The Best Full Body Workout

EXERCISE IS THE MOST UNDERUTILIZED ANTIDEPRESSANT. There are many benefits to exercise aside from the obvious improved physical health. Did you know that regular exercise can also prevent cognitive decline, actually making parts of your brain bigger, improve your sex life and help control addiction?

So the next question is what kind of exercise is best? Aerobic, HIIT, strength training? YES!

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Aerobic exercise (really getting your heart rate and breathing up) is important for your heart and your brain. Strength training is crucial. It protects bone health and muscle mass as well as helps you burn more calories even when you aren’t working out. Muscles burn more energy so building them up can boost your metabolism by as much as 15%. I have also incorporated HIIT (high intensity interval training) recently. It is efficient, does not require any equipment and increases fat burning for a full 24 hours.

The workout below is one of my favorites. It combines many of the benefits of each of these exercise types. It is simple and can be started at a very low intensity and increased as you improve your fitness. Anyone can do it with a few dumbbells, a timer* and your favorite music. It works all of the major muscles groups and gets your heart rate up by doing full body exercises. There are 20 exercises and every 5th one works an isolated muscle, giving you a chance to recover.

*The timer I use is this app. It is great and I also use it for my HIIT workouts. Just enter how long you want to warm up, how long each work and rest period lasts, how many rounds and how long you want to cool down. For this work out, I set the warm up to 2:20 (2:10 minutes for the warm up and 10 sec to transition to the first exercise), work 2:00, rest :30, rounds 20, cool down 3:00. You can tailor the work time based on your fitness level. The table below the guidelines explains how to do that.

Some basic guidelines:

1. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

2. A good warm up before and stretch afterward are crucial.

3. Pay close attention to your form. It is more important to do the exercise with good form than to complete the reps. If you are not able to maintain good form, decrease the weight you are using or rest a little early. The intensity and reps will come as you improve.

4. When doing squats or lunges, always keep your knees in line with your toes and don’t let your knees go out past your toes.

5. Don’t use weights the first time. Then as you feel able, progress to heavier weights using the chart below as a guide. On the printable form, each exercise is marked with light, medium, heavy depending on how large the muscles you are working are.

6. For any exercise that has more than one motion or works each side of the body separately, split the time in half or quarters depending on how fatigued you get.

7. If you follow this website, you know that I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. With my improved health, I thought that maybe it was gone. I have recently learned that it is not. See the note below the routine for my thoughts on exercising with Chronic Fatigue.

Click here to read the disclaimer.

Use this chart for a guide on how to advance weights and workout time.

beginner none :40/:15 23:40
1 0/0/3 :40/:15 23:40
2 0/3/5 1:00/:20 32:00
3 3/5/8 1:20/:30 42:00
4 5/8/10 2:00/:30 55:20
5 advance as you are able

WARM UP: You can do anything you like to warm up. Just get your heart pumping and try to hit most of the major muscles.

If you don’t know what to do, here is mine. Start your timer.

20 seconds: march in place with high knees

20 seconds: march with high knees out to the side (like on a horse)

10 seconds: take 2 deep breaths by doing a small squat and as you stand inhale raising your arms out to the side until overhead. As you exhale, pull you arms down and out to the sides, bending the elbows as if scraping the wall behind you with your elbows.

20 seconds: jog in place with high knees

20 seconds: jog in place with legs out to the side (ride the horse again)

20 seconds: jog in place with knees down, lifting feet behind you

20 seconds: jumping jacks


1. Lunge and Reach with Rotation: Stand with your feet wide and hold weight in both hands. Twist to the right and lower the weight to the floor in front of your right foot. Lift the weight up to the left. The motion is as if you are picking the weight up off of the floor and putting it up on a shelf on the other side. Lower the weight to the floor in front of your left foot then lift it up and to the right. Repeat, alternating sides. Click here to watch video.

lunge and reach

2. Burpees/Steam Engine:  For burpees, place your hands on the floor, jump your feet back, jump your feet forward then jump up. Repeat. Do them for 1/4 of the work time. Click here to watch video. For steam engine, stand with your hands behind your head. Keep your eyes forward and your chest up. Bring one knee to the opposite elbow and alternate, picking up speed as you go. Do this for 1/4 of the work time. Click here to watch video.  Go back to burpees for 1/4 of the time then back to steam engine to finish.

3. Squat with Overhead Press: Holding weights at sides. Squat down, as you come up, bring weights up to shoulders then press them overhead. Repeat. Click here to watch video.

squat with overhead press

4. Plie with Upright Rows:  With feet wide and turned out, squat down lowering weights toward the floor. As you come to standing, pull your elbows up higher than your shoulders. Repeat. Click here to watch video.

plie with upright rows

5. Bicep curls: Standing with knees slightly bent and elbows at your sides. Bend one arm to 90 degrees and hold while doing bicep curls with the other arm.  Do this with one arm for 1/4 of the work time. Switch arms and do for 1/4 of the work time. Repeat with first arm for 1/4 of the time then the other arm again. Click here to watch video.

bicep curls

6. 2-45 Degree Lunges: Lunge out to a 45 degree angle leaning your body forward at a 45 degree angle. Reach your arms out overhead. Return arms to your side. Step back to the center. Do the same thing to the other side. Repeat, alternating sides. Click here to watch video.

