for those looking to build lean muscle. They accomplish everything required to stimulate hypertrophy.
They allow you to maximize your workload in any one training session. They allow you to train each muscle with a higher training frequency throughout the week. And they provide an optimal amount of time in between training sessions to promote muscle recovery.
However, to build muscle, you will need the nutritional stimulus as well. You’ll have to eat in a caloric surplus and you will have to eat a sufficient amount of protein each day.
Taking things a step further, to completely optimize your muscle growth you’ll want to consume your protein periodically throughout the day and at ~25-40g per meal.
Lastly, you’ll want to ensure you get your sleep as it may very well be the most critical part of the muscle building equation.
5. How long should full body workouts be?
It depends on the total amount of work being performed in the session. Most full body workouts will generally take anywhere between 45-90 minutes to complete.
This will depend on several different factors including weight used, rep tempo, rest times, rep and set counts, etc.
6. Should you perform cardio on your rest days?
Yes, you can perform cardio during the rest days of a full body workout routine. You will want to be conscious of your individual ability to recover and your overarching fitness goal, however.
For those looking to build lean muscle mass, performing HIIT on rest days doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only are you increasing the amount of calories you’ll need to consume to build muscle, you’ll also be jeopardizing your ability to recover in between training sessions.
For most, a light cardio session such as walking on rest days seems to work best. It can help alleviate muscle soreness, promote recovery, and burn calories without sacrificing muscle tissue.
7. Are full body workouts or splits better?
It depends on your goal, experience level, and the split you’re talking about. As mentioned throughout this article, full body workouts are great for most individuals. It allows you to get in a lot of work to promote muscle growth without having to dedicate your entire life to the gym.
If you have competition goals or are more advanced, however, you may require more stimulus to achieve the results you want.
Most will be able to progress from their full body workouts into an upper/lower split and see phenomenal results. Others who are even more advanced may need to increase their training frequency and progress from upper/lower splits to push/pull/legs splits.
Most will want to avoid body part splits as they require a lot of time to perform and don’t allow you to get as much work in as you could utilizing the other split styles.
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I'm 60 years old and started weight training on Feb 1, 2023. I feel like I'm making good progress, but I have lots to do in the summer, so I want to go from four day upper/lower split to a 3-day a week FBW. I really like this one.
This is designated a twelve week program. Is there any reason I can't do it longer, or forever, if I want to? Will I stop seeing results? I'm not aspiring to compete--just want to be strong so I'm not falling down and breaking myself in my 80s.
Hi, April. The 12 weeks is a recommendation, but if you feel you're still making progress, please feel free to keep going with it as long as you like. If or when you're ready to make a change, we have many options for you here on M&S. Thanks for reading!
Love this program. I am starting week 4. It is much better than the previous FBWO I was using for a couple of weeks before this. To those that struggle to complete in in 1 hour, it gets faster the more you do it if the gym isn’t packed and don’t have to wait for stations.. I have started adding cable flies and leg abductions once per week on day 1 routine . I also couple this with Cory Gregory’s “Make Your Own Brink Soup” ab program (week 2 of that) that I found on M&S as well. I am 51 and have never looked better or felt stronger!!! Had a bit of knee pain in the beginning from the squats, so I add 1 set low weight high rep leg extensions to the program once per week too. Had to back down from my ideal so weight on squats by 10 pounds too. But, now everything is going great!! Thanks for sharing this and making it free. :)
Hello, I play baseball and I wanna start lifting to get stronger, is this a good program for me?
This is a great choice for you, Tyler. Run it and let us know how it goes. Hope you have a great season!
Great workout, thank you. When I will change program after 12 weeks, can I back to this one after another 12 weeks?
You can do it either way. Should you choose to change it up, this may help.
Is this good for lean young soccer player trying to bulk up
Sure is, Hassan. Make sure your nutrition is backing up the training so you can get the best results.
I have another day free and I think to use it for lagging parts.
another week... A-B-arm day-C
Could you please provide me a link of a page of exercises subs if there is any here? Thanks!
Hi, Mark. The exercises tab at the top of the site will take you to a page where you can choose many exercises to work with. If you really want to focus on more arm work, try this one.
Does it matter which order you do the workouts in? Could you start with workout C on a Monday, A on Wednesday and B on your last day. Or do you need to do it in the right order because of the muscles that you are working ect.
As long as you do all three before repeating any of them, you should be fine, Lee. Let us know how this routine works for you. Thanks for reading M&S!
Hi Steve. I'm a woman and I'm looking to build muscles to gain weight. Is this program good for me ?
Hi, Shaima. Answering for Steve here, and yes, it would be a good one. As long as you're eating to support that goal, you should see positive results.
