First things first, let’s get one thing straight: You can’t target all of your muscles evenly in every single movement you perform (That’s a myth, y’all.) “There’s no way to evenly use all muscle groups throughout any strength exercise since the purpose of strength exercise is to isolate one certain area,” NYSC Lab master instructor and Wilhelmina fitness model Bianca Vesco explains. “Specifically if you’re focusing on smaller muscle groups, you have to use a light-enough weight for that area, so that the stronger muscle surrounding it doesn’t take over.”
Just because you can’t target everything in one fell swoop doesn’t mean it’s impossible to train your body to use all your muscles, though. The trick is to 1) be mindful and present in your body; and 2) commit a killer full-body workout to memory. Luckily for you (and us, TBH), we spoke with two industry pros to teach us the know-how for both of these key tips. Check out their thoughts below.
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Total Presence = Total Body
According to Y7 studio instructor Caitlyn Casson, total body training starts with a simple shift in awareness. “Often we work out to target specific areas of the body: the booty, the biceps, the abs,” she says. “But let’s remember that the body is a fully connected structure; each piece connects to something else.” With this small shift in awareness, Casson explains that we can keep all parts of the body engaged and present in every movement. “If you’re doing squats for your booty, can you also engage your abs and back muscles to support the motion of the squat?” she asks. “Or maybe you hold plank for your abs, but notice that the chest, shoulder blades, quads, and inner thighs are also firing up.” In the end, she lives and breathes the mantra that “total presence = total body.”
When designing full-body workouts, Vesco says that you want to hit as many muscle groups as possible, so thinking about using compound movements that will spike your heart rate and incorporate several joints as you’re moving is key. If you’re unsure what those movements might be, keep scrolling for a few of Vesco’s faves.
Target your upper body and lower body — quads, glutes, and shoulders — with this easy-to-execute exercise. To perform the movement, grab a set of dumbbells and keep them at your shoulders as you sit into a squat. As you stand up from your squat, add a shoulder press at the top.
Reverse Lunge-to-Bicep Curl.
Sculpt your quads, glutes, and biceps with this lower-upper combo. Vesco says to hold a dumbbell in each hand as you step back into your lunge; bicep curl as you bring your leg forward to neutral standing position.
Lateral Lunge-to-Dumbbell Fly
Get excited: This move tones your inner and outer leg (abductors, adductors, gluteus medius), lats, and rotator cuffs. Grab a pair of dumbbells and alternate from leg to leg for side lunges. “As you step out to the side, your weights will frame the foot that moves,” Veco explains. “As you come back through center, add your dumbbell fly and step right into the other side.”
For a quick and effective burner, Vesco recommends incorporating these exercises into a circuit of three sets of 12 reps each. “Notice a pattern here?” she asks. “Lower body exercises paired with upper body exercises are sure to keep your heart rate up and your body moving.”
If you still have energy after completing your rounds, it’s time to add a little cardio into your routine. Vesco recommends mountain climbers and burpees. “Both exercises can be looked at as advanced, but I always go back to the why,” she says. “Why am I doing this? Why is someone else making me do this? Both of these exercises are meant to get you out of breath but if you can’t control them, they’re doing more hurt than help.” In other words, take your time, be present in your body, and maintain your posture throughout.
Speaking of training your body, you might want to work on stretches to help you sink deeper into squats and lunges while you’re at it. Or perhaps you want to sculpt your bod with kettlebells instead of dumbbells. Either way, we’ve got you covered.