The All-Time Greatest One-Move, Total-Body Workouts
How to blast your entire musculature in the most efficient ways imaginable.
When life piles everything onto you—bills, family, a 60-hour week—it can be tough to get all of your workouts in. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could opt out of the oppressive and omnipresent leg day, back day, chest day, arms day cycle? Well, as it turns out, you can. There are a host of total body workouts you can do. Each of these near-torturous—though totally worth it—routines work everything, and tomorrow, your abs will roar with the good pain as much as your biceps, pecs, glutes, and everything in between. Sign us up!
We caught up with Gregg Avedon, 52, a certified personal trainer, male model, and the author of Muscle Chow: More Than 150 Easy-to-Follow Recipes to Burn Fat and Feed Your Muscles and The 14 Day Get Lean Diet: A Nutrition Plan that Works!, to walk us through a few of these complicated maneuvers. (Just remember, for all of these exercises, start out with no to minimal weight, get your form down pat, and then work your weight up.) And once you’ve mastered the total body workouts listed here, be sure not to miss Avedon’s tips for staying lean and strong for life.
You know those ropes the Thors and Hulks and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons in your gym pick up and repeatedly slam on the ground? Well, as it turns out, those guys aren’t just doing that to make a bunch of noise. These deafening beasts are essential equipment for one of the best total body workouts you can do. “If you think consciously about what you’re doing, you burn a ton of calories and raise your metabolic rate—awesome stuff,” says Avedon. So instead of just picking up the ropes and haphazardly swinging them, follow his six-step plan.
Pick up a rope in each hand. (For the following movements, switch every 15 to 20 seconds.) Start by alternating, up and down and up and down. This works your core. Then take both hands and slam the ropes into the ground, working your triceps. Then switch, and start curling them up, hitting your biceps. Next, make a scissor motion, swinging the ropes back and forth sideways (this is your chest). Then make little circular motions, from the inside, up and outward—nailing your shoulders. Finally, go back to alternating. “You’d be dying after two or three sets of that,” says Avedon. If you’re looking for a great routine for business trips, here’s the Single Greatest Workout for Road Warriors.
“You really want to look good in jeans?” asks Avedon. “A Romanian deadlift is an excellent way to do it.” A regular deadlift, itself one of the more effective total body workouts, can train your body to pull your shoulders down and pad extra muscle around the waste—nobody wants that. A Romanian deadlift hits all the good stuff—glutes, quads, calves, core, and, to a certain extent, arms—without adding that surperfluous strain.
To do a Romanian deadlift, form is key. Keep your hands on the bar about shoulder width apart; you should be able to touch your thumbs to your shins throughout the entire exercise. If you see the bar come too far over your toes, you’re out of line. With a normal deadlift, you bend your knees, whereas with a Romanian deadlift, we’re targeting only about a 10 percent bend of the knee. So keep your heels steady and your back flat, and glide your thumbs over your shins. In no time, your milkshake will be bringing all the girls to the yard. And if you’re logging longer hours at the gym, know these 5 common exercises you should drop from your routine.
A loaded squat—that’s with an Olympian bar, as opposed to the air squats you see Lululemon-clad girls doing by the stretch area—ranks among one of the toughest total body workouts you can do. And yet, it’s far and away one of the most rewarding. “If you do a really good set of steady squats for 15 reps, man, you feel like you’ve just done a wind sprint,” says Avedon. “Talk about conditioning.” A set like that hits your glutes, stabilizers, quads, calves, traps, and spinal erectors—all while giving you a healthy dose of cardio.
For proper form on a loaded squat, grip the bar with your hands just outside of shoulder width. Place it behind your head, closer to the back than the neck while still being comfortable, of course. Look up a little bit. (Looking up and having the bar lower on your back keeps your spine in the right place.) Keep the weight in your heels and come down until your legs are as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. Then, explode up. “6 reps, most of us can wrap our minds around. 10, maybe 12. But 15 is a whole other animal,” says Avedon. Don’t worry. We believe in you. Just maybe, among all these total body workouts, pay extra attention to the weight advice we gave you earlier on.
Pro tip: if you find yourself leaning forward—a danger to your back—slide a ten-pound plate under your heel. It’ll force you to keep your legs steady. But if you do happen to hurt your back, learn how to conquer lower back pain once and for all.
The Turkish get-up hits your core, shoulders, stabilizers, and arms. It’s one of the most effective total body workouts you can do. That said, even though it is technically our job to explain it to you, this one is exceedingly complex. So we’ll just let Avedon take it away: “Lay down on the floor, holding a kettlebell behind your hand. Your arm is extended straight up, above your nose. You want that arm and kettlebell to be stiff and above your head at all times. There are five steps here.
“From that laying down position, you’re going to come up to where you’re leaning on the opposite arm elbow. That’s step number one. Then you go up to your hands. Step number two. Then up to your knee; that’s step number three. Then you want to sit up onto that knee; step number four. And then you stand up. That’s step number five. Then, you reverse it. That’s just one rep. Try to do five.” And if you want to really hit your core, don’t miss the 4 best abs exercises for summer.
In 2010, the American Council on Exercise released a study finding that kettlebell swings provides “a much higher-intensity workout than standard weightlifting.” Whether you do them one-handed and two-handed, you’ll still hit your quads, glutes, hip flexors, lower back, and shoulders. (The same study found that kettlebell swings burn calories at the same rate as running at a six-minute-mile pace, which almost sounds too good to be true.)
To do a perfect kettlebell swing, stand with your feet at hip-width. Go into a squat and grab the kettlebell with your palms (we’re talking two-hand swings; for one-hand, simply grab it with one hand) facing you. Using your hips—be careful not to use your back on this one—explode upward into a standing position, bringing the kettlebell to a horizontal level. Then return to the squatting position. Shoot for 8 to 12 reps.
Burpees, with a Fun Twist
We’re all more or less familiar with the torturous burpee, wherein you go from a squat to a plank to a push-up to a plank to a squat and then leap up as hard as you can, throwing your hands in the air like you just don’t care. But Avedon likes to add a little twist: at the end of each burpee, he’ll grab a medicine ball and slam it into the ground.
“By getting that heavy ball over your head,” explains Avedon, “in addition to working all the good parts [from a traditional burpee], you’re incorporating shoulders, and by slamming it down, you work your triceps.” Avedon suggests a muscle-pulverizing (in a good way!) routine for the extra motivated: 12 walking lunges, into 10 burpee–medicine ball slams, and then 12 walking lunges back. Your legs will feel like jelly for days.
Image by Scott Teitler
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