Why Full-Body Movements Are Your Key to Getting in Better Shape Fast

Maximize your training time by avoiding isolation exercises and focusing instead on full-body movements.

Finding time to train can be a challenge.

During the school year, academics, sports practices, games and family commitments can sometimes supersede gym workouts.

But the truth is that no one is too busy to train. Although you might not be able to spend hours in the gym on a daily basis, there are many time-efficient drills and exercises you can utilize to whip your body into better shape.

Full-body exercises are one of the best ways to condense workout duration while still ensuring a quality training session. Isolation exercises, which target just one or two muscle groups at a time, simply aren't all that efficient. While bodybuilders can spend hours in the gym on machines individually targeting specific muscles, athletes rarely have that same luxury. During athletic performance, muscles also don't work in isolation, which is why full-body exercises also often have better carryover to athleticism.

The following fast-paced combo exercises can maximize growth by intensely working muscle groups in unison rather than doing isolation movements for each muscle. They can also boost sports-enhancing endurance with shortened rest periods between sets and enhance fat-burning! And, athletes (depending on time availability and time constraints) generally can finish these brief yet challenging combo-based workouts within 15-30 minutes (including doing a dynamic warm-up/cool-down static stretches).

Equipment

  • Bench or chair
  • Parallel Bars (for Bar Dips)
  • Pull-Up Bar (or place a barbell atop the safety pins in a Power Rack to do Inverted Rows)
  • Moderately-heavy barbell, med ball, cable, two dumbbells (70-80% RM) for one workout
  • Lighter barbell, med ball, cable, dumbbells (50-60% RM) for the second workout
  • Water bottle
  • Timer (optional)
  • Three cones (for Sprints/Single Leg Hops)

Guidelines

  • Choose 3-5 combo movements per workout (depending on time availability). For variety each workout, include at least one bodyweight-only movement and at least one external resistance (e.g., barbell, dumbbells) movement.
  • Rest 30 seconds between sets and 60 seconds between different combo movements.
  • Sets/Reps: Based on your time availability, do either 3x6-10 or 2x6 @ 70-80% RM for building size. Next workout, do either 2x15-20 or 3x15-20 @ 50-60% RM for variation and optimizing muscle endurance. Alternate both types of training for size and muscle endurance. Using lighter resistance and doing higher reps every other workout may also prevent joint issues (generally occurring from repetitive workouts with moderately-heavy and heavier weights.)
  • Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
  • Perform the exercises on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.

Exercises

Power Cleans

A standard total-body exercise building lower- and upper-body size, strength and power.

Explosive Push-Ups/Squat Thrusts

Alternate an explosive Push-Up (hands leaving the floor) immediately followed with a Squat Thrust. This is another upper/lower-body combo power-blaster.

Side Lunges/Med Ball Press-Outs

Lunge laterally right while simultaneously pressing the med ball away from your chest. After the desired reps, lunge laterally left while pressing the ball out.

Deadlift/Shrug

Imagine how much time is saved by combining the exercises into one set instead of doing two or three sets of Deadlifts, then two or three sets of Shrugs? Directions: Start by doing the Deadlift (using a barbell or dumbbells), then shrug for one second, lower your shoulders, and return the barbell or dumbbells to the floor. Repeat the combo movement (6-10 or 15-20 reps with your selected resistance).

Reverse Dips/Jump Squats

Place your hands on the edge of a bench or chair and perform the Reverse Dips. Immediately follow with Jump Squats. Suggestion: Time yourself doing as many Reverse Dips as possible in 30-60 seconds quickly followed with as many Jump Squats in 30-60 seconds—great for improving upper- and lower-body muscle endurance. Jump Squats also promote lower-body power.

Planks/Dead Bugs

Do Prone, Side and Supine Planks (holding each position 30 seconds) immediately followed with 30 seconds of Dead Bugs.

Single-Leg Squats/Cable Rows/Arm Curls

This three-part, time-saving combo exercise effectively enhances balance (all done with one foot airborne) and lower- and upper-body size and strength. Directions: Facing a cable machine, grasp two handles (holding with both hands with an underhand grip) and do a Single-Leg Squat with one foot airborne while pulling the cable toward your waist. Pause two seconds and then curl the handles toward your shoulders. Return to start position and repeat for desired reps with the one foot airborne, and then switch with the other foot airborne for desired reps.

Bar Dips/Pull-Ups (or Inverted Rows)

When paired together, they make an excellent arm, shoulder, back and chest size-building combination. Do desired reps of Bar Dips and immediately follow with Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows.

Side Lunges/Ball Chops

Hold the ball overhead and simultaneously bring it downward across your body toward the right ankle while lunging laterally right. Return to start position and continue for desired reps. Repeat by lunging laterally left while bringing the ball towards your left ankle for desired reps. These combo movements strengthen core, upper- and lower-body muscles.

Forward Lunges/Overhead Presses

Simultaneously lunge forward with the right leg while explosively pressing a ball, light barbell or dumbbells overhead. Return to start position and continue for desired reps. Repeat with left leg Lunges/Overhead reps to build upper- and lower-body size and power.

Single-Leg Hops/Forward and Reverse Sprints

Great for both enhancing balance and agility (Hops) and explosive power/endurance (Sprints). Space two cones 1 foot apart and a third cone 40 yards in front. Do Single-Leg Hops over both cones with the left foot immediately followed with a forward sprint to the third cone. Immediately reverse to start position. Rest and repeat by hopping with the right foot over the cones and immediately sprinting forward and backward to start position.

Photo Credit: Cecilie_Arcus/iStock

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Topics: SQUAT | LUNGE | PLANK | BICEP CURL | WORKOUTS | PRESS | PULL-UPS | ROW