Full Body Training: A Complete Guide

Full body training is a method of resistance training encompassing all the major muscle groups e.g. chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs.

As a result full body training involves the use of compound exercises. These exercises usually consist of a pressing movement e.g. overhead press, a squatting movement e.g. the back squat, a hinge movement e.g. the deadlift and a pulling movement e.g. pull ups.

While mostly associated with the early days of bodybuilding full body training has undergone a resurgence in the past few years due to its potential advantages in regard to muscle development due to the higher frequency of training it incorporates.

And even more recently, 4 & 5 day full body training splits have started to emerge, especially in the YouTube fitness space.

Can you Build Muscle Faster using Full Body Training?

So what’s really going on here? Are there advantages to full body training? Does full body training allow you to build muscle faster?

In the following guide, I’m going to explain the concept of full body training for anyone not familiar with the term, break down the pros and cons and take a look at why this type of training may hold some advantages over split training, for many. Additionally, we’ll look at how to program your own basic full body training program, using just 5 exercises, whether your goal is to gain size, strength or improve performance.

Interested in full body training and are ready to optimise your time in the gym?
Then this guide is for you. If on the other hand you already know a little about full body training the table of contents above will help you to skip ahead.


How Most People Currently Train

If you workout regularly e.g. 3+ days per week, chances are you probably plan your training days around your split. For example, on Mondays you might train back and biceps, Wednesday chest and triceps, Friday legs and shoulders or something along these lines.

Here’s an example of a typical 3 day split training program.

Day 1: Back And Biceps

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Seated Rows310-1290
Lat Pulldowns310-1290
Pull ups3(To failure)120
Bicep Curls (Barbell)310-1290
Preacher Curl310-1290

Day 2: Chest And Triceps

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Bench Press310-12120
Incline Bench Press310-12120
Dips3(To failure)120
Skull crushers310-1290
Tricep Pushdowns310-1290

Day 3: Legs and Shoulders

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Leg Extension310-1290
Leg Curl310-1290
Goblet Squat3(To failure)120
Military Press310-12120
Front Raise310-1290
Lateral Raise310-1290

Variations of split training include push and pull splits, upper and lower body splits and more frequent or infrequent training sessions per week.

In either case the basic premise remains the same. You’re targeting specific muscle groups each workout, which for most people amounts to training each body part weekly, or twice weekly if you’re in the gym 5-6 days per week. Most people accept this as the most effective way to train.

But what if I told you that full body training holds some advantages over split training? especially if you are new to the gym or have only been training for a short time?


The Differences Between Split and Full Body Training

Kinetic Chain

The majority of exercises performed as part of a full body training program are compound exercises, incorporating multiple muscle groups each exercise and utilising free weights e.g. barbells as opposed to machines. Compound exercises are more often than not ‘closed chain kinetic exercises’. ‘Kinetic chain’ refers to the connection of body parts e.g. upper and lower leg by joints e.g. the knee. Like the image of the chain above, movement of one joint affects movement of another joint in the chain and so on.

Open and Closed chain Kinetic Exercises

Closed Chain Exercises

A definition of ‘closed chain kinetic exercise’ is when the foot or hand (distal aspect) is fixed to the surface you are working on, unable to move. The movement occurs around a fixed position e.g. the feet when squatting or performing the deadlift. Subsequently, the bench press, although a compound exercise is therefore not an open chain exercise, as the distal aspect is not required to be fixed to the floor. However, the pull up, would be considered a closed chain exercise. This is because the movement occurs around a fixed position. In this case the hands.

Closed chain exercises incorporate multiple muscle groups and are considered more functional. Meaning, they more closely aligned with day to day activity. An example of this would be the deadlift in comparison compared to picking something up from the floor. Another example would be the bench press and pushing an object away from your body. Both examples would utilise the same muscle groups for the most part. Closed chain exercises are also better for joint health. This is due to the application of direct compressive force to the joint and distribution of the load across multiple joints.

