The 19 Best Full-Body Workouts Ben Greenfield Uses For His Year-Round Exercise Routine.

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Perhaps you read my Sabbath Ramblings article about sleep, in which I laid out the bare-bones, minimum effective dose of so-called “hacks” for attaining an optimal circadian rhythm. Or you may have seen a similar article entitled Principles, in which I described to you the 12 key principles that form the underlying basis for the optimal combination of healthspan, lifespan, and happiness.

Since life simplicity, reduced decision-making fatigue, and time efficiency are all, in my opinion, just as valuable as cash assets, I’d now like to turn to the application of this same logic to the topic of exercises and workouts.

After all, I’m so often asked “what are the workouts I (Ben Greenfield) do?,” that I figured I could pull back the curtain and reveal how—very similar to the way that I eat a fairly predictable, set range of meals year-round with some amount of seasonal variation—I actually have just a handful of key workouts that I tend to perform year-round, without too many change-ups or complexity.

Now, before we dive in, please note that what you’re about to discover is not the type of training approach I’d advise, create, or recommend for, say, an athlete in training who needs to train with a great deal of sport specificity and periodization, both concepts I address in my book Beyond Training. The full-body workouts below are, instead, designed to enable one to be able to stay fit as a fiddle year-round with a low risk of injury and high amount of functional capacity for life and sports, and allow for a small number (3-4) of 30-60 minute exercise sessions per week, assuming they are paired with a generally physically active lifestyle.

The way that I implement these type of full-body workouts is as follows:

  • Select three to four workouts for each week, generally choosing a couple that are more strength-focused and a couple that are more cardio- or high-intensity interval training (HIIT)-focused, and plan – usually on a Sunday evening – which days of the week I'm going to do those workouts (e.g. formal workout from the list below on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and one of the harder “crucible” workouts from the list below on the weekend). 
  • On the “in-between” days, I do plenty of walking, play sports such as family tennis, paddleboarding, or frisbee golf, and usually squeeze in a 20-40 minute sauna and cold session
  • Begin every day with 10-15 minutes of breathwork and stretching so that, should time free up at some point during my workday, I can jump right into my workout with a minimal warm-up and minimal mobility exercise time, and also squeeze in what might qualify as an extra “microworkout” (arm swings, leg swings, Wim Hof breathing, foam rolling, etc.) in the morning to jumpstart my metabolism and set a good movement standard for the day.

So that's it! Let's dive in.


The 19 Key Full-Body Workouts I Do Year-Round

1. Kettlebell (KB) Full-Body Strength – This is a full-body workout with one single set per exercise, but a big mobility/strength dose in a short period of time.
  • Warm-up on Airdyne (or any other piece of cardio equipment) 5-7 minutes.
    • When I warm up, I tend to cycle easy for a couple of minutes, then throw in a few 10-30 second hard efforts to get the lactic acid flowing. Unless otherwise specified here and for all other workouts, and especially for any cardio, bouncing, etc. between sets, perform all nasal breathing as much as possible. You'll notice that for this and other workouts I rarely “sit around” to rest but instead do mobility, core, or cardio during my rest periods. Finally, you'll notice I don't really list “cool-downs,” but I tend to do some very light Tai-Chi or QiGong-esque exercises with deep nasal breathing for recovery, such as Zen Swings, Twisting Rotations, or deep, slow Bodyweight Squats.
  • Then, complete 1 set of each of the following with 2-2.5 min easy cardio, walking, bouncing, or cycling between each.

*5-10 reps tends to be my personal “sweet spot” for most exercises. I find it gives me a good combination of strength and hypertrophy.

