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August 5, 2019 | Written by Brad Russell

The Ultimate Guide to the Full-Body Workout

Exercises with weights for shaping and strengthening armsIn modern popular culture, many workouts emphasize the instant gratification of improving one body part. For example, you may encounter exercise programs that promise traffic-stopping glutes or bikini-ready abs.

While these workouts may be fun and offer nice tips in the short run, committing to a full-body workout can have greater overall health benefits in the long run. The following guide to creating your own full-body workout can have you devise a plan that is both enjoyable and effective.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are four main components to an effective workout:

  • Aerobic – These exercises increase your heart rate and expand your breathing. The purpose of aerobic exercise is to increase blood flow and keep your circulatory, respiratory, and nervous system healthy. In addition, this type of exercise burns excess calories and stokes the metabolism for fitness and weight loss. Also known as endurance workouts, aerobic exercises include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and jumping rope.
  • Strength – After boosting circulatory and respiratory health through aerobic exercise, you can use strength exercises to improve the muscular system. Also known as resistance training, this type of exercise builds either lean or bulk muscle. Examples include lifting weights or using an exercise resistance band.
  • Balance – Practicing balance can improve gait, coordination, and may help prevent falls as we age. An added benefit is that balance workouts can also help improve bone density. Balance-building workouts include tai chi, barre, or exercises like standing on one leg.
  • Flexibility – This aspect of fitness stretches muscle tissue that may have shortened during workouts. Flexibility workouts keep limbs and joints supple and limber. Yoga is the most well-known flexibility workout, but you can also try dynamic stretching as part of your flexibility training.

No matter the style of exercise you choose, the four pillars of an effective workout provide a foundation for maintaining maximum fitness levels.

How Much Exercise Do I Need?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, healthy adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobics or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobics per week. This translates to three to six workouts each week. In addition, adults should engage in strength or resistance training at least twice per week. Finally, each workout should include at least some form of balance and flexibility to avoid injury.

It is important to note that individuals attempting to lose weight will need to engage in even more physical activity. These individuals will also need to eat least in order to create a calorie deficit to burn more calories than they are eating and drinking.

How Do I Find the Best Aerobic Exercise for Me?

  • Group Of Runners On Suburban StreetDivide the recommended amount of aerobic activity across several days or more. This is easier than attempting to complete it in one or two days, and it allows you to attempt different types of aerobics to find the style best for you.
  • Moderate-intensity aerobics ideas include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, hiking, basketball, volleyball, rowing, or swimming.
  • High-intensity aerobics ideas include running, jumping jacks, jump roping, interval training, and fast swimming.

How Do I Find the Most Effective Strength or Resistance Exercise for Me?

  • The most effective strength-training workouts include compound weight or resistance that progressively overloads your muscles.
  • Examples of strength exercises include lifting free weights or barbells, working with exercise bands, or doing pushups.

How to Customize the Four Components of an Effective Workout

Bike tourUse the four components of exercise (aerobics, strength, balance, and flexibility) as the foundation and then build on this platform from month to month. You can try different styles as long as you maintain the four pillars and remain consistent in the amount of time you exercise each week.

For aerobics, consider joining a bike tour or hiking club as an effective form of moderate-intensity exercise. These exercises allow you to interact with others, enjoy nature, and have a much easier recovery period than other forms of exercise. If you need high-intensity exercise, workouts like rock climbing, skate parks, and parkour are excellent ways to customize your workout. Alternatives to free weights and dumbbells include resistance equipment specific to body regions (such as ankle weights) as well as kettlebells. Those struggling to take flexibility and balance from theory into practice can consider ancient workouts such as tai chi and other forms of martial arts.

Expert-Recommended Head-To-Toe Workout Routine

Keeping in mind the recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobics plus strength exercises, you can effectively divide the allotted time into shorter exercises that target each section of the body. You can easily apply the regiment to anywhere from three to six days a week. For simplicity’s sake, however, the following full-body workout uses a model of five days per week.

The Five-Day Workout Routine:

  • Young man and woman training with barbell in gymDay 1 – Chest. Perform aerobics along with strength-training workout for chest such as barbell bench press or dumbbell chest curls.
  • Day 2 – Back. Do moderate-intensity or high-intensity aerobics along with back workout such as barbell deadlifts, chin-ups, or pull-ups.
  • Day 3 – Arms. Complete high-intensity aerobic workout routine along with arm workouts like bicep curls or seated triceps presses.
  • Day 4 – Shoulders. Perform moderate-intensity aerobics workouts as well as strength-training exercises that improve the shoulders. Examples include seated barbell military presses or dumbbell lateral side raises.
  • Day 5 – Legs. Complete moderate-to-high intensity aerobics workout routine as well as leg-strengthening resistance exercises like the barbell squat, leg press, or leg curl.

Another effective aspect of the five-day workout is that you can incorporate abdominal (core) routines during any of these workouts. For example, simply follow up the back or shoulder workout with your favorite abdominal exercise to strengthen and slim the core. Each routine also allows plenty of room for stretching, yoga, or preferred flexibility/balance exercises.

The Bottom Line on the Full-Body Workout

The most recent National Institute of Health study found that 73.7 percent of men and 66.9 percent in the United States are overweight or obese. Clearly, the popular notion of emphasizing one body part for attractiveness or sex appeal may not be the best approach for overall fitness and good health. By committing to a full-body workout that emphasizing the four components of exercise, however, you can transform your body in ways that stand the test of time.