Full Body Training Routines That Kick Ass

Recently there has been a renaissance in the “full body” training routines, thanks in large part to people like Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert, Ellington Darden as well as the rebirth of the classic Bill Starr 5×5 routine, thanks to Glen Pendlay, Mark Rippetoe and websites like Madcow’s and Stronglifts. These routines which are intense and use only compound exercises, which makes them about as “old school” as you can get.

This is the way that the legends of the golden era of bodybuilding in the 1950s used to train. People like Reg Park, Steve Reeves, Armand Tanny, Vince Gironda and John Grimek all used these sorts of 3 day a week, full body routines to get huge. Chuck Sipes and Reg Park were both 500-pound bench pressers! Pat Casey, the first man to ever bench press 600 pounds, trained with a full body routine too! Any of these guys would likely be found to have more athletic-looking physiques than the average GH-fuelled pros today by the vast majority of the general public. Most of these guys were extremely athletic too.

The fact that legendary football trainer Bill Starr’s “The Strong Shall Survive” and John McCallum’s “The Complete Keys to Progress” are still bestsellers today speaks for itself. These two books, for example contained routines that have been modified and reinterpreted somewhat by many, but the core ideas and structure behind them still prove to be true: full body workouts are the most efficient way for beginners (and the average cubicle warrior) to gain a lot of muscle really quick. Full body workouts are the most metabolically stimulative way to train, and are best for getting that lean and athletic look, while getting stronger. They are ideal for providing the base for a beginner (check out Mark Rippetoe’s excellent “Starting Strength”, which is likely the best book on the planet aimed at getting young people stronger for either powerlifting or sports).

How to go about setting up a full body routine?

When setting up your full body routine, there are some things that you have to consider, of which your recovery ability is perhaps the most important. If you are a fairly new trainer, with less than a year or so under your belt, or are young – say under 25 years old, then your recovery ability and consequently the volume and frequency of your workouts can be higher than an older trainer – even one who has trained for 20 years.

An older trainer over 40 who has trained for 20 years off and on might be able to use more resistance in their exercises, but that will necessitate larger amounts of time in between training sessions as greater resistance creates a greater aggregate stress on the nervous system. Think of your body is a well of energy, the same amount of energy used to power you through a workout is the same source of energy used to recover from the workout. If you run the well dry with too many training sessions with not enough rest in between them, you could be short changing yourself in terms of muscle gains.

The key variables to consider in any training routine (split of full body) are 1) volume, 2) frequency and 3) intensity (Intensity= (Volume x Weight used)/Rest time).

The key variables in the supercompensation phase of muscle growth are 1) diet, 2) rest and 3) stress. Take stock of your age, the experience you have in training and the amount of stress in your life at any given time as well and adjust your training accordingly.

Full Body #1

Day One

Squat – 3-5 x 5-15
Stiff Legged Deadlift – 3 x 10-15
Bench Press – 3-5 x 5-15
Pullups or Chin -3-5 x 5-15
Calf Raises – 2 x 5-20
Crunches – 2 x 5-20


Day Two

Deadlift – 3-5 x 5-15
Military Press – 3-5 x 5-15
Close Grip Bench Press or Dips – 2-3 x 5-15
Barbell Curl – 3-5 x 5-15
Wrist Curls – 2 x 15-20
Reverse Crunches – 2 x 5-15


Full Body #2

Day One

Squat – 3×10
Bench – 3×6
Chins or Pulldowns – 3×6
Calf Raises – 3×15
Crunches – 3×12


Day Two

Leg Presses – 2×15
Partial Deadlifts – 3×6
Seated Dumbbell Press – 3×6
One Arm Dumbbell Rows – 3×8
Dumbbell Curls – 3×12

Both of these programs are as efficient as you can get to balanced, practical full body training.


One issue that comes up with full body training is balancing your assistance work. One really good approach is to make one of the two workouts all lower body assistance work and the other one, all upper body assistance. The first of the following workouts will allow you to hit bench while scorching your legs, and the next one you can annihilate your whole upper body!

Full Body #3

Day One

Squat – 3-5 x 5-15
Bench Press – 3-5 x 5-15
Lunges -3-5 x 5-15
Glute-Ham Raises – 2 x 5-20
Calf Raises – 2 x 5-20


Day Two

Partial Deadlift/Rack Pulls – 3-5 x 5-15
Military Press – 3-5 x 5-15
Weighted Chins with Curl Grip – 3-5 x 5-15
Weighted Dips – 2-3 x 5-15
Dumbbell Curls – 2 x 15-20


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8 Responses to Full Body Training Routines That Kick Ass

  1. Djbuyse September 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm #


    Some decent routines here!

    Is it supposed to be done A,B,A……B,A,B,…..(day1,day2,day1,..)


  2. admin September 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    Hi Dylan, yes, but not carved in stone. The most important thing is your recovery. So you could put 1-2 days in between each workout or do it like:

    week 1:
    A – Monday
    B – Wednesday
    A – Friday

    B – Monday
    A – Wednesday
    B – Friday

  3. ZZ November 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Really good stuff!
    I am basically using the #1 routine above and just changing up some of the exercises every 1-2 months (using similar multi-joint movements) ie: after 2 months Day 1 might look like:

    Front Squat
    Incline Bench Press
    Back Extensions
    One Arm DB Rows
    Seated Calf Raise

    I have used similar full body workouts for many years and have always found them to be far more productive than the BB split routines, as I am only concerned with overall strength and fitness (I do not flex in front of mirrors).
    What has always amazed me is that I can make some decent gains while only spending about 3 hours per week in the gym. A lot of guys spend four times that long but I guess they have different goals.

  4. Darren September 2, 2015 at 5:14 am #

    Surprised there is no pullover exercise? I always do a pullover movement after chest which hits my lats, delts, triceps strongly and also the ribcage and serratus. Arm work is not needed either for beginners. The heavy compounds hit the arms enough imo

  5. admin October 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    Darren, sorry for the delay. I’ve just started doing cross-bench pullovers again after not having touched them in years. What I found was a real soreness in the triceps. They really hit so many muscle groups. You could easily substitute these for rows etc.

  6. Shane November 15, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    Thanks so much for this awesome insite on “all body routines that kick ass”. I have been wasting so many workouts on individual body part training… and then blowing off legs here or there…….. with all body workouts you can easily hammer the body 2-3 times a week. This is a perfect workout and one i’m going to stick with for life…… thanks so much!!

  7. John December 15, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    Can I practice Martial arts twice weekly while on these full body workouts?

  8. admin December 19, 2015 at 1:07 am #

    John, maybe try martial arts 2x a week and full body workouts just 2x a week. Would be ideal if you can swing a day in between and do some walking and light stretching for recovery.

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