2. Carries – A great one to do in your driveway or backyard in the sunshine!
3. Kettlebell Swings or Snatches With Push-Ups – Based on Pavel Tsatsouline's books: Simple & Sinister and The Quick and The Dead. Super minimalist kettlebell routine.
4. Garage-Style Push/Pull
5. Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Band or Kaatsu Full-Body Workout (you can learn more about Kaatsu and BFR training on this podcast and in this article) – This is not a gold-standard BFR workout, as most Japan training research, where most BFR research originates, indicates a 30 repetition, 15 repetition, 15 repetition scheme is best, but this is what works for me!
6. X3 Bar Full Body (you can learn more about variable resistance training with the X3 Bar on this podcast and this podcast) – Good, short but very strength-demanding and effective workout. Good for travel too.
  • Warm-up, then one slow set to failure (with bouncing to failure at end of each set) for each of the following. Optional 1-3 minutes cycling or other form of nasal-breathing cardio recovery between each.
7. Ben's Body Weight – Excellent one for easier recovery days or hotel rooms. Go through full range of motion for all, with attendance to nasal breathing and good form.
  • Warm-up, then 30 minute-ish AMRAP of the following, with optional 1-2.5 min cycling or any other form of cardio such as jumping rope between each:
8. Gym Treadmill / Full-Body Workout – I do this one with my boys sometimes, as it is great for a partner workout. For that, one person walks while the other does the rows, swings, and get-ups.
9. One Loop Greenfield Obstacle Course – This one is performed on a quarter-mile obstacle course I built at my house. Full instructions for how I built this course are all in the downloadable program I created at ObstacleDominator.com. It takes about 30 minutes to do one loop. You can replicate a similar workout at, for example, a park using strategies like this or via the type of full-body workouts that I describe in a similar article to the one you're reading right now here.
  • 20 Foot Wall
  • 10 Foot Walk
  • Over-Under Logs
  • Barbwire Belly Crawl
  • Cinderblock Drag
  • Horizontal Rope Traverse
  • Vertical Rope Climb
  • Balance Logs
  • Monkey Bars
  • Tire Flip
  • Spear Throw
  • Burpees
10. VASPER 21-Minute HIIT Workout With Vibration – Learn more about the VASPER in this podcast and this podcast. Essentially, it combines blood flow restriction, cryotherapy, grounding/earthing, and a full-body workout in a very short period of time. I always finish with a few choice body weight or weight training exercises, however.
  • Do the 21-minute VASPER HIIT routine (I like the Burn-Baby-Burn and Tabata workouts for two really good examples, though there are over a dozen to choose from on the VASPER app, and they're all quite good)
  • Finish with 10-15 minutes of Powerplate Vibration platform rotating between 30-60 seconds of Push-Ups, Squats, and Bridges
11. VASPER 21-Minute HIIT Workout With Core/Strength Work
12. VASPER 21-Minute HIIT Workout With Core/Strength Work 2
13. Gym 5×5 Strength – This one, like most of the others below, takes slightly longer (about 45-60 minutes). Great for building strength. I do this often in the fall/winter when I focus on more strength and muscle building. 
14. Gymnastics Workout 1 – This one is a bit more advanced, and the workout and the science behind it is fully detailed here. It was custom designed for me two years ago by Olympic Gymnast Stephen McCain when I approached him wanting to do gymnastics-style training that also built strength and cardio in a very efficient manner. I still love this routine and the other gymnastics workout below it. You can check out the full details in the article “How To Get A Strong & Shredded Body With Just Two Gymnastics-Style Workouts Per Week.”
15. Gymnastics Workout 2
16. Super Slow Workout (good for travel, hotel gyms, health clubs, etc.) – This workout comes straight from the book Body By Science by Dr. Doug McGuff. It's an incredibly efficient way to train muscles to failure in a very short period of time (it's about a 15-20 minute workout). Machines work best for this one because they allow for better super slow movement, and so I tend to save this one for gyms, hotel gyms, health clubs, etc. when I'm traveling.
  • 2-5 minute warm-up (e.g. rowing, cycling, treadmill, etc.), then 1 set to complete failure of each of the following exercises, performed at a super-slow pace of 20-40 seconds up and 20-40 seconds down per rep, and, on the final rep, a series of bouncing, explosive contractions to fully fatigue the muscles
17. Weekend Crucible 1: 40th Birthday Goal Prep – My 40th birthday goal is to wake up on the morning of my 40th birthday and successfully complete in 40-hour fasted state the following:

So, based on that, a weekend workout I'll be performing at least once a month over this year is as follows:

18. Weekend Crucible 2: Barbarian – This one is a killer. It comes straight from my friend Brian Johnson at Ancestral Supplements. This is the type of crucible I'd only do once every 1-2 months or so as a weekend challenge. You'll be cursing me later.
  • 1-Mile Drudge carrying 70 lb kettlebells in each hand, wearing a 70 lb pack, pulling 70 lb on top of a sled (with shoulder straps), and 20 lb ankle weights. Every step is unsteady and off-balance, as if trekking through shin-deep mud and carrying a fallen comrade back from battle. Shoulders and upper back remain lit up; never get a rest. Grip, grit, and absolute resolve are measured in steps.
19. Weekend Crucible 3: Obstacle Course, Multiple Rounds
  • Remember that obstacle course workout I described earlier, in Workout 9 from this list? Basically, I do that same course, but instead of just one round, challenge myself with 2-4 rounds for a longer 60-90 minute crucible. You could do something very similar in a large park that has benches, rocks, tree branches, etc. that allow you to create your own “course.” Anyone with a park near their house should, in my opinion, have some kind of special workout or challenge they can do outdoors. Try it!

