How To Design A Full body Strength Workout

Full body strength training is gaining more and more in popularity, and right so, for the majority of people it is the most effective way to train. In this article we will provide you with details on how you can design you own full body strength sessions, rather than just providing you with one workout.

7 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
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In This Resource
  • What is Full Body Strength Training
  • Full Body Doesn’t Mean Every Muscle Group
  • Why Is Full Body Strength Training Effective
  • Lower Frequency of Sessions
  • Builds Less Fatigue
  • High Stimulus to Fatigue Ratio
  • Who Should Do Full Body Strength Training
  • How To Design A Full Body Strength Training Workout
  • Time Available
  • Equipment Available
  • Selecting Session Structure
  • Selecting Movement Patterns
  • Selecting Exercises
  • Selecting Repetitions, Weights
  • Completing Your Session

What is Full Body Strength Training

Full body strength training is a style of training where multiple movement patterns are used within a workout. A movement pattern is a name we give to a type of movement, for example a the squat (or knee flexion) movement pattern is how we group all squat exercises into one group, a press up would be a horizontal press movement. In a full body strength session we would use multiple movement patterns and therefore multiple muscle groups.

This training style of getting more and more popular, but bodybuilding culture is still very pervasive in resistance training. Bodybuilders would typically use a muscle group split, breaking their sessions into one muscle group, chest, legs, arms etc. This style of training differs dramatically from full body strength training as it puts a large amount of volume (sets and repetitions) onto one muscle group throughout a session.

Full Body Doesn’t Mean Every Muscle Group

Full body strength training is a way we use to describe a session that has multiple movement patters, here is an example:

A) Back Squat

B1) DB Bench Press

B2) Tripod Stance Row

C1) Alternating KB Press

C2) Suitcase Hold

As we can see in this session we target 5 different movement categories, but we also miss out multiple movement categories. This is normal, a full body strength session does not need to target every muscle group. I have seen some coaches make this mistake and it simply makes the sessions to challenging and too long. When we say full body we don’t necessarily mean full body, it’s just part of the strength and conditioning lexicon, to say we are going to use multiple movement patterns from both the upper and lower body.

Why Is Full Body Strength Training Effective

Lower Frequency of Sessions

When we target multiple movement categories (muscle groups) within a single session we are able to condense a great deal of work into two to three sessions a week. If we only do sessions where we focus on one muscle group, we need an extremely high frequency of training to target all the muscle groups. This may be great for students or bodybuilders, but people with kids and jobs who are trying to build their health need another solution, which is full body resistance training.

Builds Less Fatigue

Sessions that only focus on one muscle group can create an enormous amount of fatigue. Imagine if you were to give a beginner a session with 12+ sets of lower body exercises, this would create so much muscle soreness that they would not be able to walk correctly for multiple days. Whereas if you were to break these 12 sets across three sessions, the recovery process would be much more manageable.

High Stimulus to Fatigue Ratio

The stimulus (the creation of a stimulus which drives adaptation) is why we perform training, we are looking to create adaptions to our physiology. The stimulus to fatigue ratio is the amount of stimulus we create and how much fatigue we create. As we have already discussed above, training which is not full body generate high levels of fatigue, but does it create much more stimulus? The answer is no, the extra adaptations you get from performing 12 sets in one session compared to to 8 is minimal. Therefore full body strength training has a higher stimulus to fatigue ration.

Who Should Do Full Body Strength Training

People who are looking to use strength training as a way to stay healthy and in good shape, but only have time to train 2-3 times a week should always be using full body resistance training as it will allow them to see progress across all movement patterns. Even bodybuilders who are serious about getting better should consider using full body resistance training as it will allow you to fit more volume into your week on each muscle group. Those who just want to focus on chest, arms and back should consider not using full body resistance training as your arm growth might be worse.

How To Design A Full Body Strength Training Workout

Time Available

Selecting the time you have available will dictate how many exercises you can perform.

Equipment Available

Equipment selection will be important when it comes to selecting exercises, as obviously you cannot pick exercises where you don’t have the appropriate equipment.

Selecting Session Structure

This is where you pick the flow of the session. You select if you want to perform bi-sets or tri-sets etc, if you want to lift a heavy weight at the beginning or just stick with high repetition lighter movements. Usually this is done in accordance to a training programme but can also be done for a stand alone session based on how you are feeling. You will want to perform the most important and most challenging exercises first, because this is when you have the most energy, this is why the sessions start with Primary exercises and then are followed up by tertiary exercises and core exercises. Here is an example:

A) Primary

B1) Primary

B2) Secondary

C1) Secondary

C2) Core

When the letters are the same with numbers after, it means they are performed as rounds, also referred to as supersets. In the session above you will have two supersets, B and C blocks of the session.

Selecting Movement Patterns

Now we have our session design we can fill in the movement patterns we want to work in this session. This is all based on the individual and their goals, so here I will just use random examples.

A) Squat

B1) Horizontal Press

B2) Horizontal Pull

C1) Vertical Press

C2) Resisting Rotation

Selecting Exercises

From here, we can pick exercises for each receptive movement category, again this is highly individualised so these selections are just to give you an example.

A) Back Squat

B1) Press Up

B2) Ring Row

C1) Half Kneeling Landmine Press

C2) Suitcase Hold

Selecting Repetitions, Weights

Finally, now we have the exercises, we can add the finer details, sets, repetitions etc. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but obviously the sets, reps and weights will depend on the strength and skill of the person performing them.

A) Back Squat

4 x 8 @110kg

B1) Press Up

4 x 20

B2) Feet Elevated Ring Row

4 x 8

C1) Half Kneeling Landmine Press

3 x 12 @Bar+10kg

C2) Suitcase Hold

3 x 30” @28kg

Completing Your Session

Here is a great example of a Full Body Strength Workout that you can perform today in the gym.

Below I have added the same session design, same movement categories but changed some exercises and weights to make it beginner friendly. Hopefully this will help you better understand how to design your own sessions.

A) Goblet Squat

4 x 8 @8kg

B1) Press Up on Medium Barbell

4 x 10

B2) Ring Row

4 x 8

C1) Half Kneeling DB Press

3 x 12 @ 3kg

C2) Suitcase Hold

3 x 30” @8kg

If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.

This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein


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