Written by Carina Wolff
There are some days when you want to just target your glutes, and other days when you put the focus completely on legs. But sometimes, you just want to knock it all out in one go, and that’s where the best full body exercises come in. These moves are especially great if you’re short on time or want to focus on your overall fitness.
So what makes something a full-body move? Although it’s not actually possible to work every single muscle in your body, a full-body workout involves working the muscles of the upper body, lower body, and core. This should include aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. Sure, you can turn to your trusted old burpees, but that’s not the only total-body move that will sculpt you all over. You can keep things fresh by mixing up your workouts and incorporating some strength-building and cardio-bumping combos.
Here are five of our best full body exercises to include this year:
The Wood Chop
Work your upper body, lower body, and core all at once by engaging in a standing woodchop. This move can be done with a medicine ball, dumbbell, or resistance band, and not only does it work multiple muscle groups, but it also helps strengthen your core stability.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hips distance, and hold your prop in your hand, with your arms outstretched in front of you. Begin by rotating your arms to the left, bringing them above your shoulders and keeping your arm straight. Keep your head, chest, and hips facing forward. Then, bring the prop across your body to the right so it lands near your hip. You can bend your knees here or keep them straight, but again, keep your body facing forward while you do this. Repeat the movement on both sides.
Plank & Rotate
Planks are a great core tightener, and they work your back, glutes, hamstrings, arms and shoulders at once. Add a little movement and work those sides by including a rotation with your plank.
Begin in a plank position, and open your legs a little wider than hips distance. Lift your left hand to the ceiling, twisting your torso but keeping your pelvis level. Here you have the option to lift your top leg for an added challenge. Bring your hand back to the ground and return to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. Speed is less important with this move, as it’s better to focus on controlled movements to work your muscles. You can also hold a dumbbell in each hand to work your arm muscles further.
Squats aren’t just for your legs and behind — they work your full body. This dynamic, strengthening move works your upper body and lower body simultaneously while also strengthening your core. You can do a basic squat, or you can include props like weights or resistance bands for a squat variation.
Begin with your hips slightly wider than hips distance, with your hips stacked over your knees, and your knees over your ankles. Keeping your chest up with your abdominals engaged, push your hips into a sitting position, moving your weight into your heels. Maintain a neutral spine, and roll your shoulders back. Pause with your knees over your toes, and push back to the starting position. Repeat.
Combining cardio with strength training, mountain climbers, also known as running planks, are an effective full-body move that focus on your shoulders, chest, abs, obliques, and hips. Begin in a plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders. Keeping your body in plank with your abs engaged, bring one knee under your chest, towards your elbow. Return your leg to the plank position, and immediately repeat the same move on the other side. Continue to repeat, amping up the speed for more of a cardio workout. It should feel like you’re running in place in the plank position.
There’s a reason this move is called Superman — it’ll strengthen your whole body so you’ll feel like a superhero. This bodyweight exercise strengthens your core, your upper and lower back, your glutes, and your arms, and it can be part of your dynamic warm up, working some cardio as well.
Start face down on your stomach, with your arms and legs extended. Keeping your neck neutral, raise your arms and legs at the same time so that they’re several inches off the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds, working your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings without putting strain on your neck. Lower, and repeat. For variations on Superman, you can try alternating your arms and legs for a “swimming” move. Or, you can strengthen your core even more by lifting only the limbs on one side of the body at a time.
Even if you don’t have time to target all the different parts of your body, you can tailor your workout to involve full-body moves for best results. Combine these moves for a stronger upper body, lower body, and core, as well as improved cardiovascular fitness.