Open Chain Exercises

If performing an open kinetic chain exercise, the distal aspect (hand or foot) is not fixed and is free to move. An example of this is the leg extension.

Leg Extension

As you can see in the image above the foot is not fixed to the ground. As a result this type of exercise isolates the knee joint. Subsequently, this allows for more direct targeting of the quadriceps but also creates sheer (perpendicular force) that may be damaging to the knee.

Compound Exercises V Isolation Exercises

While split training places more of an emphasis on isolation movements such as the leg extension with the inclusion of a limited number of compound exercises e.g. bench press. Full body training on the other hand focuses almost entirely on compound exercises that recruit more than one muscle group.

The deadlift is a good example of this.

To perform the deadlift you are required to pick up a loaded barbell from the ground. Therefore to complete the movement the bar is raised by straightening your legs and back until lock out e.g. you are standing straight holding the bar above knee height.

The Deadlift

This type of movement recruits the following muscle groups (*In combination referred to as the posterior chain):

  • Hamstrings
  • Thigh (Quadriceps)
  • Butt (Gluteus Maximus)
  • Lower Back (Erector Spinae)
  • Neck and Upper back (Trapezius)

Deadlift V Leg Extension

Compare the deadlift to the leg extension. As we know the deadlift recruits multiple muscle groups to complete the movement. Alternatively, the leg extension recruits the quadriceps almost exclusively.

As a result if you utilise compound exercises and train your entire body 2-3 times per week those same muscle groups are trained with more frequency (e.g. 2 – 3 times per week if training 3 days per week) than if compared to split training. Alternatively, split training places more of a focus on volume e.g. the number of sets and reps performed.

With this in mind, the question really is what’s most important, frequency or volume?

Before we answer this, it’s useful to understand what actually makes muscles grow in the first place.


How Muscles React to Training, Adapt and Grow

Muscle Anatomy

When someone is lifting weights in the gym, they are attempting to stress the muscle to force adaptation. Lifting with a good amount of intensity, damages/tears thousands of tiny muscle fibers.

Once the workout is complete the muscle fibres repair and increase in size. And, over time this adaptation allows you to lift the same weight with less effort.

Training Progression

Progress is made in the gym when the muscle is repeatedly stressed, forcing adaptation. In addition we then increase the weight (intensity) or sets and reps (volume) or training sessions per week (frequency) as the muscle becomes accustomed to the weight. This is known as progressive overload and is a key component of building muscle.

Protein Synthesis

Protein synthesis is the process of building muscle mass which occurs during the recovery or post-workout phase. In other words outside the gym as the muscle fibers are repairing. This is why recovery is such an important aspect of your training.

When you complete a workout your muscles have an open ‘window’ for protein synthesis. This is commonly referred to as the ‘anabolic window’ and the consensus is that the window remains open for between 36 and 48 hours before the curtain is drawn. And, while nutrition (both pre and post-workout) play a large role, what this really means is, your muscles have a limited amount of time to grow after a workout. As a result, to maximise muscle growth you would need to train again as soon as the protein synthesis window is closed.

When following a full body training program you are elevating protein synthesis for the entire body each workout. Therefore, by training 3 times per week, in theory you are maximising protein synthesis or potential muscle growth.

Split training on the other hand elevates protein synthesis for the muscle groups trained during that session. What this mean is your entire body is trained weekly as opposed to every 2-3 days if you train 3 times per week.


Full Body Training V Split Training

There are many factors to consider with regard to building muscle including how long you have been training, the intensity of your training, the amount of sleep you are getting and your diet, in particular protein intake.

All things being equal however frequency, volume and intensity are the three areas most influential when it comes to designing a training program for building muscle.

Training FrequencyTraining Frequency

The frequency that you train a muscle group e.g. full body training allows for higher frequency as you are training your entire body every session.


Training VolumeTraining Volume

The simplest way to explain volume is to think of the total weight lifted per session, per muscle group. e.g. 3 sets of 10 reps at 100lbs = (3 x 10) x 100lbs = 3000lbs

Split training provides higher volume than full body training.


