Strength training: fitness experts tells us their favourite full body workouts

Posted by for Strong Women

Fancy giving a full body workout a go? Fitness trainers explain their favourite exercises to help get you started. 

It’s been great getting back to the gym since lockdown started to lift. But between our revived social lives, trying to maintain our daily walking habit, and the restrictions that have been put in place in gyms to keep us safe, it’s not always easy to get there as often as we would like. While a lot of people might aim to fit a lower body, upper body and core workout into their week, three workouts is a lot to commit to at a time like this. 

Luckily, it is possible to do strength training workouts that engage muscles throughout your body. Admittedly not as effective for isolating specific groups of muscles, these full body exercises are still great way of getting a well-rounded workout. While some require equipment, others are bodyweight exercises, so you can build up a good repertoire whether you’re heading to the gym or working out at home

We asked the experts for their favourite exercises to include in a full body workout, and these are their top six. While they won’t work every muscle, these simple but effective exercises will help you to build up strength in multiple muscle groups at once. 

Burpees

The mother of all full body workouts, “the classic burpee is popular for a reason”, says fitness trainer Amina Khan. “It is a full body burner that gets your heart pumping and starts warming up your legs, core and upper body”.

To do a burpee, start out as though you’re doing a squat, with your feet about hip width apart. Lower yourself down until your legs form a 90 degree angle, with your thighs parallel to the ground. From here, reach your hands out to place them on the floor in front of you and kick your legs out behind you, so that you end up in a plank position. Then, step your legs back in, return to standing, and jump up. Once you land, with your feet once again hip width apart, begin again.

If you’re new to burpees and struggling to get the movements down, Amina recommends that you “go through them slowly” while you practice. 

Plank

Woman doing yoga plank
Full body exercises: plank

The plank “is an essential stability, core and functional exercise”, according to Amina, and is a staple for fitness fans of all levels. To perform a plank, lie face down on a flat surface. Place your palms on the ground on either side of your chest and push yourself up. Your toes should be tucked under, so that your body creates a straight line that runs parallel to the floor. Aim to hold yourself in this position for at least a minute, Amina says.

Amina also recommends you vary this exercise by turning your plank on its side. “This is an amazing move for your side oblique muscles, and it also improves your wrist strength and overall balance and stability”, she says. With a side plank, you need to hold your body up on your side, using only one arm and one side of your foot. Repeat on the other side. 

Press up

Press ups engage similar muscles to planks, but the range of movement they require is particularly good for strengthening the upper arms and pectoral muscles. Personal trainer Veowna Charles says that, to start, you need to lie face down, with hands either side of the chest, and your legs and core engaged, “to create stability as you press to full extension of your arms”. Then, bend at the elbows to lower yourself back down, ensuring you maintain stability. 

Amina also suggests trying narrow-grip tricep press ups, which you can do by “placing your elbows close to your sides and pressing up from the floor”. 

Inchworm

Inchworms are a great dynamic exercise, which can help you improve your strength, balance and mobility. Stand with your feet hip width apart, and then “bend at your hips to lower your hands to your feet, walk the hands forwards into a plank position, then walk your feet up to your hands”, says Veowna. To ensure you’re making the most of this exercise, Veowna also recommends using small steps “to increase time under tension”, and keeping the legs as straight as possible. 

Deadlift

Full body workouts: deadlifts

Deadlifts are a great full body exercise to do if you have access to a barbell. According to fitness trainer and doctor Folusha Oluwajana, “they work your whole body and are very effective at increasing strength and building muscle”.

Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart, ensuring that “your midfoot is under the barbell”. From here, you need to bend down and grab the bar, gripping with your hands just outside of your feet. With your back flat and chest up, “extend your knees to stand up, and lift the barbell off the floor”, keeping your arms straight. Hold here for a second, and then return the weight back to the floor. 

Medicine ball slam

This exercise “works your muscles from head to toe, gets your heartrate up, and it’s also fun”, says Folusha. To do a medicine ball slam, stand holding the medicine ball in front of you, lift it up over your head, and then slam it down on the ground. “As you slam, follow the ball by squatting down, bending at the knees, and grab it as it bounces off the floor”. Return to standing, and repeat. 

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