Scores of simple and effective free workout routines that have stood the test of time!

Full body routines

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 5x5 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 massive yet athletic physiques.

Steve Reeves, 1950s - Image Credit: iStock

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!

All of them had more athletic-looking physiques than the average drug-fueled pros today. Many of them were 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" or Stuart McRobert's "Brawn" are still bestsellers today speaks for itself. 

These 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.

Build a muscular, athletic physique with simple training methods! - Image Credit: iStock

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. 

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. 

Front Squat - Image Credit: iStock

Three Full-Body Workout Routines

Full Body Workout #1

Day One

Front Squat - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Stiff Legged Deadlift - 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Incline Bench Press - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Calf Raises - 2 x 5 sets x 20 reps

Crunches - 2 x 5 sets - 20 reps

Day Two

Deadlift - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Military Press - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Close Grip Bench Press or Dips - 2-3 sets x 5-15 reps

Barbell Curl - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Wrist Curls - 2 sets x 15-20 reps

Reverse Crunches - 2 sets x 5-15 reps

Full Body Workout #2

Day One

Squat - 3 sets x 10 reps

Bench Press - 3 sets x 6 reps

Chin-Ups or Pulldowns - 3 sets x 6 reps

Calf Raises - 3 sets x 15 reps

Crunches - 3 sets x 12 reps

Day Two

Leg Press - 2 sets x 15 reps

Partial Deadlifts - 3 sets x 6 reps

Seated Dumbbell Press - 3 sets x 6 reps

One Arm Dumbbell Rows - 3 sets x 8 reps

Dumbbell Curls - 3 sets x 12 reps

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. A 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 press while focusing on your legs, and the next one you can reverse this by focusing on a heavy session for your whole upper body.

Incline Bench Press- Image Credit: iStock

Full Body Workout #3

Day One

Squat - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Bench Press - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Lunges - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Glute-Ham Raises - 2 x 5 sets x 20 reps

Calf Raises - 2 x 5 sets x 20 reps

Day Two

Partial Deadlift or Rack Pulls - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Military Press - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Weighted Chins - 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps

Weighted Dips - 2-3 sets x 5-15 reps

Dumbbell Curls - 2 sets x 15-20 reps

How Often Should I Do a Full Body Workout?

Since you are obviously going to be hitting every major muscle in the body every day, with a substantial amount of weight and volume, it is best to leave at least one day in between workouts.

How many days per week is very subjective between individuals and can vary with you as well, due to the variability in your recovery, how you have been sleeping and so on.

A good plan is to allow for 2 to 4 full body workouts a week. The great thing is that this way of setting up your workouts with an "A/B" or "Workout One/Workout Two" split allows you this flexibility.

How Long Should a Full Body Workout Take To Complete?

Ideally, you never want to train for more than an hour with the optimal time being to complete the above workouts being somewhere around 45-50 minutes.