For ladies looking to develop a weekly exercise schedule for full-body workouts, first consider your goals. One long-term goal might be to improve overall health and wellness, which could be considered a maintenance plan. Another more short-term goal would be to lose weight, which could require more frequent workouts and special attention to cardiovascular exercise and nutrition. However, no matter what your goal, the workout should be structured such that you get a challenging workout in the safest manner possible and in a reasonable amount of time.
Largest to Smallest
A full-body workout means you will hit each of your major muscle groups in a short amount of time, aiming to complete the entire workout in less than 60 minutes. According to “Xtreme Lean” author Steve Holman, training longer than that increases production of the stress hormone cortisol, which may negate the positive effects of your workout. To get the most out of your workout, train your muscle groups from largest to smallest. For example, do legs, back and chest first, and then move on to the smaller muscle groups like shoulders, arms and calves. Larger muscle groups are far more challenging and create a fat-burning stimulus that carries on through the entire workout. If you wear yourself out doing arm curls first, you will have nothing left in the tank for training the larger muscles of the legs.
While any exercise is better than nothing, some types of training movements create a much better fat-burning stimulus than others. According to “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle” author Tom Venuto, you should focus your efforts on the compound movements such as leg presses or squats, bench presses and pullups. These multi-joint exercises target the greatest number of muscle fibers, giving you more results out of less effort. That being said, movements like barbell squats and bench presses are not right for everyone. Many women are intimidated by the barbells and reluctant to learn the exercises. You can always replace them with the dumbbell or machine equivalent. Using dumbbells or machines can provide an element of safety if you do not have a personal trainer or workout buddy to spot you.
Scheduling your full-body workouts is highly personal and depends entirely upon your time constraints. Some women have four or five days a week to commit; while others may not. MayoClinic.com recommends doing resistance-training workouts at least two or three times per week. There is no harm in starting at the low end of this recommendation and adding more workouts as you progress -- the benefits of full-body workouts come from consistency and perseverance. Missing one workout or adding an extra session will never make or break your training results. Many trainees do very well with an every-other-day setup, hitting the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This allows for plenty of recovery between each workout. Results come from resting adequately and allowing your body to fully recover from your workouts.
Training volume refers to the number of sets you do per exercise. This particular variable is different for every woman, depending on her fitness level, goals and age. Keep in mind that training with full-body workouts means that you will probably use lower volume, or fewer sets, than alternative methods like traditional resistance-training splits. Holman often recommends a “3X” or “4X” approach. For example, with 3X, you would do three sets of each exercise, resting only 30 to 60 seconds between each set. This method allows you to fully exhaust the target muscle in a very short amount of time, due to limited rest. You can progress by adding an additional set to each exercise, shortening rest times and/or using advanced training techniques like drop-sets. To incorporate drop-sets, simply decrease the weight slightly after any set and immediately do another set to exhaustion without resting between the two.
- MayoClinic.com; Exercise Intensity: Why it Matters, How it's Measured
- Xtreme Lean; Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman
- Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle; Tom Venuto
- The Abs Diet; David Zinczenko
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images