Training IntensityTraining Intensity

How hard you are working e.g. the effort you are putting into each rep. A high intensity would mean you are lifting at least 85% of your 1 rep max e.g. the most weight you can lift once.

 


Why Building Muscle or Increasing Strength isn’t just about the Science

Muscle Science

When it comes to building muscle, if looking purely at the science alone, you’re not doing yourself any favours. The question shouldn’t be what builds muscle faster? it should be what builds muscle faster for you.

Also, there are plenty of additional factors to take into account when it comes to building muscle, including:

How long you have been training

If following a good program you will make most of your gains during the first 1- 2 years. The longer you lift, the closer you are to your genetic limit for muscle development and the more difficult gains become.

Age

Once past the age 30, it becomes more difficult to build muscle. This is due to age related muscle loss (Sarcopenia) which becomes a factor as we age.

Nutrition

Are you in a caloric deficit and trying to lose weight? If this is the case, your body may not have the resources to build muscle if in a caloric deficit.

Adherence

Training adherence doesn’t just mean how likely you are to train regularly. It also affects intensity and consistency. For example if you enjoy your program and are seeing results you are going to be more motivated to train regularly and with the necessary intensity.

Progression

Progression in this context refers to your ability to lift heavier or lifting the same weight for more reps. If not focused on progression you may not push yourself hard enough to force adaptation.

Recovery

Recovery is arguably the most misunderstood aspect of building muscle. Muscles grow outside of the gym and providing your muscles adequate recovery and nutrition is critical.

Time Management

How much free time per day/week you have to train. Most people do not have enough free time to spend hours in the gym each day.

Program Design

An intelligent training program will not just provide a set number of exercises, sets and reps. It will include periodisation e.g. training phases that reduce central nervous system, protect connective tissue (e.g. ligaments and tendons) and incorporate progression.

Genetic Factors

Your genetics play a large role in how easily you build muscle. Every person has a genetic limit for muscle mass.

Performance enhancing drugs - Anabolic Steroids

If using anabolic steroids your recovery and intensity when training are enhanced. Further more, some advice specifically about recovery and training intensity will differ between natural athletes and enhanced (those taking performance enhancing drugs) athletes.

Injuries

Injuries are frustrating and negate gains and curb enthusiasm. If you make progress and then suffer an injury that takes months to recover from, gains may potentially be lost.

So while full body training may build muscle faster from a purely technical standpoint, in my opinion it’s real advantages over split training are in the areas of recovery, time management and reduced injury risk which indirectly lead to faster muscle development irrespective of the science.

I include adherence also in this list but this is subjective and often comes back to what style of training you enjoy most.


Full Body Training and Recovery

Full body training is more demanding on the body during the workout, compared to split training so optimising recovery is important. Split training is less taxing overall on the whole body by virtue of the fact that it focuses on muscle groups (normally 1 – 2 per session) as opposed to the entire body.

However, full body training means less time in the gym e.g. typically 3 days per week allowing for longer recovery periods. And let’s not forget, just because you are split training doesn’t mean the muscles you worked the session before are completely rested. There will always be some overlap e.g. targeting the chest will activate the deltoids in some movements and vice versa.


Time Management

During a standard split training session you will typically train two body parts e.g. back and arms. This would normally involve 5 – 8 sets of exercises consisting of between 6 and 12 reps per set, per exercise. If you were training your entire body in this way you would need to spend in 2 – 3 hours in the gym 6 days per week.

If undertaking full body training however you may only need to perform 3 – 4 exercises consisting of 3 – 4 sets of between 6 and 12 reps per set, per exercise. Which equates to roughly half the time spent in the gym.


Reduced Injury Risk

One of the leading causes of soft tissue and joint injury is muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalance simply means the muscles that support a joint apply different amounts of tension to the joint. As a result this may lead to a higher incidence of injury as imbalances can affect the position of the joint and range of motion (ROM).

