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The Best Full Body Exercises

author image Patrick Dale
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.
The Best Full Body Exercises
Man working out with kettle ball. Photo Credit Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images


Full-body exercises offer a number of advantages over those that only target a small number of muscles or joints. Full-body exercises develop coordination, burn large amounts of energy and have the greatest carryover to everyday activities and sports. Exercises that recruit multiple muscles and joints are also time-efficient, making them ideal if you are in a hurry.


A variety of sports and military people use burpees to develop whole-body muscular endurance and anaerobic conditioning. To perform a burpee, begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides. Then squat down and place your hands on the floor outside of your feet. Next, jump your feet backward and adopt the push-up position. Perform one push-up. Jump your legs back in so they are under your body. Driving with your legs, leap into the air before landing on the balls of your feet, slightly bending your knees to absorb the shock. Immediately perform another repetition and continue for the desired duration. If you want to perform an easier version of the burpee, you can eliminate the push-up or the jump.

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Power Cleans

The power clean is a simplified version of one of the Olympic weightlifting exercises and develops whole-body explosive strength and coordination. To perform a power clean, stand behind a barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down and hold the bar with an overhand shoulder-width grip, keeping your arms straight. Maintain the natural curves of your spine and look straight ahead. From this position, explosively lift the bar from the floor without pulling with your arms. As the bar reaches hip level, thrust your hips forward, rise up onto your toes and pull on the bar with your arms while keeping your body tall. As the bar passes your chest, dip under it to catch it across the front of your shoulders with your elbows elevated and your upper arms parallel to the floor. Pause and then lower the bar to the floor-, catching it on your thighs to slow its descent.

Kettlebell Swings

Performing this exercise will increase your whole-body explosive power while emphasizing the muscles of your legs and lower back. If you don’t have access to a kettlebell, you can perform swings using a dumbbell. To start, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of you in both hands. Then push your hips back and bend your knees so that your hands are between your legs at just below knee height. Extending your knees, drive your hips forward while simultaneously swinging the kettlebell/dumbbell to the front. Swing the weight up to eye level. It is important to control the kettlebell/dumbbell as it descends while flexing your hips and knees to return to the starting position. Maintain a tight core and neutral spine throughout this exercise and avoid rounding your back. Repeat and maintain a steady rhythm.


Performed with a barbell, dumbbells or a medicine ball, thrusters are an effective exercise for developing power throughout your entire body. To get into starting position, grip the barbell, dumbbells or medicine ball as if you were going to perform a shoulder press. Pushing your hips back, lower yourself into a front squat position. Your knees should be bent to 90 degrees, your thighs parallel to the floor and your torso upright. Dynamically drive out of the squat position while simultaneously extending your elbows and pressing the weight overhead. Then lower the weight to your shoulders and drop back down into the front squat to repeat.

High Pulls

High pulls are similar but less technically demanding than power cleans. You can use either a barbell or a rubber exercise band when performing this exercise. To do a high pull, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp a barbell with a narrower than shoulder-width grip or, alternatively, place a rubber exercise band beneath your feet and hold it in both hands with your arms held straight. Bending at your knees, push your hips back until your hands are level with your knees. Then push your hips forward and extend your knees while simultaneously pulling with your arms until your hands are under your chin and you are standing upright. Immediately lower your arms and bend your knees to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions while training to maintain a steady rhythm.

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