August 04, 2021 10 min read
When you’re just starting out in training, there’s no need for fancy exercises that target every specific part of your body.
On the contrary, for the person new to training, exercises that hit most of your major muscle groups are arguably the most effective way to both increase your strength while at the same time improving your cardio capacity, athletic ability, and coordination.
But you don't need to be a beginner to see incredible improvements in your physique and strength from full-body functional exercises that translate to every day life.
In addition to being a great foundation for all of your training, full-body exercises are efficient. Rather than focusing on one part of your body, compound exercises that hit several muscle groups at once give you a bigger bang for your buck.
A full-body workout routine will also have the benefit of training different parts of your body to work together, which useful for athletic and functional performance.
Remember to warm up and cool down for optimal workouts. If doing an exercise for the first time, it’s best to use lighter weights until you get the form down perfect.
Here are 10 of the most 'functional' exercises you can add to your weekly program:
No full-body exercise list would be complete without including burpees. Being a simple, bodyweight exercise, the burpee challenges your body in a way that backs up its popular reputation.
The burpee is basically just a combination of a squat jump and a push-up, but it’s easy to modify it if you’re looking to make it easier or more difficult. But since it’s a bodyweight movement, it also means that you’ll need to attack them with intensity of effort if you want to reap maximum benefits.
For example, burpees are a terrific exercise to include in a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine, since they get you sweating and heart racing. On top of providing a cardio workout, you’re also going to be activating pretty much every muscle in the body.
When it comes to activating as many major muscle groups as possible, the deadlift is one of the best lifts you can do. It's effective for improving explosive power as well as brute strength. This incredible exercise trains your entire posterior chain including the glutes, lower back, hamstrings, upper back, and also your core. Your forearms and stabilizing muscles are also forced to perform their fair share of work.
The Romanian deadlift (or, RDL) is a unique deadlift varation in that your hips aren’t mean to go as far down as in a conventional deadlift. This is particularly useful for those looking to emphasize their hamstrings over their quads. Dumbbells are good if you’re just starting out or if you’re trying to correct a muscle imbalance, but a barbell will allow you to move more weight and reap greater hypertrophy and strength gains.
The overhead lunge is useful as a stability exercise since you’ll be engaging your quads and hamstrings to keep your upper body in control of the weight above you.
The primary muscles worked in the overhead lunge are the quads and the glutes, but you’ll be feeling the tension everywhere. This includes your feet, knees, core hips, and shoulders, as you drive the weight upward while also challenging the lower body with lunges.
Other stabilizers include the traps and the abdominal muscles. All in all, the lunge with an overhead press is guaranteed to pack a punch.
Along with the deadlift, the squat is a juggernaut of a movement when you’re trying to develop your lower body muscles. But much like the deadlift, the squat works a lot more than just your legs. Along with your quads, calves, glutes, and hamstrings, also expect a good core and back workout.
Bulgarian split squats ramp up the difficulty by destabilizing you during the movement, which helps to develop balance and core strength. It’ll also help you improve athletically, since driving off only one leg is a cornerstone of most athletic movements (for example, running).
The Bulgarian split squat is also more beginner-friendly, even though slightly more difficult with a weak core. This is because a lot of the stress is taken off the lower back, and your leg and core muscles get to shine instead.
Pull-ups are one of the greatest (and most difficult) measures of upper body strength. It’s a notoriously difficult (and beneficial) movement to include in your training routine that primarily hits the upper body in your traps, rhomboids, biceps, lats, and core.
Include these into your routine, and you’re bound to see fantastic full-body results.
The back squat is widely considered to be the king of total-body exercises forcing nearly every muscle in your body to engage to lift the weight. This includes all of the lower body: the glutes, hamstrings, quads, adductors, hip flexors, and calves, and also your shoulders, arms, core, and back to stabilize the weight.
This is another fantastic explosive training exercise. Not only is it guaranteed to challenge every muscle in your body, but you’re also going to be working up a sweat and getting an incredible cardio workout too.
If you’re looking for a high-intensity exercise to finish your workouts with, look no further than the kettlebell swing.
While form is always important, it's critical to the kettlebell swing. In order to ensure your safety, you need to be doing the movement correctly and engaging the correct muscles.
When it comes to training the back muscles, rows are the go-to exercise. They’re a fundamental pulling movement that you’ll be using in your day-to-day life and/or athletics regularly, so it’s a good idea to include some sort of row variations in your training.
While there are all sorts of rows, the renegade row really shines when it comes to engaging more of your musculature.It specifically engages much more of your core, to the point where the weight you use will be significantly less in order to mainatian optimal form and engage all of the muscles in the movement.
Opt for lighter dumbbells than you’re used to!
When it comes to working out your whole body unilaterally, the Turkish get-up takes the cake. It invloves you laying on your back in a prone position, getting to a standing position on both feet and back while holding the weight above you the entire time.
While it seems simple, it’s a complex movement, and with this complexity comes a range of benefits and muscular development.
The key to this exercise is to take it slow and treat each part of the movement as its own separate exercise.
Turkish get-ups are particularly useful for those looking to develop their shoulder mobility and strength, or for those going through rehabilitation. It’s usually done with a kettlebell, but bodyweight will work as well.
The farmers walk might have a humble name, but it was originally popularized by competitive strongmen. As a strength and conditioning exercise, this movement loads every major muscle group in the body: including the calves, lats, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arm muscles (including biceps and triceps), the upper back and traps, neck, and several other stabilizers.
In addition to it being a great strength training exercise that hits pretty much your entire body, the farmers walk can also provide a great cardiovascular workout. Pair it with a couple of heavy dumbbells, and you’ll be giving it all you got before long. It’s also a functional exercise, meaning fewer shopping bag trips from the car to the kitchen.
The exercises discussed above are great places to start if you’re looking to get bigger and stronger, but also have a great foundation of general physical preparedness (aka GPP).
Each exercise above provides a great bang for your buck, and they all tranalste to real-life.
However, full-body workouts expend a lot of calories since you’re using so much energy, and you need to properly resupply if you want consistent and significant development. While all macros are important, protein is the key.
If you’re looking to turbocharge your gains in this department, consider using a protein powder to bring your physique to the next level.