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The Best Science-Based Full-Body Workout for Muscle Growth (Part A)

Salik is a fitness freak and he has researched a lot in the 'Fitness' topic. He is looking forward to share his knowledge with others.

Introduction

Full-body workouts are one of the best workout splits in the fitness industry today, to not only enhance muscle growth but also to build an even combination of strength alongside as well. There are other common workout splits as well, like the Bro-split and the Push, Pull, Legs split.

All these 3 splits are good in their own way but, the Full-Body workouts are superior then the rest of them; especially for beginners. If you are a beginner, then the Full-body workouts are the best for you. There are several reasons for this. First off; you hit your entire body in a single workout which means that you will build an over-all balanced body over time and secondly, it saves time as well. Following this workout routine, you will only have to workout 3 days a week; unlike the Bro-split, which requires working out at least 5 days a week.

Many fitness YouTubers like Jeremy Ethier and Jeff Nippard ( I personally like them and they are the only legit YouTubers that you should watch) also recommend doing the Full-Body workout especially if you are a beginner.

However, in order to maximize the benefits of this workout, you need to learn the proper form of every exercise, progressive overload frequently and remain consistent on your routine. By this, you can develop an aesthetic physic overtime and also prevent yourself from getting injuries.

In this article, I will show you exactly according to science what to do and how to do so that you can get the gains that you have always hoped for.


Overview

To give you an overview of the workout routine; there will be three workout days a week that will alternate between two different workouts. The routine will be as follows:


Week 1: Monday (Workout A)

Tuesday (rest day)

Wednesday (Workout B)

Thursday (rest day)

Friday (Workout A)

Sat / Sun (rest days)


Week 2: Monday (Workout B)

Tuesday (rest day)

Wednesday (Workout A)

Thursday (rest day)

Friday (Workout B)

Sat / Sun (rest days)


and so on.........


(Note #1: In this article, only workout 'A' will be discussed and workout 'B' will be discussed in a follow-up article)

(Note #2: This workout is mainly designed for beginners and novice lifters who have almost zero to 1-2 years of training experience)

(Note #3: Reference numbers on top of some lines indicate scientific studies related to that specific exercise. Links to those studies will be in the comments below)


Exercise 1: Flat Barbell Bench Press

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Sets: 2 (for Beginners) / 3-4 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 6-8

Weight: Heavy

Muscles worked: Middle chest, Front delts, Triceps

The first exercise is going to be the flat barbell bench press, as it is one of the best compound upper body exercises to not only hit your middle chest but also your front delts and the triceps. The flat barbell press will significantly contribute to your overall chest size and growth. This exercise not only builds the chest muscles but also contributes to significant strength gains over time. To get the best results out of this exercise, you will need to aim for a full range of motion i.e. bringing the bar all the way down to your chest and then pushing it all the way up. This is because multiple papers[1] have found that using a full range of motion in heavy compound movements like the Bench press is very effective and crucial for maximum muscle and strength growth.



Exercise 2: Barbell Back Squat

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Sets: 3 (for Beginners) / 5 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 6-8

Weight: Heavy

Muscles worked: Quads and Glutes

The next exercise in this workout will be the Barbell Back Squat aka 'The King of the Lifts'. The Barbell back squat is the greatest lower body compound exercise that hits the biggest muscles in the body i.e the Quads and the Glutes. A research by Bret Contreras[2] shows that the Barbell Squat highly activates the quads. Although, this exercise mainly targets the Quads and the Glutes, but other muscle groups like the Erector Spinae and the abs are also worked to a significant degree in this exercise. And again, with this exercise, you will have to use a full range of motion to maximize its benefits. To attain a full range of motion, first-of-all place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, and instead of pointing your feet straight, rotate them outwards to an angle of almost 35 degrees. This will allow you to lift heavier and attain a full range of motion more easily. Now, for the lifting part, aim for coming slightly below parallel until there is an angle of almost 70 degrees between your legs, as it has been proved by a research by Behren's and Buskies[3] to activate the quads to the highest degree.



