Top 5 full body exercises

  • Full body workouts are a great way to increase the intensity of your gym fitness routine.
  • They help with everything from strength and endurance training to core stability and cardio.
  • Movements such as squats with an overhead press and weighted lunges are simple yet effective full-body exercises.

One of the best things you can do for your body this year is add more full-body workouts to your workout regimen.

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Full-body workouts are different from a cardio or strength-training routine because they are all-inclusive.

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“It not only helps with strength training but also with core endurance and stability training, and it also creates an after-burn effect in the body” which helps burn more calories and fat, says personal trainer and CORE owner, Denise Chakoyan.

Most full-body exercises combine two different exercises or add additional weights and movements to make the workout more dynamic. Because of this, they require a little more coordination than regular weightlifters.

The key to perfecting a full-body exercise—and avoiding injury—is to start slowly with a lower weight to perfect your form and technique first, and from there, increase the weight and frequency.

With that in mind, here are five of the best full-body exercises you can do in the gym, as recommended by Chakoian.

She says to perform each of the five moves for either 15 reps or one minute in a row, and repeat the entire cycle two to three times to get a full workout.

1. Squat with an overhead press

A woman doing a dumbbell shoulder press.

The dumbbell overhead press is a great shoulder exercise.

Getty/Mike Harrington



By adding an overhead press to the classic squat, you can target both the upper and lower body with this exercise.

Chakoyan says focusing on your own body weight and dumbbell weight adds a little bit of a cardiovascular workout, too.

You’ll want to select a set of dumbbells that challenge you without affecting your form. Chakoian recommends starting with a lighter weight, like 5 pounds, and then going from there.

Required Equipment: (1) A pair of dumbbells

How do I do it:

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and one dumbbell in each hand resting at your sides.
  • Bend your knees and lower your butt into a squat, bringing both dumbbells toward the floor on the outsides of your feet.
  • Keep your core engaged and make sure your knees are directly over your feet, not bending forward past your toes.
  • Push through your feet and rise from a squat while bringing your arms up to lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders with your palms facing outward.
  • Once the weights reach your shoulders, extend your arms straight up toward the sky.
  • Lower the dumbbells down past your shoulders and return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  • Do four sets of 15 repetitions or repeat for one minute straight.

2. Upper body rows with a rotation plank

People perform plank rows.

Plank rows mix the core and upper body.

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Chakoyan says that “This is a compound movement that targets your upper body, specifically the muscle groups in your back and core.”

You’ll want to make sure you use a much lighter pair of dumbbells than you would use for something like curls or overhead presses.

Required Equipment: (1) A pair of dumbbells

How do I do it:

  • Start in a plank position, holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands and pressing them into the floor.
  • Keep your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips level to create a straight line from your head to your heels.
  • From the plank, raise one weight toward your shoulder for a one-arm row, then continue to raise toward the ceiling as you rotate your hips and upper body open.
  • Return the weight to the floor and return to the plank position. Repeat the same movement on the other side. That’s one rep.
  • Do four sets of 15 repetitions or perform the movements for one minute in a row.

3. Walking lunges with weights

Woman doing lunges

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Adding weights to lunges increases the intensity of this movement, and you’ll get a complete lower-body workout with this exercise.

Make sure you choose a pair of dumbbells that you feel comfortable getting in and out of a low lunge with, but make sure you don’t go too heavy – you don’t want it to affect your form so much that you get injured.

This exercise can be done in one of two ways as well. You can either lunge with an erect body and straight spine to focus on your thighs and quads, or with a forward leaning stance to work your glutes.

Required Equipment: (1) A pair of dumbbells. You can also use a gym mat to allow for soft contact if your knee hits the floor.

How do I do it:

  • Start by standing upright with a dumbbell in each hand, resting at your side.
  • Place your right foot about two feet in front of you and bend your back knee until it’s bent toward the floor, making sure it doesn’t go past your toes.
  • Press your planted foot forward and rotate your feet together.
  • Once back to a standing position, perform biceps curls with both arms at the same time.
  • Repeat the movement with your other leg.
  • Continue alternating lunges and biceps curls for 1 minute straight.

4. You hit the ball

Someone using a peace ball outside on cement

Dick’s Sporting Goods



Ball shots are an excellent way to work your shoulder, back, core and leg muscles. However, you want to make sure that you’re doing this on a sturdy ground or floor area because you’ll literally be hitting a heavy ball with all your might.

Required gym equipment: Weighted medicine ball

How do I do it:

  • Start with a heavy medicine ball, between 10 and 20 pounds.
  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift the ball up toward the sky and over your head.
  • From this position, throw or slam it toward the ground in front of you while simultaneously moving into a squatting position.
  • Pick up the ball and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for 30 to 60 seconds straight.

5. Dip and flip

Triceps dips

Progress/Shutterstock



Pull-ups and flips are a fun move that works your triceps and biceps, engages your full muscles and abs, and really gets your heart rate up.

Required Equipment: gym mat

How do I do it:

  • Start by lying on the floor on your back with your knees bent in front of you, your hands under your butt, and your thumbs close to your hips.
  • Keep your knees and legs slightly apart with your toes off the floor and push your hips up into a bridge position; Your bottom should not be touching the ground.
  • Do triceps dips by bending your arms so your elbows point away from your body and slowly lower your upper back toward the floor.
  • Drive through your hands to extend back up to the bridge position.
  • Next, completely flip your body into a high plank position and do one push-up. That’s one rep.
  • Do 10 reps in total.

An informed takeaway

Doing a full-body workout at the gym can be a great way to build strength, burn calories, and work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Movements like ball strikes, weighted lunges, and overhead squats do a good job of challenging your entire body while offering an effective workout.

Although many full-body exercises are more complex than regular weight-training moves, starting slow with lower weights is the best way to improve your posture, improve your technique, and avoid injury.

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