If you want to maximize the efficiency of your workouts — and minimize your time exercising — you could do HIIT. Or you could perform total-body exercises.
The name is a bit misleading. “Most exercises are technically total body because when you lift a weight, even to do a biceps curl, you are required to engage multiple muscles in the body,” says personal trainer Morit Summers, owner of FORM FITNESS Brooklyn. “However, usually when people are referring to total-body exercises, they mean compound movements, which are exercises that use multiple muscle groups.”
These types of movements are great if you’re in a time-crunch, says ACE-certified personal trainer Makeba Edwards, fitness program manager at EXOS. Rather than doing a leg day or an arm day, you do it all. This approach may help improve overall fitness, balance and coordination and boost caloric expenditure since you engage more muscle groups.
“Total-body exercises are great for circuit training,” Summers says. If you do all total-body moves, always start with the big muscle groups before the small muscle groups, and aim for 4–10 total exercises, she recommends. You can perform these moves with just your bodyweight or with any load, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, a medicine ball or sandbags.
Edwards says to try to pick exercises that target the five primary movements: bending and lifting (like squats), pushing (like pushups), pulling (like rows or pullups), single-leg movements (like lunges or stepups) and rotational movements (like Russian twists or wall balls). Rest 48 hours between workouts, she adds.
5 TOTAL-BODY EXERCISES TO TRY
SQUAT TO PRESS
The move: Hold dumbbells in each hand by your shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly out. Start the movement by sitting backward and spreading your knees apart. Descend below parallel while keeping your lower back flat. At the bottom, drive through your heels and keep your knees apart. Drive up and push overhead at the same time.
REVERSE LUNGE WITH PRESS
The move: Hold a weight (two dumbbells or a medicine ball or weight plate) in your hands at your chest. Step backward with one leg into a reverse lunge. Once in the lunge, press the weight directly overhead (alternately, you could do a pressout and push the weight out in front of you). Bring it back to your chest and return to standing. Repeat, alternating legs.
HIP BRIDGE WITH PULLOVER
The move: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, holding a light weight in one hand, reach your arm straight above your head. Using your glutes, push into your feet to raise your hips. As you do so, keep your arms straight, raise the weight until it is above your face. Lower everything back to the starting position at once.
The move: This is a total-body multitasker. Lie on the ground with your right knee bent, right foot flat on the floor, right arm holding a weight above you and left arm and left leg at your side. Drive through your right foot and roll onto your left elbow. Then straighten your left arm. Squeeze your right glute and drive your hips straight up. Pull your left leg underneath and behind your body, resting on the knee and ball of the foot. Move your torso straight up, then lunge to a stand. Reverse the sequence to descend. Do all your reps on one side and repeat on the other. Keep your chest up and watch the weight the entire time.
The move: Start in a deadlift position with a dumbbell or kettlebell a few feet in front of you. Hike the weight back between your legs like a center in football and explosively drive your hips forward. Swing the weight up to an overhead position like with a push press as the grip changes. Drop the weight back between your legs and repeat.