Trying to decide if a full body workout plan is right for you? I’ve got you covered. We’ll be looking at the split in detail, going through:
- What Are Full Body Workout Plans?
- Full Body Workout Routine Structure
- Full Body Workout Routine Exercises
- Full Body Routine Workout Examples
- Full Body Workout Plans
- Full Body Workout Plan Pros
- Full Body Workout Plan Cons
- Summary: Are Full Body Workout Plans Effective?
- Frequently Asked Questions About Push Pull Legs
- Next Steps
Let’s jump straight in.
What Are Full Body Workout Plans?
Full body workout plans are ways of organising your training so that you work every major muscle group within the same training session. This means:
All trained in the same full body workout.
Full Body Workout Routine Structure
Here’s what a typical week of a full body workout routine looks like:
Day 1: Full Body
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Full Body
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Full Body
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Rest
Full Body Workout Routine Exercises
There are an almost infinite number of full body workout routine exercises you can use as part of your training programme. Here are just a few examples to get you started:
Chest: Bench press, dumbbell press, machine chest press
Back: Pull-ups, lat pulldowns (various grips), dumbbell rows, barbell rows, machine rows, cable rows
Quads: Barbell Squats, Dumbbell squats, lunges, split squats, Bulgarian split squats (rear foot elevated)
Hamstrings: Deadlifts, rdl’s, leg extensions, hamstring curls
Biceps: DB Curls, barbell Curls, cable curls
Triceps: Dips, Cable Pushdowns, Skullcrushers
Side Delts: DB Lateral Raises, Upright rows
Rear Delts (Optional*): Face Pulls, bent-over reverse DB flyes
Front Delts (Optional*): Barbell overhead press, dumbbell overhead press, machine overhead press
*I recommend picking 1 exercise from each category per full body workout. Front delts are optional as you get loads of front delt work from chest exercises, and rear delt work is optional as you get loads of rear delt work from back exercises.
I recommend picking 1 exercise from each category per full body workout.
Full Body Routine Workout Examples
Here are 3 example workouts that fit into the full body routine structure. Remember, these are only simplified examples to demonstrate how you might structure a full body routine. I don’t know your specific favourite exercises, how much volume you need in terms of sets, or your preferred rep schemes.
Full Body A
- Bench Press: 3×5-10
- Pull-Ups: 3×5-10
- Squats: 3×5-10
- Dips: 3×10-15
- Barbell Curls: 3×10-20
- Bentover Reverse DB Flyes: 3×10-20
Full Body B:
- Barbell Rows: 4×10-15
- DB Bench 4×10-20
- Walking Lunges: 3×10-20
- Hamstring Curls: 3×10-20
- Tricep Pushdowns: 3×10-20
Full Body C:
- RDLs: 3×5-10
- Dumbbell Rows: 3×5-10
- Pressups: 3×10-20
- DB Curls: 3×10-20
- DB Lateral Raises: 3×10-20
- Leg Extensions: 3×20-30
Again, these are just simplified full body hypertrophy workouts to show you how a week might of training for muscle size might look. They’re a decent starting point for most trainees, but a LOT more thought should go into building and designing your own full body workout plan.
Full Body Workout Plans
For this review, we’re mainly looking at the 6-day push pull legs split as its the most common, but there are two other variants that I want to mention in case you prefer them.
3 Day Bodybuilding Split
With a 3-day full body split for bodybuilding, you just perform a full body workout 3 days per week, keeping your reps in the 5-30 rep range in line with hypertrophy guidelines.
|Day 1||Full Body A|
|Day 2||Full Body B|
|Day 3||Full Body C|
Full body 5 day workout routine
Using a full body approach 5 days per week is a bit trickier, and requires some modification in order to prevent overtraining.
|Day||Muscle Groups Hit|
|Monday||Chest, Horizontal Back, Quads, Biceps|
|Tuesday||Vertical Back, Hamstrings, Triceps, Side Delts|
|Wednesday||Chest, Biceps, Rear Delts, Quads|
|Friday||Horizontal Back, Hamstrings, Triceps, Side Delts|
|Saturday||Chest, Vertical Back, Rear Delts, Biceps|
That’s because big muscle groups like your quads and hamstrings need more time to recover in between hard sessions. I.e. if you perform 3 sets of RDL’s for hamstrings on tuesday, there’s absolutely no way you’re going to be healed by wednesday, so you’ll be training with overlapping soreness, which is bad for muscle growth and strength development.