When you train using compound exercises you are reducing your risk of muscular imbalance, and are likely also rectifying existing muscular imbalances. This is because you are working muscle groups in unison and stimulating muscle growth across the muscles equally. The saying, you are only as strong as your weakest link applies nicely here.

Isolation movements on the other hand can result in a higher incidence of injury due largely to overuse of the joint and muscular imbalance. For example to avoid muscular imbalance when performing isolation movements it’s beneficial to program working both the agonist (main muscle you are focusing on e.g. bicep during a bicep curl) and the antagonist (e.g. tricep in the case of bicep curls) equally.


Adherence

While this might be subjective. As someone who has trained using both methods I can confidently say that I have found full body training to be more rewarding and enjoyable. There’s something about focusing solely on the major lifts – compound exercises like weighted chin ups, overhead press, squat and deadlift that allows better focus, or more of an eye on the prize. Pr’s (personal records) being the prize in this case.

This may be different for you. Many people claim the smaller number of exercises and monotony involved in performing the exact same lifts every workout can get boring. But, I’d argue that focusing on a smaller number of lifts allows you to perfect your form and maximise your potential compared to learning a multitude of isolation movements.

Training From Home

It’s also much easier to build a home gym if performing compound movements allowing you the benefits of training at home. As full body training mostly utilises free weights, you can build a home gym with just a barbell, sufficient weight plates and a power rack. Machines on the other hand can be very expensive and have more moving parts that can break down or require more regular maintenance.


The Benefits of Full Body Training

I’ve listed below the benefits that full body training offers over split training. While some of these may not directly apply to you, I personally believe that full body training holds a number of advantages over split training.

However, I’d encourage you to try full body and split training, along with upper and lower and push/pull splits.

All forms of resistance training are beneficial in the long run. Avoid being dogmatic about your training. Switching things up from time to time can be advantageous and help you overcome plateaus for a myriad of reasons, both mental and physical.

Full Body Training ProgramSplit Training Program
  • Less monotonous
  • Allows for higher volume per muscle group per workout
  • Better for targeting specific muscle groups
  • Less likely to result in overtraining
  • May still be able to train if injured
  • Increases muscular endurance

Fitness Transfer – Sports Performance Advantages

Specificity of full body training - Basketball

While many people train to improve their appearance many people also train to elevate performance in their chosen sport. This is actually my favourite benefit of full body training.

When utilising multiple muscle groups you are not just increasing strength you are also improving the efficiency of how your muscles work in coordination, building motor neural pathways which can lead to a higher level of performance.

Consider sports such as tennis, basketball, football or combat sports such as martial arts. In each of these examples, aspects of the sport (e.g. kicking a football) will recruit multiple muscle groups that must work together to produce a high-performance outcomes.

We know that the transfer of gains made in the gym to sports performance takes into account more than just strength. Power (generating force as fast as possible) and coordination also play a very large role.

Specificity

Transferring gains made in the gym can also be increased when we take into account specificity (how closely matched the exercises you are doing in the gym match movements from your chosen sport) and incorporating intelligent programming e.g. programming different phases of your training e.g. load, peak and recovery cycles that help you perform at your best on game day.


How to Design a Basic Full Body Training Program

Now that we’ve discussed what full body training is and it’s many benefits, let’s take a look at how you might go about programming a full body training program. It should be noted a customised training program personally written for you by a strength and conditioning coach would normally include the actual weights you would be lifting rather than estimating based on your one rep max. It would also include a progression plan. We’ll touch on progression however keep in mind the workouts listed below are generic compared to a personalised program, however for the novice these would represent a good starting point.

First we’ll look at goals as this really is the foundation that all programs should be built upon.

Training Goals

There’s a difference between training and exercise.

Training is almost always associated with a goal e.g. you are training for something specific e.g to get stronger, bigger, faster, more powerful etc. Before designing a training program it’s important to understand the goals of the person the training program has been designed for.

