Total-body workouts sound like they would take a long time. But when you boil down the exercises needed to cover every area, there are only three of your concern—a push, a pull, and a squat. This is the ultimate in minimalism, and works superbly for beginners or people who are short on time.

How it works

Any kind of pressing exercise will train your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Any pulling movement (a row or chinup variation) recruits your back, rear delts, biceps, and forearms. Squatting movements (and deadlifts, which aren’t quite a squat but require all the same muscles) take care of the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Even your calves get some stimulation as they help to stabilize your squat. Your abs, of course, get worked on all these movement patterns, provided they’re done with free weights rather than machines, and work to brace your spine throughout.

This workout contains everything you need to put on size fast—a squat, press, and pullup—done with heavy weights, and you should be able to wrap it up within 45 minutes.

Option A

Complete all five sets for the squat, and then perform the overhead press and weighted pullup in alternating fashion. That is, complete a set of the press, rest, then do a set of the pullup, rest again, and repeat until you’ve finished all five sets for each.

Option B

Applying the same principle as the previous workout, here we offer three different push, pull, and lower-body exercises with some additional abs and calves work thrown in. This routine is ideal if you find yourself with a bit more time to train than you did when choosing Option A. It can also be alternated with Option A, to add some variety to your training. The different exercise and rep ranges will switch up the muscle-building stimulus.

Alternate sets of the bench press and seated cable row. So you’ll do one set of 1A, rest, then one set of 1B, rest again, and repeat until all sets are complete. Perform the remaining exercises as normal straight sets.

Option C

Here, we continue the theme of pushing, pulling, and lower-body movements making up the core of the workout and add in some direct arms work. The high-rep approach (sets of 15) works well in conjunction with the previous two sessions, and you may rotate through all three of them. For instance, perform Option A on Monday, Option B on Wednesday, and Option C on Friday.

Perform the exercise pairs (marked A and B) in alternating fashion. So you’ll do one set of A, rest, then one set of B, rest again, and repeat until all sets are completed for the pair. The remaining exercises are done conventionally.