Full body workouts at home: exercises, benefits and tips from a personal trainer
Get fit from home with our comprehensive full body workout guide, with recommendations and advice from a fitness expert.
A full-body workout is a great way to stay fit and healthy, and the great news is you can do it from anywhere! Easy to set up and no gym required, simply use your own bodyweight in controlled movements to target all the different muscle groups across your body and create a balanced workout to improve your overall fitness levels.
Want to know more? We’ve done our research at The Recommended to find out more about full-body workouts and have you covered with this handy guide, whether a workout novice or a squatting and plank extraordinaire.
From the benefits to the best exercises to include in your routine and how often you should be training, read on for everything you need to know. We’ve also spoken to fitness expert Emily Servante, a certified personal trainer and global trainer education manager at Ultimate Performance, to get some of her top tips and advice.
What is a full body workout?
A full-body workout is a workout that targets all the major muscle groups across your body in one session, from your upper and lower body to your core - nothing gets missed.
This is done with different exercises included in the routine to work each area, such as squats, lunges, pull-ups and planks. A full-body workout is great for improving your overall fitness, strength and stamina while burning calories - we cover more on this below.
Full-body workout at home: 8 exercises to include
Full-body workouts can completely vary in the exercises and movements they focus on. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best ones to include in your workout routine, whether with or without equipment.
Full-body workout exercises without equipment
Try incorporating these moves into your full-body workout - they require zero equipment!
- Squats: Standing with your feet shoulder distance apart, bend your knees and lower your hips back and down. Make sure to keep your back straight and keep your chest lifted. Return to the standing position and repeat. These will target the legs, glutes and core. For a beginner full-body workout, try to do six to eight reps of squats and gradually increase up to 10-15 as you become more advanced in your moves.
- Push-ups: Start in a plank position on all fours with your hands just wider than your shoulders. Slowly lower your body until your chest touches the ground, then push back up into the plank position, and repeat. This is great for working the chest, triceps and shoulders. Try to do six to eight reps of these as a beginner, or increase up to 10 if you want more of a challenge.
- Plank: This is a great exercise to work the core. Position your body on all fours and hold in a straight line from head to toe. Try to hold for at least 30 seconds, and gradually build up to one minute for more of a challenge.
- Lunges: Standing up, step forward with one foot and lower your body until your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Return to the standing position and repeat with the other leg. This is a great movement to work the muscles in your legs and glutes. Try eight to ten reps on each leg, and move up to 15 when ready for more of a challenge.
Full body workout exercises using equipment
These exercises will require certain pieces of gym equipment, such as dumbbells, resistance bands and a pull-up bar.
- Dumbbell Rows: Targeting your back muscles, use a pair of dumbbells as you move through this movement. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend over, letting the dumbbells hang down. Pull the weights towards your chest by bending your elbows, then lower back down and repeat. Try eight reps of these to begin, and gradually increase when ready for more of a challenge.
- Sumo squats: Upgrade your squat using a resistance band. Stand on the band with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out, and hold both ends of the resistance band. Lengthen your hands in front of your hips, and engaging your core, bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat. Keep your chest lifted and back flat, then return to the starting position and repeat. As a beginner, start with a low-resistance resistance band and do eight to 12 reps. You can start to increase the number of reps as you become stronger.
- Pull-ups: Gripping your hands onto a pull-up bar, palms facing away and shoulder-width apart, hang with straight arms. Slowly pull up your body until your chin is over your hands, engaging your core, and then lower back to the starting position and repeat. Try to do eight of these and increase the number when ready for more of a challenge.
- Skipping: For the basic skipping movement, stand with your legs hip-width apart, hold the skipping rope with your arms by your sides in line with your hips and engage your core. Swing the rope over your head, and jump one to two inches off the ground. As a beginner, try this movement for 20-30 seconds, or challenge yourself to 60 seconds if more experienced. Once you’ve mastered this, you can add in some more challenging variations such as one-leg jumps, high-knees and crossovers - check out our skipping guide for how to do them and for more skipping tips and recommendations.
Full-body workout equipment: the gear you need
Full-body workouts can be equipment-free, making them a cheap and cheerful, hassle-free option for doing at home. However, you can also incorporate various types of equipment into your routines, depending on your preference as well as fitness goals and abilities. We’ve rounded up some of the gym equipment you could use to maximise your full-body workout performance:
- Resistance bands: Affordable and versatile, resistance bands can be used in certain movements to increase resistance and add an extra step to your challenge. They can help target certain muscle groups and are great to use in exercises such as squats and bicep curls. Check out our guide on how to use resistance bands and our shopping guide for the best resistance bands to help you select the top ones.
- Dumbbells: You can incorporate dumbbells into exercises such as lunges, chest presses and deadlifts to increase muscle mass and build strength. Check out our guide to the best dumbbells for our top recommendations.
- Kettlebells: Similar to dumbbells, use kettlebells in certain exercises, including swings and squats, to up the challenge. Check out our guide to the best kettlebells for some product inspo.