Generally people workout with weights for either one or a combination of the following reasons:

Hypertrophy

Many people train to increase muscle mass to improve their appearance and look more athletic. There are a number of additional health benefits associated with increasing muscle mass including improved cardiovascular health, weight loss and preserving bone density.

Strength

Many people train to increase strength as their main goal e.g. strength competitors in sports such as powerlifting, olympic lifting and strongman.

Performance

You may be training to improve your performance in a given sport. In which case the specificity of your training and incorporating phases into your training become critical.

Lose Weight / Burn Fat

Reducing body fat is not only great for your overall aesthetics, there are a huge number of health benefits associated with becoming leaner. This includes reducing your risk of developing Diabetes and Heart Disease. Full body training is an effective form of exercise with regard to reducing body fat percentages as it incorporates larger muscle groups which in turn utilises more calories than isolation movements.

Warming Up and Warming Down

Full Body Training Warmup

An effective warm up will help your body make the transition from being sedentary to active. As a result an effective warmup will reduce the rate of injury and allowing for optimal recovery.

Contrary to popular belief this should not involve static stretching (stretching with the aim of increasing flexibility) however can include dynamic stretching which places more of a focus on reducing joint stiffness, increasing muscle temperature and blood flow through the use of repeated movement rather than slow, deep stretching.

When it comes to full body training it’s best to utilise whole body movements similar to the exercises being performed. In a practical sense this would normally mean performing the exercises themselves without weight loaded onto the bar or transitioning up from a light weight to the weight you intend to use for the exercise.

Warming Down

Warming down is an important aspect of full body training and allows the body to restore circulation and recover from the activity performed.  The process usually involves performing light movement to aid the transition from being active to becoming sedentary e.g. light walking. The more intense the workout the longer warm down is required.

The warm down period is also an excellent time to perform static stretching with an aim to improving flexibility as the muscles are already warmed up and less likely to result in soft tissue injuries.  Static stretching would usually be performed at the end of your warm down period.


Full Body Training Exercises

The exercises we will be including today are:

  • Dead lift
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Pull Ups/Chinups (Weighted or non-weighted)

I’ve curated video walkthroughs of each of the compound movements included in the workout below.

The Deadlift

The Squat

Bench Press

Overhead Press

Pull Ups

 We’ve already covered the 5 full body compound exercises that we will be including here including correct technique, muscles targeted and safety recommendations. If you are unfamiliar with any of these exercises I’d recommend reading the article first. 

*Accessory exercises have not been included as the programs are designed for inexperienced lifters, however these could also be added if you understand the concept and how to include them in your program.

What are Accessory Movements?

Accessory movements compliment compound exercises. They are movements that help you train to improve your compound exercises by bringing up weak points that are preventing you from progressing.

E.g. weighted carries such as the ‘farmers walk’ will help you to develop your core which will help you squat heavier weights.

Accessory movements are usually performed at the end of a training session and added to a program in an effort to break through a training plateau, or bring up lagging areas. We’ll be covering accessory movements in a future article.

Rest Periods

How long should you rest between sets?

Time between sets

The standard thinking has been 1 – 2 minutes between sets for some time and is based upon the idea that shorter rest periods result in a higher output of anabolic hormones, including testosterone and growth hormone.

But this is highly dependant on your goals.

For example 60 seconds may be ideal for hypertrophy but studies have demonstrated that longer rest periods e.g. 3 – 5 minutes between sets show a correlation with increased strength. Therefore, the longer you rest (within reason) the better recovery and the potential to lift heavier weight.

On the other hand if increasing stamina is important to you e.g. to improve sporting performance, shorter rest periods are likely to be a better idea.

If your goal is to lose weight, you are likely in caloric deficit and feeling low in energy due to the decrease in calories and might need longer rest periods to train effectively.

There are always exceptions and a multitude of possible variables so if you prefer not to overcomplicate your training, aim to get stronger and you will gain muscle, find what works best for your situation and be consistent.

Training Intensity

How heavy should you be lifting?

