Which exercises quickly work the entire body?

Most machines in a gym are easy because they generally will have the lowest risk but are not the best for becoming more functional or working the entire body.  Total body exercises generally will have higher risks because they make you use more overall body function and can put you at greater risk but have a higher pay off.

All the exercises listed are great, consult with a fitness professional to not only design a program for you but so you make sure you are executing it appropriately.  

I also would suggest looking into a certified kettlebell or crossfit studio.  These workouts are all total body and if you find a certified one then you will be able to get the appropriate help and advice.  Give those two a try and ask for their credientials!  :)

An exercise that integrates the use of all limbs quickly works the entire body. Take an exercise that involves sitting and standing. To make this an exercise that works the entire body, just incorporate arm movement that travels above and below the head. Try this exercise out. Grab a medicine ball about 10% your own body weight, or even a gym bag. Stand in front of a chair and have a seat to start the exercise and rest your elbows at the side of your ribs. As you stand fully extend your arms in front of you, then simultaneously use your back muscles to extend your extended arms above your head. Once above your head, let your elbows bend lowering the medicine ball towards your upper back. Okay now let’s reverse this movement by extending your elbows with your hands once again ending above your head. Using your back muscle begin lowering your extended arms while returning to a seated position. Once your extended arms are once again in front of your abs begin retracting your elbows back to the starting position. Your elbows should arrive the same time you are seated. Okay we just completed an exercise that quickly worked the entire body. To turn this in to a quick workout, repeat the above movements 12 to 25 times, resting at least 60 seconds before repeating the movements again.

  Calisthenics such as squat-thrusts, push ups, jumping jacks, running in place and squats can give you a quick full body workout. Doing a Circuit of these exercises can give you a great cardiovascular and muscular workout at a low cost and as little as 20 minutes a day.

One of my favorite full body routines is walking on the tredmill with light dumbells. With this routine I will incorperate arm exercises such as lateral raises to the front and side, shoulder press, curls and kickbacks. Inbetween the arm exercises I will adjust the speed and incline to help keep my lower body muscles ingaged as well as  my heart rate up.

With this exercise you will not only do full body but you are also getting you cardio in and spending less time in the gym.
One of my favorite total body exercises to include into my clients workout programs is the Single Leg Squat Touchdown, Curl to Press. This exercise requires that your body basically recruites everything to perform it including your lower body, balance, core stability, and upper body strength.

To Start:
1.)  Balance on one leg and lift other directly beside it.
2.)  Place one hand (same as balance leg) on balance leg hip and dumbbell in other.

1.)  Squat on balance leg, bending hip and knee; reach toward balance foot with dumbbell.
2.)  Squeeze your butt muscles and stand, holding steady on your balancing leg.
3.)  Curl the dumbbell towards your chest and press overhead.

Repeat for 10 - 12 repetitions on each side for 2 - 3 sets.

Exercises that incorporate multiple movement sequences are the best to work the body quickly. For an example, Lunge, to dumbell curl, to dumbell over head press (total body exercise).


1.  Stand with your feet pointed straight ahead and placed shoulder-width apart. 
2.  Hold a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand, at your sides. 


3.  Lunge forward, landing on the heel of the front foot.  Stabilize with your front foot straight and flat, bend your knee 90-degrees and keep it directly over your second and third toes.  The knee of the back leg should be bent 90-degrees as well with the heel of the back foot lifted off the ground. 
4.  Push off the heel of the front foot and return to your standing position while curling the dumbbells to your chest. 
5.  Next, press the dumbbells overhead, fully extending your arms.  Return the dumbbells to your chest and repeat the exercise.

If I had to pick just two exercises to get a full-body workout, it would be squats and push-ups.  To perform a squat, just place your feet shoulder-width apart, push your hips back like you were going to sit in a chair, and bend your knees, lowering your body.  Rise up, pressing through the heels and squeezing your glutes. 

You've probably seen a pushup.  If you can't perform a traditional push-up, you may have been told to rest your knees on the ground.  Try this instead:  keep your knees straight, but place your body at an incline.  You can place your hands on a bench, countertop, or even a wall.  Keeping your knees straight keeps your core engaged in the exercise.  If you need a full-body workout with minimal time or equipment, start with these two exercises.
Susan Moran
Swimming is a great "whole body" exercise. Don't push to hard if you haven't swam as a form of exercise in a while. The first 5-10 laps should be easy, and used as a warm up. Alternate between the breast stroke and the crawl for 3 laps, the 4th is always the backstroke.  The second 5-10 laps increase your stamina, try not to rest until you have completed your 5-10 laps of the crawl, and remember to alternate your head rotation (don't always turn your head to the same side when you take a breath). The third set of  5-10 laps,  hold onto a kick board  with arms extended in front of you and use your legs only, on your stomach. The fourth set of 5-10  laps hug the board (that is resting on your stomach) and kick (lying on your back), continually pressing your hips up. The last 5-10 laps  is the cool down, alternate between breast stroke,  crawl and back stroke. Remember, always perform the backstroke on the 4th lap.
The water provides 3x the resistance, so take it easy to start and never swim to the point of being out of breath. Enjoy!
Kettlebell Swings are a great exercise for the entire body.  Not only are you increasing your strength and using several muscles at the same time, but you also elevate your Heart Rate substantially after a good set of 15 reps!  If you do not have a Kettlebell you can also to this with a Medicine Ball.
A great total body exercise is the squat, curl to press. You'll work your butt muscles (glutes), your thigh muscles (quadriceps), biceps and shoulders (deltoids).

1. Hold dumbbells in both hands at side of body (palm facing body), feet straight and shoulder-width apart.

2. Squeeze butt muscles and perform three-quarter squat.
3. Stand and curl dumbbells to chest.
4. Press dumbbells overhead, fully extending arms (palm facing away).
5. Return to start, repeat.

Squat like you are sitting down in a chair and be careful not to let your knees go past your toes.  Keep your head neutral and breath!

Great total body exercises will include movements that target the legs, core and upper extremity.  Some of the best are:

  • Squat to press
  • Lunge, to curl, to press
  • Multi-planar step-up to press
  • Squat to row
  • Single leg Romanian Deadlift with shoulder PNF pattern
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

Dumbbell lunge curl and press is a great exercise to work the lower body, core (abs/low back) and upper body

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps (5-6 with each leg)

1. Go slow
2. Keep your feet straight
3. Keep your knees aligned with your second toe
4. keep your abs active (pull your bellybutton to your spine)

Turkish Get Ups. Lie flat on your back with your right hand above your head and your left hand flat on your stomach. Stand up without letting your right hand go below your head. Do this 10x, each time try to get up a little differently. Then switch sides. If this is easy, put a hand weight in your up hand and do 20x each side.
Ball Squat, Curl Press: 2-Arm


  • Hold two dumbbells in your hands, let them hang down at your sides and keep your palms facing in toward your body.
  • Place a stability ball behind your upper back, secured against a wall or stable machine.
  • Keep your feet pointed straight ahead and placed shoulder-width apart.


  • Contract your glutes and perform a three-quarter squat.
  • Stand, pushing through your heels, and curl the dumbbells to your chest.
  • Next, press the dumbbells overhead, fully extending both your arms keeping your palms turned away from your body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.