As a high school and college kid, I remember a few times that my workouts hit me so hard I could barely move the next day. To my dismay, I found out the muscle soreness was even worse two days later when it was harder to take a flight of stairs than it was the day before.
Muscle soreness occurs because muscle and the connective tissue around it get damaged during exercise. Acute muscle soreness, or that burning sensation you feel during exercise, happens because of the buildup of metabolites. The more your body adapts to a workout, the less sore you will be over time. Getting a good workout does not require being sore, so that’s not always an indicator that you’re finding success in your fitness goals, especially the longer you’ve been working out, lifting weights, and challenging your strength through other training methods.
The goal should never be to push yourself so hard that it discourages the ability to work out consistently. Sure, anyone can show up for a workout a few times a month and feel sore after doing pretty much anything because their body isn’t able to adapt. When your body adapts to workouts, it eventually requires more work and resistance to break down and repair the muscle. The visual results of fitness, or muscle building, happen over time and require consistency. So, while it’s important to think about targeting major muscle groups, it’s also essential to plan workouts that are sustainable. The harder and more consistent your workouts are, the less muscle soreness you will typically experience. That is, until you reach the point that you are even more aggressive in length, intensity, and resistance level.
When you want to make the most of your workout and train as many of your muscle groups as possible, it makes perfect sense to plan a total body workout. A full-body workout will aim to hit all major muscle groups in one session.
Here is what’s most often considered the major muscle groups:
You may think that to “feel” a workout, it’s necessary to push, pull, or move heavy weights around. The truth is, you can work every major muscle group in your body by doing just bodyweight exercises. An example of a bodyweight exercise would be push-ups or bodyweight squats. The benefit of beginning with a 30-minute bodyweight workout is that as your body adapts or you become less sore, you can always increase the difficulty or intensity by adding weights.
Here’s how to do this workout:
If full push-ups from your hands and feet are too difficult, perform them from your hands and knees. Make sure that as you build up your chest muscles, you always attempt one or two full push-ups before repositioning to your knees. This will help you work toward the ability to perform more full push-ups.
Once you have mastered the bodyweight squat, add a dumbbell or kettlebell held into your chest while performing the squat. This will increase the resistance on the lower body muscles and boost the intensity of your workout.
If a full plank position from hands and feet is too difficult, perform plank from your hands and knees. As with push-ups, be sure that as you become stronger, attempt as many plank shoulder taps from hands and feet as you can before switching to hands and knees. This is an excellent way to continually challenge yourself.
Most of us started out doing jumping jacks, and it’s a familiar movement. However, it’s good for the sake of review to ensure that your movements and posture are helping you maximize this total body exercise.
Workouts do not need to be complicated or require weights or equipment to create an effective total-body workout. It’s reassuring to know that you can give yourself a great challenge, feel the muscle burn, and build muscle with no frills or extras. Bodyweight workouts are an excellent choice no matter your fitness level, and there’s always room to challenge yourself further.