We all have days when things don't go as planned. A kid is home sick from school, you're slammed with work and deadlines, you hit snooze repeatedly, or you've been pinned to the wall with one-too-many social engagements. As a busy wife and mom of three, I never face a dull moment. Sometimes, just as I'm gaining momentum in my training and making great strides toward my personal goals, I overwhelm myself with too many projects or something else mysteriously falls from the sky. It's then that I'm stopped in my tracks and paralyzed by stress.
Exercise and self-care are far from guilty pleasures; they're acts of sanity and absolute necessities. Exercise is one of the most efficient stress relievers; unfortunately, it's typically the first to go during challenging times. Before you throw in the towel on your training and let everything you've worked hard for fade away, consider consolidation. If you up the intensity and integrate more compound movements, you'll target more muscle groups in a single session. Aha, problem solved!
Still not sold on the idea? Here are some other great benefits to adding total-body training to your fitness regimen.
You'll spend less time in the gym—yet see the same results
The dedication of a 5-day split might not work with your current schedule, but most of us can easily fit in two or three total-body workouts over the course of the week. With a little creativity and some good ol' sweat equity, you can still be a badass and maximize your time and training in the process. Instead of losing sight of your goals, consider using more complex, multijoint movements to accomplish more in less time. Sounds like a winner to me!
You'll keep things interesting
Bored with your current training? Variety is the spice of life! Continually changing up your workouts helps keep your body guessing and growing and your brain engaged in what you're doing. Mixing up the exercises you use to target different body parts allows you to break free of the chest day/leg day/arm-day split.
You'll improve your results
Hitting multiple muscles with one compound movement means a greater caloric and metabolic expenditure. This means increased fat loss, more overall symmetry, and improved balance. With more opportunities to hit the same muscle additional times within the same week, greater strength and growth are also a benefit.
You'll avoid overtraining
Without adequate rest and recovery, you aren't going to see the results you're looking for in the gym. With the addition of more complex movements, you're better able to target more muscle group within the same time frame and enjoy longer rest periods between training days.
Total Body Workout
Now that you're ready to jump in, here's an example of a total-body HIIT session you can squeeze into your busy schedule. Perform 3-5 rounds of 12-15 reps for each of the following five exercises. Do these back-to-back with minimal or no rest in between. Set up everything you need in one spot so that you can rotate through this workout with as little rest as possible.
Looking for an added challenge? Consider adding box jumps, skaters, jumping lunges, or squat jumps between sets to crank up your heart rate and maximize the cardio component of this workout. That eliminates the need to hit the treadmill later. Cheers to a compact, all-in-one workout!
1. Weighted squat
You can't beat a squat! From narrow and sumo to front, back, and pause, the squat is a terrific lower-body exercise that hits all major muscle groups in the legs. Talk about lots of bang for your buck!
- Holding a plate, kettlebell, or medicine ball at chest height, begin in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Squat down as if sitting back in a chair, keeping the emphasis in your heels. Don't allow your knees to extend beyond your toes.
- Pause at the bottom for a beat, then return back to the top of the movement. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
Works: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, shoulders biceps
2. Bench dip
You can easily throw this movement into any workout. If you're training at home, use a chair or any low-enough surface to perform this exercise and burn out the triceps. Let's face it, no one wants their arms to keep waving long after they've stopped!
- Position yourself on a chair or weight bench with your legs out in front of you.
- Keeping your elbows tight against your body, dip down slowly and return back to the starting position. Modify this exercise by bending the knees to make it easier or adding a weight plate to make it more difficult.
3. Alternating barbell lunge
This is a personal favorite when it comes to hitting the glutes. Walking lunges are great, too, if you have the necessary space. Lunges are great, because you can change your foot position depending on your targeted muscle.
An extremely wide step forward will hit the glutes, while a smaller, 90-degree angle in the front leg will activate the quads more. Looking to feel the burn? Take three small pulses at the bottom of the movement to really burn it out on each rep.
- Start in a standing position with a barbell across your shoulders.
- Step forward, maintaining a 90-degree bend in your front leg. Don't extend your knee beyond your toe as you step back and alternate legs.
Works: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, core
4. Push-up into alternating side plank
Many of us forget the power of simple bodyweight movements and neglect our core. This exercise combines the best of both worlds to ensure that nothing is overlooked!
- Starting in a push-up position, press your body up into a plank.
- Lift your right arm out to the side, and rotate your entire body upward.
- Pause and return back to starting position. Repeat on other side.
Works: Chest, triceps, shoulders, core
5. Alternating curtsy lunge with weighted curl
While a standard lunge hits more of the gluteus maximus, this move really targets the outer, upper portion of the glute or abductor muscles. Hitting the glutes from all angles allows for a very-well-rounded bum!
- While standing, hold a weight in a contracted biceps-curl position in front of your body.
- Step back and to the side as in performing a curtsy while maintaining the weight in a contracted curl position for the duration as you alternate legs.
- Make sure your front knee and ankle remain aligned.
Works: Biceps, abductors, quads, gluteus and core