Each week for the next month I am going to discuss each of the major resistance training program structures and their benefits. The key to any good resistance training program is to make sure your structure supports the results you are trying to achieve. I will start with full body workouts because on top of being the most appropriate structure for basic general health, it is the most novice and most common way of doing resistance training. An appropriate full body workout will include one exercise per muscle group, one to three sets per exercise, and it will work all the major muscles in the body. This type of programming is good to develop basic overall strength with minimal muscle gain. If your goals are to gain strength and muscle for general health and fitness, including joint support, and you’re not concerned with gaining a lot of muscle, then this program structure is for you. It is also the structure of a resistance training program that you should use if you have never done a resistance training program before or if you have taken a hiatus from working out. Jumping straight into a split type program first is a good way to get injured or overly sore which only will hinder your progress. Full body workouts can be the end all structure for your workouts depending on what your goals are but in general it’s better to move on to more advanced split type program. Split programs create more emphasis and demand on each muscle group, opening the door to better results through adaptations from new challenges. This is what a typical full body structure should look like.
Leg press, squats, or lunges – Quad focused
Leg curls – Hamstring focused
Abduction/adduction – Outer/inner thigh focused
Heel raises – Lower leg/calve focused
Chest Press/Push ups – Chest Focused
Pull-downs/Rows – Back focused
Overhead press/lateral raises – Shoulder Focused
Arm Curls – Bicep Focused
Arm Extensions – Triceps Focused
Core work – Abdominal/Low Back focused
A few things I want to point out about this workout plan. The order of events is important. You always want to do exercises that use the most muscles first, then isolate to individual isolated muscle exercises after. For instance, you should do squats before leg curls. Leg curls use the hamstring only outside of a little calve stabilization while squats use quadriceps , hamstrings, gluts, and lower back. If you fatigue the Hamstrings first by doing leg curls before squats, they can’t assist during the squat as well, leaving the hamstrings fatigued and susceptible to injury. Also, it’s good to isolate to the secondary muscle group after working the large muscle group exercises because by developing endurance in small muscle groups, they can do a better job of assisting. This indirectly results in further developing the larger muscle groups because the small assisting muscle groups can handle more load. The triceps, for instance, are secondary in chest and shoulder exercises. By working the triceps after Chest and shoulder exercises, it builds endurance in the tris so that they can hold their own the next time you work your chest and shoulders. I remember a client saying they thought doing bicep curls was useless because it only works that muscle. It’s apparent that doing bicep curls is beneficial to balance and build your body as a whole, but working it at the right time in your workout is imperative to achieving good results.
The order above is ideal but you could change the position of the exercises slightly if a piece of equipment you wanted to use was unavailable etc. During your leg workout, you could follow your squats, lunges, or leg press with any of the leg exercise listed below it above (hamstring focused, inner/outer thigh focused, calve focused). Since those exercises are isolated primarily to one muscle group, the order is insignificant. If you decided to do squats and lunges during the same workout, they should both be done at the beginning of the workout. Upper body works the same way. Chest and back could switch order, shoulders should always sit in the middle, and biceps and triceps could switch order but they should always be at the end since they are secondary during chest, back, and shoulders . Jumping back and forth from a lower to upper body exercise should only be done when compound setting which I will write about in a few weeks. Ab exercises should sit at the end of your full body workout in most cases because you want to keep their strength as a stabilizing muscle that is active all the way through your workout and, at the end, punish them to build up their endurance.
If you are starting a workout program or you are looking for a basic program that will help you develop and maintain healthy muscular strength for day-to-day functioning through your lifetime, then full body is a great structure for you. Full body workouts are a great place to start for anyone that is beginning a resistance training program for the first time. It’s also a good structure to use as a stepping stone to more challenging program structures. If you need any guidance about how to get started and how to customize your program to make it fit for you, give us a call. We are here to answer your questions and get you on the path to great lifelong health and fitness. Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Next week I will discuss semi-split programs.