When it comes to exercising, most of us would prefer to get maximum results in the shortest amount of time possible.
So it doesn’t make much sense when people spend all of their time in the gym on single muscle isolation exercises like biceps curls, leg extensions and triceps kickbacks when they could be getting stronger, faster and burn more calories in less time with full body exercises.
While isolation exercises are great for bodybuilders trying to gain massive size,they’re not necessarily the most efficient exercises or the best choice for the typical exerciser looking to get in the best shape in a limited amount of time.
Not only will full body exercises make you more functionally fit, meaning they’ll help you perform better in everyday activities or athletics, they’ll also work more muscles at one time and burn more calories while doing it.
Here are 10 full body exercises that will get you more bang for your buck:
If I had to pick my favorite exercise of all time, burpees would be it. Not only do burpees require nothing but your own bodyweight—meaning you have no real excuse not to do them—they’re an awesome overall body strengthener and will condition you like no other exercise can.
How to do them: Stand up straight, then get into a squat position with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back into a push up position and lower your body so that your chest touches the floor. Jump and return your feet to the squat position as fast as possible. Immediately jump up into the air as high as you can. Add a little clap for pizazz!
Not only will squats give you a strong, powerful lower body, they’ll also work your core, strengthen your back and work shoulders as well.
Plus, you can do squats using just your own body weight for an awesome, do-anywhere exercise, add weight to make them even more challenging.
How to do them: Stand with your feed hip-width apart while pulling your shoulders back and engaging your abs. Push your butt and hips back as if you were sitting in a chair. While keeping your weight on your heels, lower down until your thighs are parallel or lower to the floor. Raise back up to the starting position, squeezing your butt and pushing your knees outward as you straighten.
3. Step ups
Step ups are a fantastic exercise you can do with very little space that will strengthen your legs and core muscles, build endurance, and get your heart rate up all in one move.
To make step ups more challenging, add weight or step onto a higher surface.
How to do them: Stand in front of a box or an elevated surface, pulling your shoulders back and keeping your abs tight. Set your left leg onto the box, then step to top of the box making sure your feet are flat. Step back down with the same leg, then repeat with your right leg.
4. Pull ups
Pull ups are one of the best upper body exercises of all time, and not only work your arms, shoulders and back, but will also strengthen your core as well. If you can’t do one quite yet, don’t give up all hope—with practice, anyone can do a pull up (yes, that includes women!).
How to do them: Start by hanging from a pull up bar with your palms facing away from you. Keeping your chest up and your shoulders back, squeeze your glutes and cross your feet, then pull yourself up so that your chin rests over the bar. Lower back down with control.
Pull up modifications for beginners:
- Jumping pull ups: Jump up from the ground or an elevated surface, using momentum to help propel yourself up to the bar.
- Negatives: Jump up to the bar so that you’re in the top of a pull up position, then slowly lower yourself down with control.
- Use bands: Looping a band around the pull up bar and then again around your feet (or knees) can help you push past the sticking point of the pull up.
5. Push ups
Forget the fancy machines, do push ups instead. Push ups work your arms, back, chest, core, butt and even leg muscles. And the best thing about push ups? You can do them anywhere.
How to do them: Start in a plank position, with your shoulders directly over your hands. Tighten your abs, glutes and thighs, then lower yourself down so that your chest touches the floor while keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible. Push yourself back up into the starting position and repeat.
Push ups modifications for beginners:
- Incline push ups: Find a bench, a table, or a similar sturdy raised surface and assume a plank position with your feet on the floor and your hands on the elevated surface. Do a push up from this position. As you get stronger, find lower surfaces to do them on.
- Push ups from your knees: Start in a push up position with your knees on the floor. Tighten your abs, glutes and thighs, then lower yourself down so that your chest touches the floor while keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible. Push yourself back up into the starting position and repeat.
Want to work your chest, triceps, shoulders and abs all at once? Start making dips your go-to exercise.
How to do them: Stand in between a set of parallel bars. Grab the bars, straighten your arms, and hoist yourself up off the ground while slightly crossing your legs. While pulling your shoulders back and keeping your chest up, lower yourself down so that your elbows are parallel to the floor. Raise yourself back up to the starting position so that your arms are straight.
Dips modifications for beginners:
- Elevate your feet: Assume the same position between a set of parallel bars as described above, but put your feet on an elevated surface to make it easier.
- Use a bench: Sit on a bench or sturdy surface with your feet on the floor and your hands behind you, elbows bent behind you. Raise yourself up off the bench so that your arms are straight and feet still on the ground. While keeping your shoulders back and abs tight, lower your butt to the bench, so that your elbows form a 90 degree angle. Raise yourself back up and repeat.
7. Jump lunges
Jump lunges will not only make your legs burn like crazy, they’ll get your heart rate up quickly as well and challenge your balancing skills—making them a fantastic full body conditioning exercise.
How to do them: Start in a lunge position with your knees touching or almost touching the floor. Jump up explosively and switch legs so that your rear leg is in the front and front leg is in the rear, then repeat as fast as you can.
8. Kettlebell swings
Everyone from bodybuilders to the most casual exerciser loves kettlebell swings for a reason: they rock. Not only are kettlebell swings great for fat loss, they’ll build increased power, cause greater muscular endurance, increase your anaerobic and aerobic capacity, and more.
How to do them: Stand with your legs hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell between them. Allow the kettlebell to swing slightly behind your legs, then propel your hips forward, bringing the kettlebell straight over your head. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell and point it straight up or slightly forward. Pull the kettlebell down from the sky and repeat.
Handstands are one of the most underrated exercises for one main reason: most people think they just can’t do them. But even if you start out doing handstands against a wall, they’ll help you build a strong upper body and core, increase your balancing abilities, aid in bone health, and more.
In fact, doing handstands every day can even help you feel less stressed out—and who doesn’t need that these days?
How to do them: Start with your hands on a floor in an area where there’s nothing around you to bump into. Jump or tuck up with control and hold the handstand. Lower yourself down with control.
Handstand modifications for beginners:
- Handstand facing away from the wall: Face away from the wall with your hands on the ground shoulder width apart.
- Slowly walk your feet up the wall until you’re vertical, then walk your hands close to the wall. Get out of the handstand by walking your feet down. Try holding a handstand for 5-10 seconds for six sets. If this is too tough for you still, practice walking up and down the wall until you build enough strength.
- Handstand facing the wall: Face toward the wall, place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart, and jump up into a handstand with control. Work up to holding a handstand for 60 seconds. Once you’ve got that down, try and remove your feet from the wall.
10. Box jumps
Great for building lower body strength, conditioning, and preparing you for any sports where jumping is involved, box jumps also burn major calories and will get your heart rate up in a hurry.
Plus, jumping up on something high makes you look like a badass, and who doesn’t want that?
How to do them: Stand in front of a box or sturdy raised surface. Jump up onto the box, landing with both of your feet on top then straighten your legs. Jump back down from the box, then immediately jump back up and do it all over again.
Now go work hard, get sweaty, and have fun!