Free Weights and full body training

The amount of weight you lift when performing full body training is dependant on a number of variables including your level of experience,  your form, what specific goals you are training for, and if you are training with injuries.

I would however strongly recommend If you have not performed any of the exercises we are discussing previously then do not add weight to the bar. Perfect your form using a barbell (45 pounds generally) with no weights added and have someone with experience analyse your form and provide feedback. Then, once you have mastered each lift start gradually adding weight to the bar.

1 Rep Max

As you gain experience, you can begin factoring in the weight you are lifting based on your 1 rep max (1rm). This refers to the amount you can successfully lift once with correct form. For example, if you can safely bench press 200 pounds once then doing sets using 100 pounds would equate to 50% of your one rep max.

Safely calculating your 1RM

It’s safer not to attempt lifting a weight you believe you can only lift once. Your 1RM max can instead be calculated using a slightly lighter weight and utilising the Epley formula:

1RM = (weight * reps)/30 + weight

Training GoalPercentage of 1RM
Speed0 – 10% (mostly body weight training)
Ballistic Strength20 – 40%
Power40 – 50%
Hypertrophy70 – 80%
Strength80 – 90%

Full Body Training Program for Hypertrophy

While you might think hypertrophy (building muscle) and strength training are one and the same, there are differences in how you might prioritise one over the other. Hypertrophy has long been considered best suited to the 8 – 12 rep range with a training intensity of between 70% – 80%. ​

Below is a full body training program designed for hypertrophy.

Notes:

  • The program alternates between including the deadlift or the squat each workout. This is because squatting or deadlifting more than twice per week is going to have an impact on your ability to recover.
  • Perform the exercises that use the most major muscle groups early in the workout e.g. the squat or deadlift. Performing these later when tired increases the risk of sloppy form and subsequently injury.
  • The program rotates the order of the workout after the initial exercise (squat or deadlift) between bench press, overhead press and pull ups to allow greater focus on each, for at least one training session per week.
  • The rep-range is between 8 – 10 reps which is ideal for hypertrophy.
  • You should run this program for 6 – 8 weeks and then utilise a deload phase. If you notice it’s more difficult to get a pump or your energy levels are reducing consider a deload phase earlier in the program.

Day 1

All exercises performed at 70 – 80% 1RM

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Deadlift48 – 10120
Bench Press48 – 1090
Overhead Press48 – 1090
(Weighted) Pull Ups48 – 1090

Day 2

All exercises performed at 70 – 80% 1RM

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Squat48 – 10120
Overhead Press48 – 1090
Pull Ups4To Failure90
Bench Press48 – 1090
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Day 3

All exercises performed at 70 – 80% 1RM

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Deadlift48 – 10120
(Weighted) Pull Ups48 – 1090
Bench Press48 – 1090
Overhead Press48 – 1090
[/su_table]

Full Body Training Program for Strength

As noted above, strength training and hypertrophy training have different set goals. Body builders and strength athletes e.g. power lifters and strongman competitors look different physically. As a result they also train differently. Strength athletes place more of an emphasis on weight and providing sufficient recovery time to lift heavy.

If your focus is on gaining strength you will generally lift in the lower rep range e.g. 2 – 6 reps and incorporate periodisation into your training. For example incorporating phases into your training when you might lift with 90% intensity for a 4 week block. You would then add a phase of lower intensity training to allow your joints and connective tissue to recover.

Notes:

  • The program includes both the squat and deadlift each session as additional recovery time and a lower number of sets and reps are factored into the training program.
  •  This program is intended to run for between 4 – 8 weeks to minimise overloading your joints and connective tissue.
  • As per the hypertrophy program we will rotate the order of the workout after the initial exercise (squat or deadlift).

