Take your strength training to new heights with this comprehensive full-body gym workout.

Stick the basics consistently –  squats, presses, deadlifts and rows –  and you’re guaranteed to build both muscle and strength. This full-body gym workout incorporates each of the above, with some chin-ups and dips added to the mix for good measure, to provide a total-body test.

But while every major muscle group will be worked in some way, it’s the legs, shoulders and back that will be targeted most with this session. Therefore, if you’re after a more chest- and arms-dominant routine you might prefer this chest, arms and core workout.

You’re going to be sticking to 3 working sets, but because the aim is to go heavy with low rep ranges, you will want to do some warm-up sets first. Do a set of 10 reps with an empty bar, 5 reps with 50% of your work weight, then 3 reps with about 70%.  

Low reps and heavier weight make this a strength-focused workout, but you can easily up the reps and drop the weight (consider cutting the rest time, too)  to place greater strain on your cardiovascular system and target more of a fat-loss benefit.

Why you can trust the workouts in Men’s Fitness

At Men’s Fitness we pride ourselves on delivering information that serves a singular purpose: to improve some aspect of your health, fitness or wellbeing. For over 16 years, we’ve been publishing authoritative health and fitness content – written by our expert editors and contributors – in the form of the monthly Men’s Fitness magazine. Each of our workouts has been created by either a highly experienced editor or expert contributor, and has been tested and used in real-world situations.

The exercises in this full-body gym workout

1. Barbell back squat (reps: 5 | sets: 3)

2. Barbell overhead press (reps: 5 | sets: 3)

3. Barbell bent-over row (reps: 5 | sets: 3)

4. Barbell Romanian deadlift (reps: 6 | sets: 3)

5. Chin-up (reps: max | sets: 3)

6. Ring dip (reps: max | sets: 3)

1. Barbell back squat  

Primary target: Quads and glutes
Secondary target: Core 

Why we like it: You’re working both the upper and lower back with the barbell back squat, and improving overall proprioception (body awareness), stability, mobility, strength and stamina.

Rest2 mins

How to do a barbell back squat:

  • Take the bar out of the rack so it rests across your upper back
  • Take two big steps back, ending with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out slightly
  • Keep your spine in alignment by looking at a spot on the floor about two metres in front of you, then sit back and down as if you’re aiming for a chair  
  • Descend until your hip crease is below your knee  
  • Keep your weight on your heels as you drive up

2. Barbell overhead press 

Primary target: Shoulders
Secondary target: Triceps 

Why we like it: This is our go-to exercise for building upper-body strength and power and improving core strength and stability. It carries over well to other push exercises such as bench presses and Olympic lifts too.

Rest2 mins

How to do a barbell overhead press:

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, position a bar on your upper chest, gripping it with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Brace your abs, glutes and quads as you press the bar straight up
  • Pause at the top, then lower
  • You might find you can lift more weight by wrapping your thumbs around the same side as your fingers, to keep your forearms in a more favourable position

3. Barbell bent-over row 

Primary target: Upper back
Secondary target: Biceps 

Why we like it: If you’re looking to sculpt and strengthen your upper back, the barbell bent-over row is the way to go. It’ll work your lats, rhomboids and traps, improving your posture as well as grip strength.

Rest90 secs

How to do a barbell bent-over row:

  • Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, bending your knees slightly 
  • Bend at the hips until you’re at a roughly 45˚ angle to the floor
  • Pull the bar up to touch your sternum and then lower under control 
  • If you’re moving your upper body to shift the bar, the weight’s too heavy

4. Barbell Romanian deadlift 

Primary target: Hamstrings
Secondary target: Glutes 

Why we like it: It may not be the most obvious benefit, but the barbell Romanian deadlift is great for improving athletic performance – most notably explosive power, speed and jumping ability.

Rest90 secs

How to do a barbell Romanian deadlift:

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip just outside your thighs
  • Keeping a slight bend in your knees, bend forwards from the hips – not the waist – and lower the bar down the front of your shins until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings
  • Reverse the move back to the start by pushing your hips forward

5. Chin-up 

Primary target: Upper back
Secondary target: Biceps 

Why we like it: There’s a reason fitness enthusiasts the world over fit a chin-up bar before many other pieces of kit. That’s because it can deliver all kinds of benefits, from improved posture and grip strength to building muscle mass in your biceps and upper back – and even developing your cardiovascular system.

Rest60 secs

How to do a chin-up:

  • Grasp the bar with an underhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart
  • Start from a dead hang with your arms fully extended
  • Pull yourself up
  • Once your chin is over the bar, slowly lower back to the start
  • To make it easier, cross your feet behind you

6. Ring dip 

Primary target: Chest
Secondary target: Triceps 

Why we like it: Not only can ring dips help you develop ridiculous upper-body strength, they can also help you improve proprioception, balance and coordination, while emphasizing your stabilizing muscles

Rest60 secs

How to do a ring dip:

  • From the top position, bend your elbows and lower into a dip, descending until your shoulders are just below your elbows
  • Leaning forward will work your chest, while staying straight will build triceps strength
  • If you don’t have access to rings, use parallel dip bars instead

For all the barbell exercises in this workout we’d recommend the Strongway® 20KG 7FT Olympic Bar.