A Generic Full Body Workout Routine

Man doing pushups
There are about 956,586 workout routines that you can try. One of the most effective types of routines I have found in my first 14 years of training is total body training.

The Principles of Total Body Training

  • Work every muscle group 3 times per week.
  • Select one exercise per muscle group, per day.
  • Hit each muscle group from a different angle or intensity in each workout.
  • Never go to absolute failure on any exercise; leave one rep in the bank.
  • Keep workouts under one hour, not counting warm ups and stretching.
  • Change everything up after two months.

Why Might This Be the Most Effective Form of Training?

  • High frequency (how often you train any given muscle) means more chances to recover and grow stronger/bigger.
  • Low daily stimulus (# of exercises and sets per day for any given muscle) lowers your chances of overtraining.
  • Avoiding training to failure also lowers chances of overtraining.
  • Hitting muscles from all angles each week strengthens stabilizers and is proactive injury prevention.
  • Avoid muscle adaptation by changing up the whole routine after 2 months.

So What is the Routine Already?

I will outline a basic routine to follow in a 7 day period, but it can also be shortened to a 6 day period just as long as you see no signs of overtraining.

Your warm-up strategy: Please spend 5-10 minutes warming up your body with some cardio and some light weight lifting. This is your opportunity to do some shoulder rotations and non-hyperextending back extensions to warm up those areas that are prone to injury. For any given compound exercise, you decide if you want to include an initial warm-up set. I recommend it, but for a sissy exercise like bicep curls for example, you don’t really need to do a warm-up set.

Your weight/rep strategy: The first set should be a warm-up if necessary. Middle sets should increase by 10-20% depending on how you feel. Fourth set should be 100% of the max for the given rep range. For example if I can bench 100 lbs x 5 reps, I would do sets of 50 x 5, 80 x 5, 90 x 5, and 100 x 5. Once I set a new 5 rep personal record (PR) I would add the smallest amount of weight possible the next time I did that exercise. Most gyms have 2.5 lb plates, so next week I would use 105 lbs as my finishing weight on that exercise. This is called linear progression. Again, if the rep range is 5, you should be finishing with a weight you can get for 5, but not a weight that causes you to struggle to get 4.

Your exercise selection strategy: Given three workouts a week for each muscle, you must choose three exercises for each muscle group. You should choose one compound exercise and two assistance exercises. The assistance exercises should focus on bringing up weak points, fixing muscle imbalances, or breaking through a sticking point. This strategy was inspired by a training philosophy called the conjugate method.

Your exercise execution strategy: The first exercise of the workout should be done solo, as it is the most important exercise of the day. Rest for a minute or two between sets. All subsequent exercises should be done in groups of two. This is sometimes called a superset. Rest for a minute or two after each superset.

This program as it is outlined below is for men.

Ladies should do 4 sets of 7 where this program calls for 5 sets of 5.

Day 1:
a) Quads – Barbell back squats
reps: 5/5/5/5/5
b1) Chest – Incline dumbbell press
reps: 7/7/7/7
b2) Calves – Standing calf press
reps: 7/7/7/7
c1) Hamstrings – Stiff leg deadlifts
reps: 7/7/7
c2) Abs – (Weighted) decline sit ups
reps: 7/7/7
d1) Back – (Weighted) wide grip pull-ups
reps: 10/10/10
d2) Shoulders – Seated dumbbell shoulder press
reps: 10/10/10
e1) Stretch all your muscles for 10 minutes while sipping your post-workout drink.
e2) If you are still within your 60 minute workout and have gas left in the tank, do a tricep extension of your choice for 2 sets of 5 reps, or as many diamond push-ups as you can do.

Day 2:
Off or light cardio.

