Full body exercises are multiple-joint movements that recruit several muscles throughout the entire body at the same time. They're beneficial for those who are looking to get the most benefit from a short workout. With full body exercises, you're able to strengthen more muscles and burn more calories in less time.
Full body exercises also are better for improving balance, coordination and joint stability. Athletes train predominately using full body, compound exercises because they more closely mimic the movements involved in their sport. Full body exercises, however, also are similar to real-world, daily activities and are therefore ideal for those training to build or maintain general fitness.
Full Body Exercise #1: Squat to Overhead Press
The squat to overhead press exercise is a combo lift that combines two traditional lifting exercises into one. The squat element builds strength and power in your hips, quads, hamstrings and calves, while the overhead press component targets your shoulders, upper chest and triceps. Throughout the exercise, your lower back, obliques and abdominals engage to keep your spine stable.
The squat to overhead press exercise is typically done with a pair of dumbbells, but you can also use a barbell. If using dumbbells, hold the weights at your shoulders with your palms facing each other. Hold the weights in place as you perform a squat by flexing your hips and knees. Lower until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Rise up out of the squat by extending your hips and knees as you simultaneously press the dumbbells overhead. As you reach a full standing position, your arms should be fully extended. Bend your arms to lower the weights back to your shoulders. Once they're in place, begin the next rep by lowering into a squat.
If you decide to use a barbell, hold the bar at the front of your shoulders with your hands set to shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward as you perform the squat. When you press the bar overhead during the shoulder press, make sure the bar ends up over the top of your ears. A common mistake when pressing a bar is to push it slightly forward rather than directly overhead.
Burpees are a high-intensity, full-body exercise that build strength, improve endurance and burn a high number of calories. The glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, chest, shoulders, arms and abdominals all have to work together when performing a burpee. The exercise can be done nearly anywhere and doesn't require any additional equipment -- your own bodyweight serves as resistance.
Burpees are completed one after the other. As soon as you finish a rep, you go right into the next one. Start with your feet set to hip-width apart and your arms down by your side. Lower into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. In this lowered position, place your hands on the floor in front of your feet with your palms set to slightly wider than your shoulders and then kick your feet backward to get into a push-up position. Complete a single push-up, and then hop your feet back to their original position. Jump up as high as you can while raising your hands over your head as if you are going up for a basketball rebound. Once you land, drop into a squat to go right into the next rep.
The deadlift effectively builds strength and stability in muscles throughout the entire body. The glutes, hamstrings and quads handle most of the load in lifting and lowering the bar, but your lower and upper back and shoulders are working hard to maintain correct posture. Athletes will use the exercise to build strength and power in their hips and to boost core stability. However, deadlifts are beneficial for everyone, as they help you hold your back straight during daily activities.
The deadlift is traditionally performed with a barbell, but dumbbells can also be used. If using a barbell, add any weighted plates you need and start with the barbell on the floor. The weighted plates will elevate the bar off the floor slightly. Position your feet under the bar, hip-width apart. Squat down and grab the bar with both hands, with your palms set to slightly wider than shoulder width. Extend your hips and knees to lift the bar off the floor and rise up into a standing position. As you lift the bar, pull your shoulders back if you find that they have the tendency to curl forward. Flex your hips and knees to lower the bar back to the floor to complete the rep and repeat.
If you're using dumbbells, begin in a standing position with the weights hanging down in front of your legs, palms facing your thighs. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower the dumbbells toward the floor, keeping the weights over the line of your feet. Continue until the weights become level with your shins and then rise back up to finish the rep. Repeat.