45 degree lunges

7. Lunge Twist: Hold 1 weight at your chest. Lunge forward pushing weight straight out in front of you. Hold the lunge and twist to the right. Rotate back to center and step back. Repeat, twisting to the left. Repeat, alternating sides. Click here to watch video.

lunge twist

8. 2 Way Bend over Back Flys:  Bend straight over at the hips, dropping weights toward the floor. Pull your elbows toward the ceiling, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Bring weights back down to the floor. Stand up. Bend over again, as before. Fly arms out to the sides with elbows straight. Lower arms and stand. Repeat, alternating bent and straight arm back flys. Click here to watch video.

2 way bend back flys

9. Reverse Lunge with Shoulder Flys: Step one foot backward as you lift your elbows out to the side. Step your foot forward again. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat, alternating legs. Click here to watch video.

reverse lunge with shoulder flies

10. Lawnmower: Hold both weights in one hand. Lean over and support yourself on your leg with the other hand. Lower weights toward the floor. Pull back, as if starting a lawnmower. Keep elbow close to your ribs. Click here to watch video.


11. Plie X-Press: With feet wide and turned out, squat down lowering weights toward the floor. Bring weights up toward shoulders as you stand then press arms out, forming an X. Click here to watch video.

plie x-press

12. Side Lunge with Arm Scoop: Hold weights at your sides. Lunge out to the side, scooping the inside arm forward. Step back to the center. Lunge out to the other side, scooping the inside arm. Step back to center. Lunge to the first side, scooping both arms forward. Step back to center. Lunge to the other side, scooping both arms. Repeat to each side, alternating scooping single arm with scooping both arms. Click here to watch video.

side lunge with single arm scoop

side lunge with dbl arm scoop

13. LTBP (lunge, tricep, bicep, press): Lunge forward, pulling your elbows toward the ceiling. Hold the lunge and straighten your arms. Still holding lunge, raise your torso upright. Still holding lunge, do a bicep curl. STILL holding lunge, press arms overhead. Bring arms down and step back leg forward. Repeat with the other leg. Do this 2 reps one direction then turn around and go the other direction 2 reps. Be patient with yourself, this one takes a little practice to get it. Click here to watch video.


14. Plank Run/Push Ups: Get in plank position. Alternate knees toward chest. Be sure to keep your shoulders over your hands and your butt down. Do this for 1/2 of the work time. Do push ups on knees or toes the other 1/2. If you need to, you can split these into 1/4’s of the work time. Click here to watch video.

plank runpush ups

15. Decline Table with Hip Raise/Hamstring Curl: Get on your knees and elbows. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling (don’t rotate hips) and lower for 1/4 of the work time. Point right leg straight out. Bend and straighten right leg for 1/4 of the work time. Repeat those moves with the left leg. Click here to watch video.

decline table hip ext

decline table knee flex

16. T-Plank Rotations: The first 2 pictures show the beginner method. From the plank position, rotate to the right (leaving feet separated) and lift your hand toward the ceiling. Return to plank position. Rotate to the left side, reaching toward the ceiling then return to plank. Repeat, alternating sides. Click here to watch video.

For advanced: From the plank position, lock ankles as you rotate to the right and lift your hand toward the ceiling. Holding this side plank, reach hand under then back up. Return to plank position. Repeat to the left. To add one more degree of difficulty, add a push up before rotating to each side. Click here to watch video.


17. Side Plank Lifts: Lie on your side with elbow under your shoulder, hips stacked and feet together. Lift hips and lower but not all the way to the floor. You can switch sides every 1/4 of the work time or 1/2 of the work time.

side plank lifts

18. Pec Fly/Tricep Press with Bridges: Lie on your back with knees bent and arms out to sides. As you lift your hips, raise your arms toward the ceiling. While holding your hips up, bend your elbows then straighten them. Lower your arms out to sides as you lower your hips. Repeat.

pec flytricep ext with bridges

19. Abdominals: Split your work time into 1/4’s and do 4 of your favorite abdominal exercises. These are mine: 1. pedaling with opposite elbow to knee; 2. lift hips; 3. curl ups (not pictured); 4. lift upper body and hips.


hip lift

upper and lower

20. Single Leg Squats: Stand with your weight on one leg, placing the toes of your other foot lightly on the floor for balance. Squat down on one leg, lifting other leg behind you. Do 1/2 of the work time on one leg then 1/2 on the other leg.

single leg squats

Don’t forget to cool down. During the cool down, be sure to stretch all of those muscles that you just worked. That is a post for another time but if you need some help, this website has some good, free stretch printables. Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Click here for a printable sheet of the routine without pictures.


Exercising with chronic fatigue means many things to me:
1. On really bad days (which I rarely have any more), I skip my workout.
2. On rough days, I work out but cut back on the intensity. This is not the time to push my fitness level.
3. On good days (thankfully, most days), PUSH IT.
4. Improving my health and fitness means more good days than bad ones.
5. I can always do more than I thought I could.

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