Day 3:
a) Chest – Flat bench press
reps: 5/5/5/5/5
b1) Quads – Step ups onto a bench or box holding dumbbells
reps: 7/7/7/7
b2) Abs – Lying leg raises, get your lower back and butt off the floor, try to touch the ceiling with your toes
reps: 20/20/20/20
c1) Back/Hamstrings – Standing bent over dumbbell rows
reps: 7/7/7
c2) Calves – Seated calf raises
reps: 7/7/7
d1) Shoulders – Standing dumbbell raises to the side
reps: 10/10/10
d2) Biceps – Standing alternating dumbbell curls
reps: 10/10/10
e1) Stretch all your muscles for 10 minutes while sipping your post-workout drink.
e2) If you are still within your 60 minute workout and have gas left in the tank, do a hamstring curl machine for 2 sets of 5 reps;or lock your heels under something with the instep of your foot facing down and, starting with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, lower your upper body forward and down a couple degrees then use your hamstrings to pull it back up. I’ll have to see if I can find a picture of this somewhere.

Day 4:
Off or light cardio.

Day 5:
a) Hamstrings – Deadlifts
reps: 5/5/5/5/5
b1) Shoulders – Standing overhead shoulder press
reps: 7/7/7/7
b2) Abs – Standing side bends holding dumbbells
reps: 7/7/7/7
c1) Quads – Alternating barbell lunges
reps: 7/7/7
c2) Triceps/Chest – Decline close grip bench
reps: 7/7/7
d1) Back/Biceps – (Weighted) close grip chin-ups
reps: 10/10/10
d2) Calves – One leg standing calf raise on a 2 inch block or plate holding a dumbbell
reps: 10/10/10
e1) Stretch all your muscles for 10 minutes while sipping your post-workout drink.
e2) If you are still within your 60 minute workout and have gas left in the tank, do two sets of clapping pushups.

Day 6 and Day 7:
Off or light cardio.

So that’s it! Please take this full body workout routine with a grain of salt. At times you might need to skip the e) exercises and maybe even one of the second exercises in the d) superset. This will not kill you. Feel free to change up the exercises if you think you know what appropriate replacements would be. This is just a guide for those that have never experiences total body training before.

This workout should only be done for 2 months max before you either try a different workout, specialize for a certain muscle group, or completely overhaul the exercises and reps.

If I have helped or inspired you, please leave me a message so that I can tell that someone is actually reading this blog. Good luck!

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338 Responses to “A Generic Full Body Workout Routine”

    • just wanted to say i am a 42 year old male that is about 60lbs over weight and have not wored out for about 22 years. i have been trying to find a program that can help me. this looks like it. now i can put my new gym membership to use. the only question i have is how much weight should i use for these exercises?

  1. Hey Steve,

    I’ve just started this workout today and I’ve gotta say it was tough but rewarding.

    I have a question though. Regarding the deadlifts and squats, the gym I’m a member at only has Smith machines (no truly free weight benches). Are these machines ok to use for deadlifts and squats? I’ve never done these exercises before but the motion seemed fluid and didn’t seem to strain anything (I watched quite a few videos on proper form before doing these exercises). A response would be great!

    Thank you for creating this site. It’s a great resource.

    • Never ever deadlift in a smith machine. Flat out, don’t do it. You will get hurt.

      Squatting in a smith machine is a little less dangerous, but you will never learn how to squat properly in a smith machine. If you ever have to transition to real free weights, you will have to start over from scratch to learn real barbell squats. Get a new gym.

      • Alright, looking for a new gym. I’d rather get into compound exercises the right way rather than risk lack luster results or injury. The gym I’m at doesn’t really cater to people who are interested in weight lifting.

        Looks like the free weight transition will commence earlier than I thought!

        Thanks for the response, Steve.

  2. It’s been 5 months that I have followed the daily routine strategy so far I got the best result, I’m planning to continue this for the rest of the year and planned to share these routine to my friends. I haven’t gotten a chance to say thank you for sharing this effective routine here and I’m very glad that I have executed it well.

