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.
Consistency vs. Intensity
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.
Total Body Workout
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:
Simple Bodyweight Full Body Workout
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:
- 20 push-ups (if full push-ups are too difficult, start from your knees)
- 30 bodyweight squats
- 30 plank shoulder taps (if a full plank is too difficult, keep your knees on the floor)
- 40 jumping jacks
- Rest for 60 seconds (or longer if necessary to recover)
- Repeat the circuit for up to 30-minutes total
How to Do a Push-Up
- Get down on all fours, placing your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Straighten your arms and legs.
- Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
- Pause, then push yourself back up.
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.
How to Do a Bodyweight Squat
- Stand with your hands clasped in front of your chest and your feet shoulder-width apart with your feet turned out slightly.
- Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause, then return to the starting position.
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.
How to Do Plank Shoulder Taps
- Start in plank position (on all fours) with your wrists under your shoulders and feet hip-width apart.
- Touch your left shoulder with your right hand and return to the plank position.
- Touch your right shoulder with your left hand and continue alternating sides for as many reps as possible.
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.
How to Do Jumping Jacks
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.
- Stand upright (no slouching or rolling at the top of your back) with your legs together and arms at your sides.
- Bend your knees slightly (don’t lock out your knees), and jump into the air.
- As you jump, spread your legs to be about shoulder-width apart. Your legs do not need to extend beyond that position. Stretch your arms out and over your head.
- Jump back to the starting position.
- Repeat with as many reps as possible.
The Take-Away: A Total Body Workout Can Be Done Anytime And Anywhere
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.
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