- Skipping rope: Get your heart rate up by adding a skipping rope to your full-body workout. It’s a great way to increase cardiovascular fitness, burn calories and improve coordination. Check out our guide to the best skipping ropes to find the best one for your needs.
- Pull-up bar: Having a pull-up bar is great for exercises included in your full-body workouts, such as pull-ups, chin-ups, and hanging leg raises. It can help build upper body strength and engages your back muscles. Check out our guide to the best pull-up bars.
- Exercise mat: An exercise mat is a great addition to your workout, providing a comfortable and secure surface to exercise on. Check out our guides to the best exercise mats and yoga mats for some of our best suggestions.
5 ways to make your full body workout more challenging
Ready to up the ante of your full-body workouts? There are several ways in which you can take your workouts to the next level, increasing the difficulty and challenging yourself more, including:
- Adding in equipment: Whether resistance bands, dumbbells, or kettlebells, adding in certain equipment will increase the intensity of your workouts. This will further challenge your muscles and increase strength and endurance.
- Increasing the weight or resistance used: Over time, bringing in tougher weights and higher resistance in exercises such as squats and pull-ups will challenge your muscles more and help them grow stronger.
- Add more sets/reps: Increasing the number of sets and reps in your full-body workout will increase the challenge. As you progress your fitness abilities, you will be able to perform movements for longer, improving your muscle strength and endurance.
- Shorten rest periods between reps/sets: Reducing rest time between reps and sets will increase the stress on your muscles, working them harder and stimulating greater muscle growth.
- Add more advanced variations of exercises: Increase the difficulty of your movements to more advanced levels - this will challenge your body in new ways, increasing strength, stability, and coordination.
Full body workout benefits: 7 reasons to go full-body
Many benefits come with including a full-body workout in your fitness regime. As Anytime Fitness summarises, they ‘promote balance, they burn a tonne of calories in a short amount of time, and they also accelerate results because you get to work out multiple muscle groups at one time’. Here are some more of the top benefits explained:
- Improves overall fitness: Suitable for all abilities, a full-body workout can improve your strength, endurance and flexibility, as well as your cardiovascular fitness. Over time, you can increase your workout intensity to challenge your body further and keep smashing your fitness goals.
- Targets full body: As you are using your entire body in each workout and working all the major muscle groups, you will develop a balanced physique and notice improvements all over.
- Increases calorie burn and metabolism: Full-body workouts require a lot of energy and engage lots of muscles, which in turn burns a lot of calories and increases your metabolism. As Anytime Fitness explains, ‘the more muscles working, the more energy you’re expending, which means you’re burning more fat and calories.’
- Time efficient: Working all major muscle groups in one session is an efficient and time-savvy move. Our expert Emily Servante also explains that a typical full body workout should last about 45-50 minutes - ‘this is an ideal amount of time you want to spend training with the right intensity and maintain maximal loads. Most people can’t train beyond 60 minutes due to fuel depletion and an inability to maintain maximum output. Remember, if you’re still training after an hour, you’re probably not going hard enough.’
- Improves neurological efficiency: Our expert Emily Servant explains that ‘the high frequency of exercising within the same movement patterns results in an increase in neurological efficiency.’ Focusing on your form and control throughout the movements engages the central nervous system, which ‘becomes more efficient at delivering electronic signals to the muscles’.
- Adds variety to your workout routine: Full body workouts can include a huge array of exercises and movements, offering variety and mixing things up to keep routines fun and interesting.
- A good option for beginners: Our expert Emily Servante comments that ‘it’s a common mistake among gym-goers, particularly if they’re new to the gym or inexperienced, to divide their workouts into a specific ‘chest day’ or ‘arms day’ or ‘glutes day’. As you get leaner and stronger, then those sorts of workouts can be very effective. However, if you’re just starting out, you need to lay a solid foundation, and the best way to do this is through full-body workouts.’
How often should you do a full-body workout?
How often you incorporate a full-body workout into your weekly schedule can depend on a number of different factors, individual to each person, including your fitness levels and time available.
Our expert Emily Servante stresses that ‘everyone is different’. Therefore ‘everyone will have a different starting point in terms of their existing levels of fitness, how quickly they recover, their genetics, their past experience working out etc. – all these factors will determine how often you should workout.’
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Emily recommends that ‘if you’re doing it correctly and you want to build a leaner, stronger body through full-body training, then three to four times a week, with adequate rest and recovery, is broadly the sweet spot.’
Anytime Fitness emphasises the importance of giving yourself time to recover fully with adequate rest days ‘so you can restore your tissues and energy levels to head into your next workout at full strength. This way, you’re certain to keep making progress towards your goals.’
It is also essential to listen to your body and adjust the frequency accordingly to avoid over-training, overexertion and injury. Anytime Fitness also suggests the best way to avoid this is ‘to switch up your training routine so that your muscles are always guessing what’s next.’
Want more guidance and expert tips on fitness? Check out our fitness section, with guides including yoga vs pilates, the best multi-gym equipment for working out at home, and how to use resistance bands with tips from fitness experts.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.