You’ll hear many people in the fitness world categorize muscle-strengthening exercises as upper body, lower body, or core exercises. However, various exercises can work most of your body’s muscles at once.
A full-body exercise uses a variety of muscle groups in your body, rather than just one. No exercise will work every muscle, but the most efficient full-body exercises typically work across your upper body, lower body, and core. You can think of it as getting the most bang for your buck in workout form.
If you’re like most people, time is always getting in the way of working out the way you want. When you’re working out muscles in isolation, it’s going to take more time. That’s why bodybuilders can spend up to 5 hours in the gym in one day. They typically work out muscles in isolation.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) offers evidence-based guidance to help Americans maintain or improve their health through physical activity. The ODPHP notes that exercise should include aerobic activity as well as muscle strengthening. You can achieve this recommendation with full-body training because most full-body muscle-strengthening exercises increase a person’s heart rate and breathing.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into full-body exercises. You’ll learn about the benefits in both time savings and results, and we’ll look at the best full-body workout machines.
Table of Contents
What are Full-body workouts?
What are Split Workouts?
Why Full-body Workouts are Best for Most People
How Much Time Do Full-body Workouts Take?
How to Choose the Best Full-body Workout Machine
Best Overall Full-Body Workout Machine
Best Smith Full-Body Workout Machine
Best Bowflex Full-body Workout Machine
Best Single Stack Full-body Workout Machine
Best Leverage Full-body Workout Machine
Best Full-body Workout Machine for Cardio
Best Body Weight Full-body Workout Machine
Which Full-body Workout Machine Should You Choose?
Best Full-body Workout Machines for 2024 Wrap Up
What are Full-Body Workouts?
A full-body workout is pretty much how it sounds. It’s a workout designed to work your body as a whole. Full-body workouts include exercises that target multiple muscle groups during one exercise movement. The design of your full-body training can be structured on parameters like:
- Energy Expenditure
Example: Do bigger, energy-draining movements first
- Daily Workout Goals
Example: Put more emphasis on a specific exercise first.
Example: Tougher or lagging movements come first.
- Muscle Group Size
Example: Exercise larger, more powerful muscle groups first.
What Are Split Workouts?
Split workout plans are designed to separate muscle groups from one another. People using split workout programs want to maximize muscle growth and reduce rest days between workouts.
When you dedicate an entire day to one muscle group, such as your legs, you can fully fatigue the muscles and target them from various angles.
The problem is, split plans lose effectiveness if you don’t have five or six days to work out each week. A standard split workout plan might look like this:
- Monday: Chest and triceps
- Tuesday: Legs
- Wednesday: Back and biceps
- Thursday: Shoulders
- Friday: Legs
- Saturday: Core
- Sunday: Rest
As you can see, you’d have to dedicate an entire day for each muscle group, which can be hard to keep up with unless you’re a gym rat or really into bodybuilding. If you miss one workout on this plan, you’ll neglect an entire muscle group that week.
Why Full-Body Workouts are Best for Most People
For most of us mortals, full-body workouts are best because of the time factor. Most people just don’t have the time to dedicate an hour every day to exercise. Full-body workouts maximize your time. Instead of spending an hour pumping up your biceps, you can be chasing real functional gains like whole-body strength, core stabilization, functional mobility, and endurance.
Other reasons for choosing full-body workouts:
- Full-body workouts generally yield a higher total energy expenditure per session, resulting in more calorie and fat burn.
- Full-body workouts yield greater maximal strength improvement vs. split routine.1
- Your appetite is suppressed more after full-body exercise compared to split-body training.2
- It’s not a big deal if you miss a workout. If you train three times per week and miss one workout, you’ve already worked all of your muscle groups twice.
- Full-body workouts force you to focus on functional movements, which you need for longevity and high quality of life.
- Full-body workouts tend to include more movements that improve core stabilization and posture.
How Much Time Do full-body Workouts Take?
It all depends on the equipment you’re using and your goals. In general, full-body workouts are faster and more efficient because you’re working multiple muscle groups at once.
Traditional home gym systems and workouts typically require about 10 to 15 minutes of warming up and then about 45 to 60 minutes for the actual workout.
So, on average, when you factor in changing into your gym clothes, driving to the gym, warming up and working out, you’re looking at nearly two hours. If you work out at home, you could probably cut that time in half.
The most effective and efficient full-body workout systems will have you completing your entire workout in the same amount of time it takes for a traditional warm-up.