Exercise #3: Chin-up

Chin up

Chin up

Sets: 3 (for Beginners) / 5 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 8-12

Weight: Moderate

Muscles worked: Lats, Biceps, Teres major and Infraspinatus

The next exercise in our routine is going to be a back focused exercise; the Chin-up. Now, at this point most of might be wondering that shouldn't it be the Pull-up over here? Well my friends, you are right to some extent but not completely. Your point of view about the Pull-up might slightly change after going through the scientific studies I am going to mention. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning in 2010(4) measured the activation of all the muscles worked during both of these exercises. The study found no difference in Lat activation between the Pull-up and the Chin-up. Now one study might not be able to convince you; that's why I brought another study. This study was published in 2018(5) and actually measured the EMG of the Late, Traps (Mid and Lower), Infraspinatus and the Erector Spinae during all the major back exercises. This study also made the same conclusion as the previous one, showing no significant difference in the Lat activation during the Pull-up and the Chin-up. Now, what's actually the difference between both these exercises. Well, according to the scientific studies we can conclude that the Chin-up has a greater Bicep and Chest activation, whereas on the other hand the Pull-up being a slightly more lower trap dominant than the Chin-up.

In addition to this, the Chin-up is not only a Lat exercise but also one of the best Biceps exercises as well! A study comparing various biceps exercises showed(6) the Chin-up being the second-best bicep exercise, even surpassing the Barbell and EZ bar curl! So fascinating, right.

At the end, if we also consider the fact that how much easier Chin-ups are in comparison to the Pull-ups and how hard Pull-ups can be; the Chin-ups are definitely a more functional exercise than the Pull-up.







Exercise 4: Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Sets: 2 (for Beginners) / 3 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 8-12

Weight: Moderate

Muscles worked: Upper Chest and front delts.

The next exercise is going to be the Incline Dumbbell Press. Now, In the incline version of the bench press, we will primarily focus on our upper chest. The incline dumbbell press has shown to activate the upper chest to a very high degree by comparing it with various other exercises(7) . For this exercise, you will have to set your bench at an incline angle of 30 degrees because a 2016 Study published in the European Journal of Sport Science(8) found out that a 30-degree incline angle had the same upper chest activation as the 45-degree angle and in addition to that, the 30-degree angle also had a higher middle chest activation and a lower risk of shoulder injury compared to the 45-degree angle. Thus, sticking to the 30-degree angle will be far more beneficial than the 45-degree angle.


Exercise 6: 45 Degree Incline Row

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Sets: 2 (for Beginners) / 3 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 12-15

Weight: Light - Moderate

Muscles worked: Lateral (side) and Posterior (rear) deltoid


Our next exercise in this workout is going to be the 45-degree incline row. This exercise is going to be a shoulder blaster as it not only fires the posterior deltoid as most of you might have thought by looking at the movement in the above picture; but also the lateral delt. The interesting thing is that this exercise works the lateral deltoid to the highest degree compared to any other exercise, even more than the lateral raise! You all might have read everywhere that if you want broad shoulders do lateral raises and you also might've heard that the lateral raise is the best side delt exercise. Well, sure it's great but not the best. A 2014 study[9] by ACE researchers found the 45 Degree incline row to be the best side delt exercise. Well, the difference between the incline row and lateral raise was almost negligible ( for the side delt only) but what really made things interesting was that the incline row also topped the chart at being almost the best rear delt exercise as well! Now, this exercise is just like a 2-in-1 which will not only give you the broad look of the shoulders but also an amazing round look by targetting the rear delts, that most of us don't really consider. Thus, if you want muscular shoulders, aim for this exercise, this will be your best bet!