Love the workout. What is meant by “ramped” squats etc
Glad you're liking the workout. Ramped up means to gradually ramp the weight up each set until you get to the top weight for your heaviest set. Hope this helps!
I run 3-4 days a week around 3-4 miles each. I do this on the days I don’t go to the gym, which is usually a 3x a week full body routine. I also play roller derby a couple of times a week (practices are 3 hours with a lot of cardio). Soooo…my question is: is that too much cardio or okay? Thanks!
You should give yourself at least one complete day off from everything. The time you spend recovering is actually when improvement happens. Two days off would be better, but definitely schedule at least one complete day off. Other than that, as long as you're eating healthy and sleeping well, you should be alright.
Will this be good for a lean muscular body?
I go to the gym 4times a week but this is a 3 day workout.Can I do workout A,B and C the first 3days and then start from workout A again from 4th day?
If you insist on training four days a week, that would be a good strategy. We do have four day programs here as well if you're interested.
Liking the program so far but I have a couple questions.
The bent over barbell row aggravates my lower back what can I substitute it with. Additonally while my primary focus is gaining muscle I'm also looking to lose belly weight. What can I do to achieve this? Thanks
If you can do either a chest supported T-Bar Row or a seated row machine, then those would be good options, Jake.
If your diet supports weight loss, you can get leaner on this program. Can't target a specific area, but you will make progress.
Enjoying this workout. For saving time, is it OK to superset some of the higher rep exercises?
Sure, Chris. Go for it, and let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for reading M&S!
Would this workout be a good choice if my primary goal is fat loss?
As long as you eat properly to support fat loss, yes.
51 year old male here. Been lifting and playing competitive sports my whole life but the past few years have been lifting lighter as I'm simply burnt out. I don't have the push I used to have. This year I started using Peloton's Full Body workouts to get back into shape until I stumbled on to this workout which catches my eye.
I simply don't have the desire to workout for an hour. I'm not looking to get 'built' anymore at my age, but just get into decent shape. Would just doing 2 sets be enough to still get the job done you think? My goal is to continue cycling with Peloton but just looking to keep my upper body in decent shape.
As long as you make the most out of those two sets, you should be fine, Joe. Respect for still getting after it.
Hi Steve just started goin back to the gym now for 3 months, was wondering if there is a diet plan for this?
Sorry, Garrett. No specific diet plan for this, but depending on your goal, we do have guides that can help you. Looking to lose weight or grow?
Is there a rough outline for a diet plan for this workout to help out?
If not, is there somewhere you can point to have a rough idea to follow and for protein intake?
Hey Mani, Steve didn't include a diet with this one. What's your goal? Maybe I can help you find something.
Then hopefully this will help.
Looking for a schedule to follow of roughly what to eat/how much on work out days and non-work out days include an idea for meals for each time of day & snacks, include whey intake.
I'm looking to lose more of the belly and be lean/trim.
On workout C,you mention squat 1x20reps,right? Do you wanna clarify that? And what if i wanna replace the seated woth normal overhead press,should i stick to the same sets and reps? Thank you
Not sure what is needed to clarify. 1 set of 20 reps, and it should be challenging. Yes, same sets and reps if you do normal overhead press.
Thanks for ur reply. Are you aware of a replacement workout routine after these 12 weeks?! This is so amazing, however ibthink after 12 weeks should be replaced,right?
Hey George, read this one, and it should help you make that choice. I recommend changing after three months, but if you want to keep going with this one and you see results, roll with it.
No, go lighter on the sets of 20, Rasmus. I would even suggest cutting the weight in half if you're not used to doing 20 rep sets.
Regarding the same topic.
The 20 reps, would that be with the same weight as the previous 3x5 set then, after a 2 min rest?
Hello, the squad exercises they don't state if it's barbell back, barbell front or standard body squads only exercises please confirm?
*Squat, and it's back barbell squat.
this program or the fullbody "the total package"? What differences between the two?
Hey Geoffrey, there are a lot of similarities, huh?
This program has a little more emphasis on strength while Josh's program places more emphasis on hypertrophy. Outside of that, they are pretty comparable. You can't go wrong with either.
Some people say that you should not push yourself to failure when it comes to compound exercises. Is that correct?
Do you recommend dropsets for compound/ isolation exercises in the end?
Hello, Cagri. Not sure who "some people" are, but going to failure on compound exercises is ok as long as you do it correctly and safely.
Correctly: go to failure on the last set only when you are going to move on to another exercise.
Safely: use a spotter or partner to be ready to help if you need it. Also, don't compromise form for another rep.
I like drop sets for both types of exercises, and if you feel you can benefit from them, then do them on the last set of each exercise.
I workout at home. Equipment description doesn’t say machines, but workout calls for leg curls….recommend any alternative exercise without machines?