These systems are designed not to require a warm-up. You just perform one set to failure in each range. It seems shocking, but it’s true. You can get a very effective total body workout in as little as 10-15 minutes when you use the right equipment and routine.
How to Choose the Best Full-Body Workout Machine
If you’re ready to start implementing a full-body workout routine, you’re probably wondering which equipment will be best. Here are some important questions you’ll need to answer to get started on your search.
How much space does your home gym take up?
Home gyms, by definition, are compact as they replace the need for several machines; however, there are still different sizes of machines, each with a greater or lesser selection of exercises designed into it.
How sturdy and durable is it?
If you are going to put your home exercise equipment to good use, you want equipment that’s designed and engineered to last. Equipment made from quality steel with solid welds will stand up to regular use over time with no problem.
How much do you want to spend?
Price is always an important consideration. You’ll want to get the best home gym for your budget. If you want more options and weights, some home gyms can easily set you back thousands of dollars.
It’s important to note that you don’t even need a “machine” to complete your home gym setup. Some people add a pull-up bar to their garage ceiling; others fill their basement with compact exercise equipment.
The point is you can get a fantastic entire body workout by just using some simple equipment and your body weight. You don’t need free weight exercises to gain strength.
When you use proper form with the right strength training exercises, you can get a complete workout and a quality home gym experience without the rowing machines, Olympic weight plates, and power rack.
So, here are our top picks for the best total-body workout machines in 2024.
Best Overall Full-Body Workout Machine—Price: $549
The X3 Bar, also called the X3 System, is a home exercise training device and 12-week workout program created by biomedical engineer Dr. John Jaquish. It’s not really a home gym machine but rather a type of elite home gym equipment that outperforms typical home gym options in the most critical areas. It uses heavy-duty elastic bands and a 21.5-inch long steel bar, which allows you to perform various exercises designed to increase muscle mass, strength, and bone density.
While researching bone density for his first invention, OsteoStrong, Dr. Jaquish determined a sevenfold difference between strength in the strong and weak ranges in weightlifting movements.
Max lifts are limited by an athlete’s strength in their weakest range.
So what was needed to maximize muscle growth and optimize inefficiencies? A weight that changes as we move, giving us a lighter load in the weak, joint-compromised range and tremendously high force in the strong range.
John set out to invent a fitness system to help people build muscle faster and easier than conventional free weights, gym machines, or resistance bands. The result? X3, a resistance band home gym with the power to build more muscle than an entire gym.
- Great for building both muscle and strength across all muscle groups.
- Easy-to-follow videos teach you how to use the system.
- The X3 12-week training program provides advanced workouts, diet and food prep tips, advice for better sleep, and more.
- Portable full-body workout at home or on the road.
- Resistance bands are provided for various fitness levels, with an additional X3 Elite Band for more intense training available.
- Allows for maximum resistance while protecting joints
- No tools are required for assembly.
- Takes up little space.
X3 workouts are not easy. If you can’t commit to an intense, 10-minute muscle-building workout, then X3 is probably not the best choice.
You must follow directions. If you want to achieve the best results, you must follow the X3 12-Week Program.
X3 is $549 (interest-free financing starting at $50/month). That’s roughly equivalent to the average annual gym membership (not including fees, gasoline, commute times, etc.) If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it, pay a quick visit to the X3 Users Group on Facebook.
Best Smith Full-Body Workout Machine—Price: $600
Marcy MWM-990 Home Gym
The MWM-990 is a well-made smith machine-inspired exercise machine. This machine is versatile and durable. This machine has a small footprint, saving valuable floor space.
The dual-functioning independent motion attachments will add a valuable dimension to your training efforts. The cable system allows you to buy additional attachments like; ankle cuffs, bars, and handles for a broader range of exercises.
- Over 30 Exercises—With a leg extension/curl attachment, pec fly, high and low pulleys, lat bar, and preacher curl bench, the MWM-990 gives you everything you need for a full-body workout. A 150 lb selectorized steel weight stack provides sufficient resistance for consistent strength gains.
- Solid Construction—The MWM-990 has a solid steel construction with high-quality welds, smooth pulley wheels, and heavy-duty cables. This compact gym will last for years.
- Cambered Lat Pull-Down Bar—The MWM-990 comes with a cambered pull-down bar that can be used with different grips to isolate particular muscles in the back. It doubles as a cambered curl bar when attached to the low pulley.