Summary

Sometimes workout complexity can just be so overwhelming that you simply throw up your hands and decide not to exercise at all, or to just “go for a walk” or stare blankly into space for 45 minutes on an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or bicycle.

Sometimes a “good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow,” which means that foregoing fancy periodization and programming—while still adhering to general principles of proper rest, recovery, and a bit of self-quantification of metrics like sleep, heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV) tracking—can allow you to adhere much more consistently to your workout routine.

Sometimes you just need a few tried-and-true exercise routines committed to memory that you can then sprinkle into a generally physically active lifestyle that also includes movement breaks during work, plenty of walking, and a sport like tennis, golf, soccer, frisbee, skiing, paddleboarding or basketball.

And that's kinda the way I operate these days. For me, exercise is becoming less and less about ultimate peak sports performance and instead more and more about how I can reduce barriers to entry for exercising, minimize complexity, and maximize consistency in an injury-free manner. That means that the 19 key full-body workouts I've outlined above are woven into a week that might look something like this:

Monday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes walking outdoors, later afternoon or early evening 30 minutes full-body workout (strength) with kettlebells and Airdyne in the garage. 

Tuesday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes walking outdoors, early evening sauna/cold session.

Wednesday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes walking outdoors, later afternoon or early evening blood flow restriction training or VASPER session. 

Thursday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes walking outdoors, early evening family tennis match. 

Friday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes walking outdoors, later afternoon or early evening gym 5×5 strength workout.

Saturday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes walking outdoors, later afternoon or early evening 3-4 rounds home obstacle course training. 

Sunday: Morning 10-15 minutes mobility, midday 30-60 minutes cycling or paddleboarding, early evening frisbee golf course or hike with family and/or friends. 

Finally, aside from full-body workouts that might require equipment such as a VASPER, vibration platform, or obstacle course, I've found the majority of these workouts “travel well” and can be performed in the average stripped-down hotel gym, hotel room, or even a park, meaning you can take a routine like this on the road, too.

So how about you? Do you have any tried-and-true favorite exercise routines or full-body workouts? Have you tried or do you plan to try any of those above? Leave your comments, questions, and feedback below! I'd love to hear from you.


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7 thoughts on “The 19 Best Full-Body Workouts Ben Greenfield Uses For His Year-Round Exercise Routine.

  1. KC Clark says:

    Hi Ben, how do you do your programming for the week? DO you just write it down or do you have a sheet you use? I’m a little OCD in that wya, LOL. I try to systematize things for efficiency. But I’m not a trainer so I’m not sure of the best way to go about programming for my weeks exercise.

    Do you have any recommendations? I wonder if that’s something you’ve ever considered developing?

    Thanks for this great list of workouts!

    KC Clark
    Charlotte, NC

  2. Adam says:

    Hi Ben—would you consider this workout approach (3-4/week, two cardio-focused, two strength-focused, every other day) to be a revision to your Boundless exercise workout program approach (which seems more focused on the key workouts being M/Tu/Th/Fri, with Wednesday being a rest day) or just an alternative approach?

  3. Stephen says:

    Great to see you are still using the Gymnastics stuff;)

  4. Ana says:

    Hi Ben.

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I was wondering what is your wife’s workout routine? I find that exercising too much is messes up with my hormones, sleep and cortisol levels (I was actually putting on weight!). I would love to know what you recommend for her.

    You are a legend! I have all your books and can’t wait for your cooking book to be available in Australia. I wanted to pre-oder but the shipping costs more than the book! Can you check if that’s correct? I would love to order one!

    Hugs from Australia!

    Ana

    1. She doesn't really have a "routine" but play tennis a few times a week, usually does a bit of hot yoga and core here and there, hikes quite frequently, and does yard work daily..

  5. Carmen says:

    Very interesting! Will try those workouts!
    Can you also do a blog post about your “predictable, set range of meals”? Would be very intersting! Also with some explanation about the seasonal variation
    thank you!

  6. Heiderose Moossen says:

    I am Heiderose, 66 yr old woman, German, living in the Middle East.
    I have a metal bar outside my house in all living places; and do pull-ups, as good as I can, usually 10 in combination with
    Kettlebell work out, both hands, single hands lifts;
    Dip-Station; Arm/Shoulder presses; turn dip station down for half-high planks;
    Mat for planks and stretching;
    2 rounds daily…. appr. 30 min.

    Walking in the morning fasted, as you recommend before breakfast.

    Thanks a lot for your work
    Heiderose

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