Full body workout for bodybuilders

Many bodybuilders lack the time and / or experience needed to be able to perform split training programs and workouts. For these bodybuilders their best workout option is the full body workout, where all the main muscles of the body are exercised in a single workout.

Many bodybuilding workouts require the bodybuilder to exercise 1 or 2 main muscles groups in a single workout. However, the full body workout will see the exerciser perform exercises for the following muscles in a single workout.

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Arms
  • Thighs
  • Abdominals

In some ways this workout mirrors the workout of a bodybuilding beginner, as this type of workout allows the bodybuilder to train all the body's muscles intensely in a single repeated workout.

Full body workout: The basics

In order to develop and build muscles all bodybuilders, whether beginners or advanced trainers MUST look to overload the muscles. Overloading the muscles is the cornerstone of bodybuilding. Without overloading the muscles they have no reason to adapt and grow.

Weight training places stress on the muscles. By constantly looking to stress the muscles they will begin to adapt by becoming stronger. As a result of this stress placed on the muscles during a workout the muscles start to breakdown and tear. Once the workout is over the muscles begin to repair themselves and as long as the stress during the workout was high enough (i.e. the muscles were overloaded), the muscles compensate by growing slightly stronger and getting slightly larger, so that next time the bodybuilder or weight trainer hits the gym their muscles can cope a little better with the weights previously lifted.

Full body workout: Muscle growth and time

The main issue with training the full body in one workout is time. You need enough times to fully train all the main muscles as hard as possible in order to force them change, adapt and grow. However, bodybuilding for more than 45 - 60 minutes in a single workout can cause your body to breakdown muscle mass as your body runs low on fuel.

So, performing the full body workout is a delicate balancing act of hard work in a short amount of time.

Possible ways around this dilemma is to train smarter. For example, if you want to train your back and biceps, why not kill two birds with one stone and train both muscle groups using a single exercise - the under hand pull downs / pull up. Or, why not perform a number of exercises with very little rest. For example, perform the chest press, then without rest perform a set of pull ups. Rest for a few seconds and then repeat. This works well because as you are resting your chest and triecps (used during the chest press) you are exercising your back and biceps (used in the pull up) and visa versa. These ideas will be explored later in this article.

Full body workout: The exercises

Performing full body workouts means you can choose exercises which stress a number of muscles groups in a single movement. This means whole body workouts lend themselves to large compound movements which use a number of muscles, which by their nature promote large muscle gains throughout the upper and lower body.

For example, performing a deadlift places the legs, back, shoulders, arms and abs under stress, whilst the chest press stresses the chest, shoulders and triceps.

This means the whole body workout should include:

  • Chest press - Chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Dips - Chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Pull ups - Back, biceps, forearms
  • Bent over row - Back, biceps
  • Clean and press - Legs, hips, back, shoulders, triceps
  • Squat or leg press - Thighs, calves, hips, glutes
  • Bicep curls - Biceps and forearms
  • Exercise ball crunch - Core stability, abs

Full body workout: Sets and reps

When performing the whole body workout you can experiment with a variety of sets and reps, depending on your goals.

For example, to gain strength look to perform the exercises outlined about for 2 - 6 reps, to gain strength and muscle perform 6 - 8 reps, to add muscle mass perform 8 - 12 reps and for muscle endurance perform each exercise for 12 - 20 reps.

Each exercise should be performed for 3 to 4 sets, 3 sets if you are performing 8 or more reps and 4 sets for less than 8 reps per set.

Full body workout: Number of workouts per week

The whole body workout places the body under huge amounts of stress. This means that this type of workout should only be performed 2 to 3 times a week. When aiming to add muscle mass rest is the key so allow at least a days rest, sometimes two days between each whole body workout.

Full body workout: The workout

As suggest the full body workout will include exercises that will work a variety of muscles in every movement. This means that when planning the whole body workout you should aim to perform the exercises that exercise the most muscle first, while you are strongest and less fatigued.

Your full body workout could look something like this:

Monday - Wednesday - Friday

60 secs
60 secs
Clean and press
60 secs
Chest press
60 secs
60 secs
Pull ups
60 secs
Bent over row
60 secs
Ab crunch



60 secs

Full body workout: Progression

As your full body exercise training program progresses you may want to increase the intensity. As suggested the whole body workout lends itself to performing compound exercises and back-to-back sets. This means that whole body workouts can look something like this:

Monday - Wednesday - Friday

Chest press followed by bent over rows
6 - 12
Dips followed by pull ups
6 - 12
Clean and press followed bicep curls
6 - 12
Squat followed by exercise ball crunches
6 - 12

This type of workout will allow you to perform 8 exercises in 30 - 45 minutes. Be warned though, this type of workout is very intense. It will stress your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles. The workout is so intense that I'd suggest taking a full week away from the gym every 6 weeks.

Full body workout: Circuit training

The full body workout also lends itself to circuit training, where the bodybuilder will perform each exercise back-to-back with one rest. The difference between this and the workout program above is that the bodybuilder will before each exercise in one continous circuit before repeating. For example a circuit training session may long something like this:

  • Squat - 10 reps
  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Pull ups - 10 reps
  • Deadlift - 10 reps
  • Dips - 10 reps
  • Clean and press - 10 reps
  • Bicep curls - 10 reps
  • Ab crunch  - 10 reps

This would equal one continuous circuit. After completing the final rep of the ab crunch the performer would then start at the beginning again by performing squats, then chest press, then pull ups etc.

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