Day 1

All exercises performed at 70 – 80% 1RM

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Deadlift34 – 63 – 5
Bench Press34 – 63 – 5
Overhead Press34 – 63 – 5
(Weighted) Pull Ups34 – 63 – 5
[/su_table]

Day 2

All exercises performed at 70 – 80% 1RM

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Deadlift34 – 63 – 5
Overhead Press34 – 63 – 5
(Weighted) Pull Ups34 – 63 – 5
Bench Press34 – 63 – 5
[/su_table]

Day 3

All exercises performed at 70 – 80% 1RM

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period (seconds)
Deadlift48 – 10120
Bench Press48 – 1090
Overhead Press48 – 1090
(Weighted) Pull Ups48 – 1090
[/su_table]

Full Body Training Program for Performance

It is impossible to create a program to improve sports performance without knowing first hand the sport you are participating in and the length and timing of the season and the areas that require most focus e.g.

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Accelleration
  • Stamina
  • Skill
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Body Composition
  • Flexibility

Instead of creating a program, the following is a list of considerations to take into account if designing your own program.

  • Specificity: Exercise selection should be based on how well the exercise compares to aspects of the sport you play. In this case, we are using just the 5 exercises but that doesn’t mean we can’t make minor adjustments that allow better transferability e.g. consider hand and foot position with regard to your sport.
  • Weight: Refer to the table above for correct 1RM percentages to improve aspects of your performance including: speed, acceleration and power. If incorporating stamina, reduce the wait time between sets and consider higher rep ranges.
  • Periodisation: When training to improve sport performance you should incorporate phases into your training that take into account the periods of the sporting season e.g. pre-season. This would include load and peak phases and potentially also recovery and conditioning phases:
    • Load phase: pre-season training normally involves higher volume training as to develop a base level of strength and fitness that will help you perform at a higher level later in the season.
    • Peak Phase: The peak phase occurs during the season and prioritises performance with an obvious focus on recovery as a result. This might mean reducing volume and providing longer recovery periods.
    • Recovery and Conditioning Phase: During the off season you may prefer not to dedicate as much time to your training, to allow you to stay fresh and motivated come pre-season. To avoid losing fitness however a more manageable conditioning phase can be introduced with the goal of maintaining fitness levels without the time investment or to allow recovery from niggling injuries.

Full Body Training & Progression

Progressive Overload

The final area we will be discussing is progression, e.g. making progress toward your stated goal. As we now know, adaptation occurs based on the demands we place on our bodies. When we increase frequency, intensity or volume we progress. If we continue to use the same frequency, intensity or volume progression cannot be achieved.

For those focused on hypertrophy this would mean an increase in muscle mass. For strength athletes this would mean progress with regard to the amount of weight you are capable of lifting and for sporting performance progression would mean a tangible improvement in your given sport.

Alternatively, if we reduce intensity, frequency or volume reversibility will occur. Reversibility is the direct opposite of progression and ultimately leads to reduced performance, strength or muscle mass.

How much overload is required?

Too little will result in little to no progress. Too much overload however will increase your chances of injury resulting in no progress being made. As a result, the correct amount of overload differs from person to person. Much of it comes back to your genetic capacity, current levels of fitness, and the area of training you are attempting to make progress in. Generally speaking with regard to training with weights, if you are capable of performing the maximum  number of repetitions within the recommended range e.g. 8 – 10 reps for hypertrophy it is time to increase the weight being lifted or repetitions and sets performed.

Micro Plates

Often when progression has been achieved it is tempting to add another plate to each end of the barbell. But, this can often be too much weight and will result in a drop off in form resulting in a higher chance of injury. As a method of countering this, micro plates are often an effective way to maintain progress without increasing the weight substantially. Available in quarter, half and three quarter pound increments, micro plates are a useful addition in any gym.


Summary

Hopefully this article has convinced you of the benefits of full body training and provided sufficient information to allow you to safely begin performing compound exercises using free weights. Keep in mind there is no substitute to engaging the services of an experienced strength and conditioning coach who can demonstrate how to perform the exercises, assess your form and provide feedback.

Keep in mind, full body training is more beneficial to novice lifters. The reason for this is the higher frequency incorporated allowing for faster muscle development. As we have previously discussed, experienced lifters will make slower progress in the gym because they are nearer to their genetic limit.

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