  3. I have been following many tips online on muscle building, but just cant build up muscle mass 🙁
    will be trying your method and let u guys know the result in a couple of months later…

  4. I have worked out with weights for several years. Worked out with young women that were at risk with great results. Went back to college and did what I told the girls not to do, stop working out! I have been back at the gym with a four day split routine I have been very frustrated with painful knees at the gym and in general. Squats are painful stopped leg extensions all together. Then I found this site. I am running out the door to get the things I need to try squats again. I actually printed this out. I have read and reread this entire article. With every thing out there to read {and believe me Ive read alot}, your information and the way it has been presented has been a life saver for me. I will continue to look to you for advice. Thank you for your talents and God given gifts in presenting information. You have truly impacted my life, my health and no doubt many others. Thank You Linda

    • Sweet! Thanks for the props and good luck with your training. I’ve written a bit about injuries so you should look around the site for different articles dealing with leg training.

  5. Hey Steve,

    I’ve been doing the Generic Total Body Routine for a month and two weeks and wanted to thank you for having it on your site. In the past, I have been plagued by a lingering knee and shoulder injury. But after deciding to make the commitment to workout and see it through by going slow, I’ve finally started to feel stronger and healthier. I’m looking forward to the next routine.
    Thanks again.

  6. Hey Steve, trying this program because I’ve just worked out with any kind of direction. The barbells I have access to are the curved ones that look kinda like a W, can I do effective squats with them or do I need actual barbells?

  7. Hi Steve, I have been looking for a good full body program to put on muscle mass. This looks good and pretty self explanatory. I was wondering about thee 2 month time limit. Is that just to keep the body guessing or is it because after 2 months a split routine is better? Everyone on line seems to shun full body routines but I like it so far. Just wondering if they are worth sticking with for more long term goals. Thanks

  8. hi,
    i m an amateur, 19 and wanted to know if this workout is good for me?
    Also, which is best whole body or split, (i want to gain weight, i m just 56kg nd 5’10)?

  9. Hi Steve,
    I need to change my full body workout routine, then i found the one you posted, which looks very interesting. I plan to try it out.
    However i have a question. I’m used to doing full body routines, but i usually use 3 sets and 10 reps, except for abs. The weight load are basically constant during each excerzize. In your routine, you have different sets and reps, also you advice linear progression and never excerzize to failure.
    I would appriciate if you could explain the difference between the way i’m used to doing it, and any benefits of your way.

    • I use fewer reps because I prefer for both me and my clients to focus on strength, speed, power, and density, rather than bulk. 10 reps is more for bodybuilding, while 1-5 reps is best for strength gains and for maintaining muscle during a fat loss phase. You can exercise to failure, but I don’t recommend it for anything other than the last set of each exercise, and even then you should stop at or just before failure, but not beyond failure.

  10. Hello, just to say that my husband and I have just completed our first week of this workout and found it very good although its difficult doing the supersets as our gym is rather busy and its hard to find the weights that we want to use as we’re increasing the weight with each set. What I did want to ask you though is if you have any tips on a substite exercise for the chin ups as neither myself or my husband can do even one! so we just tend to skip this exercise so I was wondering if there was something else we could do to build our strength up so we can eventually do at least one?!

    • You should use a combination of heavy supinated (reverse grip/palms facing you) pull downs, assisted chin ups, and negative chin ups. Assisted chin ups means you would use one of those assisted pull ups devices, and negative chin ups means you would jump or otherwise get help to the top of the chin up position, hold yourself up at the top for a second, then lower yourself down to a count of 4. Try to do 5 reps.

  11. Steve,
    I am about to get into the last two week of this workout. I would like to continue with it but I would like to know what do you mean by total overhaul after 2 months. Should I respect the muscle group and change the exercises? what do I have to do with the reps?
    Thank you!

  12. hey steve. i’m searchin for a routine.. I am 25 years old.. 150 pounds… 5ft9” tall. I have a free weights set. a treadmill and a pully weights machine… what do u recommend I do to build ah little muscle while also being ripped? I would NOT wanna cross 160 in weight

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