By organising your training like I’ve written above, you still get to follow a ‘full body’ style approach, but your bigger muscles get enough recovery time.
Full body workout routine home
Here’s a full body workout routine that you can perform at home, using mainly bodyweight and bands
Full body home workout
Table Rows (Or TRX Rows if you have the equipment): 3×10-20
Bodyweight Squats: 3×10-20
Double leg Heel Bridges: 3×10-20
Banded bicep curl: 3×10-20
Banded lateral raise: 3×10-20
Top Tip: To make your full body workouts at home harder, consider buying a weighted vest. Alternatively, look for more challenging variations of the above exercises. For example, instead of double leg heel bridges, try single leg heel bridges.
Full Body Workout Plan Pros
- A full body workout plan allows for a balanced, well-rounded physique development
- Muscle groups are usually well-recovered for each workout
- 2-3x per week frequency is in line with evidence-based recommendations, and lets most people get a good amount of training volume per muscle group
- Simple and easy to follow
- Very flexible schedule
Full Body Workout Plan Cons
- Sessions can become very time-consuming
- May not provide enough stimulus to certain muscle groups
- Can be tricky to increase training frequency without overlapping soreness
- Stronger lifters may find that they are too fatigued after 3-4 exercises to effectively train the next 2-3 exercises
Looking for a Reliable Hypertrophy Programme?
I’ve put together a 17-week hypertrophy programme.
The programme is evidence-based and is designed with 3 distinct blocks of training that use different set and rep schemes, as well as different exercises, to maximise your muscle building.
It’s also designed with specific guidance so that you can adjust your amount of training to suit your recovery.
You can find out more about the programme here.
Summary: Are Full Body Workout Plans Effective?
“Full body workout plans are an effective and flexible way to build strength and add muscle mass, however, for stronger and more experienced lifters, other training splits may prove more effective.”
Frequently Asked Questions About Push Pull Legs
Is it OK to do full body every workout?
If you train 3 or 4 times per week then yes, it is okay to do full body every workout. However, if you train 5+ times per week, you’ll likely be better off splitting your training up somewhat so as to avoid overlapping muscle soreness.
How many times a week should you do a full body workout?
You should probably do a full body workout 2-4 times per week
Is 4 exercises enough for full body?
Whilst you can get a decent workout, 4 exercises isn’t quite enough for a true full body workout. For example, if you selected exercises for quads, hamstrings, chest and back, you would still be missing side delts, biceps and triceps.
With that said, many compound exercises do also work the smaller muscles, for example, chest press also works triceps to some extent, so you will still get some tricep development, it just won’t be as much as it could be.
How long should a full body workout be?
A full body workout should probably take 60-90 minutes. However, as you get bigger, stronger and require more working sets and more warm up sets, you’ll likely find that full body workouts can end up taking considerably longer, sometimes 2 hours+, which is far from ideal.
Is full body better than split?
It depends, if you can only train 3 times per week, or you’re a relative beginner, then yes, full body is better than split. This is because you’ll be abe to hit each major muscle multiple times per week. However, if you’re planning to train 5+ times per week, or you’re more experienced in the gym, then splits will likely be better than full body plans.
How many sets is a full body workout?
Full body workouts will typically range all the way from 12 up to 28 sets. This will be based on how many exercises you include, and how many sets you do of each exercise. If you choose six exercises and perform two sets of each, that’s 12 total sets. If you choose seven exercises and perform four sets of each, that’s 28 sets total!
Why do people not do full body workouts?
People often choose not to do full body workouts because they take too long, and don’t provide enough recovery time between sessions when training more than 3 or 4 times per week. For example, when your full body workouts take 2+ hours to complete, it may make much more sense to move to something like a 4 day program based around an upper/lower split.
Can you build muscle with full body workouts?
Yes, you can absolutely build muscle with full body workouts. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re able to feel the target muscle working, get a good pump, and then feel some soreness the next day, you’re providing enough stimulus for growth. More experienced lifters may find that full body approaches no longer tick these boxes, so might need to move onto different split approaches such as Push Pull Legs.
Alright, that’s enough reading for today, time for some action…
1) If you like the sound of full body workout plans, then go and try one out for a few weeks. Alternatively, if you’d prefer something more like 4 days per week, you can check out this programme I’ve designed.
2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.
3) And if you found this article useful, feel free to share.
‘Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.