• On Your Mark

7 Full-Body Exercises for Strength, Fat Burning, Fun and Time-saving!

Updated: Jul 12, 2019


Want to get stronger? Trying to lose some fat before the summer beach season? Short on time? Bored with traditional exercises like bench press, bicep curls and squats?

If you answered yes to just two of these four questions, keep reading! Most people answer yes to more than two.

It's safe to say that most people are very busy and that even if you love to exercise, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. Right? Do you ever feel that you aren't being efficient with your workouts or aren't seeing the results you want?

Well then maybe it's time to switch things up. One way to do so is to perform more full-body exercises instead of isolated exercises that concentrate on just a few muscles or one muscle group. Some examples include:

  • Bicep Curls

  • Calf Raises

  • Crunches

  • Tricep Extensions

  • Hamstring Curls

  • Leg Extensions (seated using machine)

  • Lateral Shoulder Raises


These aren't bad exercises. I do many of them and I have my personal training clients do them as well. Exercises that isolate specific muscles and muscle groups are important for many reasons but they may limit the results you want while costing you valuable time and causing repetitive strain to muscles and joints.

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If you want to burn fat, build strength, save time and have fun, then it's time to incorporate more full-body exercises into your fitness program.

4 Awesome Core / Abs Exercises!

Benefits of Full Body Exercises:

  • Trains the body as an integrated unit: trains the body and mind how to work together from head to toe in a way that can help you not only with your fitness goals but also enables you to more safely and efficiently complete daily activities and sports.

  • Saves Time: You get more bang for your buck because more muscle groups are being used and thus there is less need for those time-consuming isolation exercise.

  • They are fun! Ok so this is very much open for debate, but in general these exercises are higher energy, more dynamic, harder and more intriguing. So tell me, on a stressful day of sitting for 11 hours at a desk, would you rather do sets upon sets of single dimension exercises like bicep curls and calf raises or would you prefer jumping around a bit, getting your heart rate up, sweating and just simply moving more?

  • Cardio + Strength: Doing a sequence or circuit of dynamic full-body exercises can allow you to really save some time by combining your strength training with aerobic training. How often have you gone to the gym and done 30 minutes of cardio on a boring machine followed by 45 minutes of strength training? Well how about cutting that time in half while accomplishing the same fitness goals and more for that day while having some fun in the process?

  • Burn, Baby...Burn! If your goal is to shed some body fat and you currently do long bouts of light to moderate cardio followed by lengthy strength training routines, you are probably not using your time and energy wisely. Evidence is increasingly pointing to shorter, moderate to high-intensity workouts to burn fat.


Risks of Full Body Exercises​:

The exercises below and full-body exercises in general are more complicated and advanced than single joint exercises such as bicep curls, pec flies, calf raises and leg extensions. Therefore, if you have an active or previous sports injury, are de-conditioned or haven't done these exercises recently or ever, be careful.


In these cases I highly recommend finding an expert fitness professional to teach you and correct your form. I can't stress enough the importance of working with an expert here, not just your average trainer. Find a personal trainer with corrective exercise expertise to help you determine if and which full-body exercises are safe for you. The stakes are higher here. It's much harder to hurt yourself doing bicep curls than it is doing a rennogade row or berpee.

1.) SQUAT / ROW

Benefits: This is a fantastic full-body exercise that combines the traditional squat with a standing row. It works on many levels in that it targets the lower body, upper body and torso equally and when done correctly is very effective at getting the glutes, abdominals and many postural mid and upper back muscles to work synergistically.


Caution: While this is generally a very safe exercise it does involve a lot of different muscle groups and joint movements. Be sure to solidify your standing and seated row technique as well as squat technique before moving on to this integrated movement. Start with low weight to get acquainted with the exercise.

Proper Form:

  • The two components of this exercise, the squat and the row, happen simultaneously.

  • Keep your belly button drawn into your spine and be sure not to overarch the low back.

  • Always look straight ahead and don't flex your head down at any point during the exercise.

  • Knees should not move forward past the toes.

  • Be careful not to shrug the shoulder much if at all.

  • Push your weight through your heels and keep the glutes active.

2) RENNOGADE ROW

Benefits: This exercise is one of the best full-body and core exercises around. When done properly, the deep abdominal, scapular and spine stabilizer muscles work together to create stability throughout the entire body. The less movement of the pelvis and over-arching of the low back means that the TVA, Multifiti and Internal Obliques are doing their job of creating stability in the torso. This is a very functional exercise because it replicates the types of movements and muscle recruitments we do every day.


Caution: As with any advanced abdominal and full-body exercise, this one demands excellent form for safety and maximize its potential benefits. It can be amazing for taking your injury rehabilitation to new levels but it could set you back significantly if done without optimal form.

Proper Form:

  • Keep your belly button drawn in at all times, always focussing on Transverse Abdominus engagement.

  • Be sure not to let your low back arch excessively.