Exercise 5: Incline Dumbbell Kick-Backs

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Sets: 3 (for Beginners) / 4 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 12-15

Weight: Light - Moderate

Muscles worked: Long and Lateral head of Triceps

After doing so many compound movements, it's now time to move to some isolation exercises. We will start off with a tricep isolation exercise; the incline tricep kickback. Many of you might have expected the skull-crushers over here but, it's a surprise to me as well that the tricep kickbacks are the best exercise for your long head of the tricep. It's even proved by a 2000 EMG data collected by Behrens and Buskies(10). To do this exercise properly, you need to lie with your chest on an incline bench of angle 60 degrees, place your arms parallel to your body, and when contracting the triceps make sure that your elbow stays locked in its position and does not move. You can also do this exercise while seated or standing without the need of a bench, as shown in the pictures below.

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a
the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Exercise 7: Band Face-Pull/ Pull-Apart Combo

the-best-full-body-workout-for-muscle-growth-part-a

Sets: 2 (for Beginners) / 3 (for Novice lifters)

Reps: 10-15

Resistance: Moderate

Muscles worked: Rear-Delts, Side-Delts, Traps (Mid and Lower), and all the Rotator Cuff Muscles


Our last exercise of this workout is going to be the Face-Pull/ Pull-Apart Combo. This exercise is not just a hypertrophy exercise but a lot beyond that. This is a Must Do exercise for everyone for a couple of reasons. First, it maintains a healthy upper-body posture which is very crucial if you want to look good; second, it maintains the shoulders stability that may be disrupted by a lot of pressing movements just like the barbell bench press and the incline dumbbell bench press that we did previously in our workout; third, it prevents muscle imbalances in the long run and also prevents the internal rotation of the shoulders mostly known as the ' Hunched over posture' to further maintain your good posture. Now, things get more enthralling when we go towards the hypertrophy benefits of this exercise. You will also now get to know that why I chose the banded version instead of the traditional cable one. Well, taking a look at a study by Bret Contreras[11] (the guy you see in this exercise's picture) shows us some unexpected results. This exercise got the highest mean and peak muscle activation for both the side and the rear delts! Now I know that I said the same thing about the 45-Degree incline row previously, but Bret Contreras didn't include the incline row in his EMG test and neither did the ACE researchers include the band face-pull/ pull-apart combo in their test. So, we are unclear which exercise from both of these is the best for the side and rear delt; but we know one thing for sure, that both of these exercises are exceptionally better than any other shoulder exercise that we can do. Besides that, it also recruits your rotator cuff muscles to a very high degree. So, besides from giving you excellent muscle activation in the shoulders, it also grants a lot of other important benefits (discussed earlier) that can come really handy in the long run in weightlifting.

OH! I almost forgot to tell you that why we call it the face-pull/ pull-apart combo rather than just a face-pull. Well, in the same study where Bret showed us the EMG results of this exercise, he told us how he does this exercise. He says, "It's important to know that I perform the band face-pull in a special manner, making it a mixture between a face-pull and a pull-apart. I grab hold of the band with my hands about three inches apart, and as I perform the face-pull motion, I pull the band apart vigorously". If you are still unclear, I will link his video[12] down in the comments so that you can see it.



My Humble words to you all

So, my dear lifters, how much did you like my article; rate it out of 10. Share your views about my article in the comments below and share it with your friends and let me know what science thrilling topic do you want to see next.

Till then, PEACE.

Comments

Salik Tahir (author) from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan on November 13, 2020:

Here are the links to the scientific references:

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23629583/ (Bench Press Range of Motion)

2. https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscl... (Quadriceps activation during Barbell Squat)

3. https://suppversity.blogspot.com/2011/08/suppversi... (70-degree Squat angle)

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21068680/ (No significant difference between pull-up and chin-up)

5. https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscl... (No significant difference between pull-up and chin-up)

6. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources... (chin-up being the 2nd best bicep exercise)

7. https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscl... (Incline dumbbell bench press as an excellent upper chest exercise)

8. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/174613... (30-degree bench angle better than 45-degree angle)

9. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources... (incline row as the best side and rear delt exercise)

10. https://suppversity.blogspot.com/2011/08/suppversi... (kickbacks as best tricep exercise)

11. https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscl... (band face-pull/ pull-apart combo)

12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rhle7RXpzE (how to perform the band face-pull/ pull-apart combo)