  • When pulling your arm back in a row, control the pelvis, not letting it move much if at all. The less movement there is in the pelvis means the muscles are working harder and better to create stability which is the purpose of this exercise.

  • Be aware of your head, neck and shoulder positioning, making an effort not to look up, arch your neck and shrug your shoulders.

Shoulder Problems? Check out these 11 Exercises!

3.) BERPEES

Benefits: This is an awesome exercise! There are a lot of variations that enable the exercise to emphasize different muscle groups. Berpees jacks up your heart rate making it a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness while increasing strength, power, coordination and speed. It's a great way to work your lower body, upper body and core muscles. It's simultaneously a fun and torturous exercise that will help get you in great shape.


Caution: Berpees are an advanced exercise that requires a solid base of cardiovascular endurance, overall fitness, flexibility and coordination. If you have any history of high blood pressure or heart pathologies, get medical clearance for this and any other types of moderate to intense exercise. In addition, if you have a history of back pain then you may need to modify the jump back and jump in portion of the exercise.

Proper Form:

  • Jump as high as possible.

  • When in the plank position and if doing a push-up, be careful not to let your back overarch.

  • If you have pain doing any of the modifications, choose a different one or stop entirely.

4.) ROPE EXERCISES

Benefits: Over the past 5 years rope exercises have exploded in popularity. With so many variations, rope exercises offer you an array of ways to help you improve strength, power, speed, coordination and aerobic fitness.


Caution: Ropes are intermediate and advanced exercises. If you have any cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure I recommend getting medical clearance first. If you have any muscle or joint injuries - past or present - be mindful of what you're feeling and start slow.

Proper Form:

  • There are many exercises that you can do using the ropes and each one requires a unique combination of muscles working together to produce the correct motion.

  • In general you want to get your entire body involved in the movements in order to create a full-body experience, to do the exercises properly and to avoid stressing out any particular muscles or joints.

  • Breathe rhythmically. Synch your breathing in some way with each movement.

  • If a particular movement hurts, stop and try to modify.

5.) DUMBBELL ROW WITH OPPOSITE LEG EXTENDED

Benefits: This exercise gets all of the primary postural muscles firing, activates the glutes, engages the abdominal muscles, improves shoulder stability in the opposite arm and strengthens the same muscles that any rowing motion does - the lats, biceps, rhomboids and middle traps. It's also an intermediate level exercise for improving hip and torso alignment.


Caution: While this exercise is pretty safe, be careful if you have a history of low back pain.

Proper Form:

  • Look down and be careful not to overextend your neck.

  • Keep your belly button drawn in towards your spine and avoid overextending your low back.

  • Keep the opposite leg raised to the height of your torso and make sure the knee stays straight. Squeeze the glutes.

  • Maintain stability in the opposite, weight-bearing shoulder. Be sure not to let the shoulder collapse.

6.) PUSH-UPS

Benefits: Push-ups are such a great way to strengthen your chest, shoulders, arms, abs and potentially even your legs depending on the modification.


Caution: While push-ups are safe and easy to modify, be careful if you have any shoulder, elbow or low back injuries. Modify when needed to avoid pain and to gradually improve. As basic and seemingly straightforward as push-ups are, I very often see people doing them with less than optimal technique.

Proper Form:

  • Look down and be careful not to overextend your neck.

  • Keep your belly button drawn in towards your spine and avoid overextending your low back.

  • Try not to shrug your shoulders.

  • Maintain a stable plank position, meaning don't hike your hips in the air too much.

  • Avoid variations in which the elbows are close to your body. This is popular for building big and strong triceps but can put a lot of unhealthy stress on the shoulder and elbow joints.

  • Modify as needed for your fitness level and goals. You can do push-ups against a wall, leaning on a bench, with only one foot on the ground, with your feet higher than your torso, with your feet suspended in the air via a TRX and more.

7.) Lunge w/ Bicep Curl and Shoulder Press

Benefits: This exercise gets the entire body working together to create stability, strength and power. It specifically targets the entire lower body, especially the quads and glutes, as well as all of the main shoulder muscles.


Caution: If you have had shoulder injuries ranging from biceps tendonitis to rotator cuff tears, labrum tears, shoulder impingement, shoulder joint dislocations, you should probably avoid the kettlebell version of this exercise and perhaps any of the variations that involve flipping the grip from above to underneath the weight, as this can put too much torque on the shoulder and thus aggravate these injuries. As with any squat, protect your lower back with proper form.

Proper Form:

  • During the squat portion of this exercise, keep your belly button drawn in towards your spine and avoid overextending your low back.

  • When flipping/rotating the weight - be it a kettlebell, dumbbells, straight bar, medicine ball - do so quickly in order to avoid injury to the shoulder joint and surrounding ligaments and tendons.

  • Breathe rhythmically. Synch your breathing in some way with each part of the exercise.

  • Even though your shoulders have to elevate and shrug slightly, be sure not to overdo it or to tense your neck excessively

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