- Leg extension/curl attachment—The leg exercise attachment allows for one or both legs to be trained at a time.
- Not One Size Fits All—Like any mass-produced machine, the MWM-990 is made to fit most people well. But if you’re unusually tall or short, some exercises will be less comfortable to do.
- Heavy—The MWM-990 weighs in at a scale tipping 271 lbs. You’ll need to ensure that the surface you set it on can handle the full weight in addition to your own weight on it. Unless your home gym is set up in a room with a level concrete floor, you will have to be careful where you set it up. Don’t plan on taking this on the road with you either—it’s not portable.
- Can’t Add Weight—You can’t increase the amount of the weight stack. The resistance it provides is plenty for most, but it does have limits in the resistance department.
Best Bowflex Full-Body Workout Machine—Price: $500
The Bowflex PR-1000 is a versatile multi-gym that is safe to use and easy to store. The power rod resistance provides a unique and efficient training stimulus without having to purchase weights.
- No Weights—The Bowflex PR1000 is a flexible rod-based all-in-one home gym. It provides a wide range of exercises in one machine without using conventional weights. The PR1000 uses flexible rods, which Bowflex calls power rods.
- Variable Resistance—The power rods create a variable resistance training experience.
- The Rowing Machine Feature—The PR-1000 can be quickly set up for use as a rowing machine. A sliding rail allows for a full-body cardio workout.
- Not Ideal for Short or Tall People—If you are unusually short or far above average height, some exercises will be awkward to perform.
- Can’t Add More Resistance—You can’t upgrade the PR-1000 with extra power rods. This Bowflex model does not come with an option for increased weight. 210 lb is the maximum resistance level.
Best Single Stack Full-Body Workout Machine—Price: $1,600
Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S
The EX2500S is a durable and well-made cable pulley resistance system. It is a versatile piece of home gym equipment you can use to improve your strength and fitness levels. It is a huge and heavy machine for most home gyms.
The EX2500S is also complicated to assemble and could be an overwhelming project for some people. It’s more in line with commercial gym equipment, but some people like having a traditional gym feel at home.
- Solid Build—This machine is constructed with 2"x4" 12 gauge high tensile strength steel and uses military spec cables. The EXM2500S is sturdy enough to survive the heavy use it would receive in a commercial health club.
- Selectorized Weight Stack—The EXM2500S features a sturdy selectorized weight stack with 210 lbs of weight divided into 10 lbs plates.
- Lifetime Warranty—Body-Solid also offers a lifetime warranty. This type of warranty is unusual.
- Takes Up a Lot of Space—The EX2500S is a large and heavy-piece machine. It’s about 7 feet tall and approximately 4 feet wide. You will need to reserve a good amount of space for it. The whole machine, including the 210 lb weight stack, weighs in at 440 lbs.
- Hard To Assemble—The EX2500S is a complicated piece of machinery that only includes visual instructions. You will need a set of socket tools to complete the assembly. There are no text instructions to guide you through the process.
- Price—r some, the $1,600 price tag is more than enough to dissuade them from—rchasing the EX2500S.
Best Leverage Full-Body Workout Machine—e: $1,500
Powertec Fitness Lever Gym
This is an extremely reliable and robust home gym machine. Users like the plate loading system that allows them to make small increments in resistance. It is also a favorite of some bodybuilders for the isolation factor. This piece of home gym equipment doesn’t look as high-tech as some other machines. However, it’s a versatile piece of equipment that’s found in a lot of commercial gyms and a few home gyms as well.
- Sturdy & Highly Reliable - The Powertec is one of the most solidly built machines on this list. The lever system has a minimal number of moving parts. It’s simple but very effective. The more moving parts and complexity, the greater chances for something to go wrong.
- Very Quiet—e Powertec is a Plate-Loaded system. Rather than using a traditional weight stack, it uses real plates. You won’t hear the usual loud bangs of stack weights slamming into one another.
- Works Good For Tall and Short People—Many full-body machines are less comfortable for really short or tall people. The Powertec seems to do a better job than the rest of the machines. It’s comfortable for a wider range of individuals.
- Weights are Purchased Separately—It does not come with any plates. You will have to buy the plates separately, adding to the already high price tag of the machine.
- Confusing Instructions—People complain that the instructions for assembling the machine are terribly confusing.
Best full-body Workout Machine For Cardio—Price: $800
The American-made Concept 2 SkiErg is a Nordic skiing machine inspired by rowing machines. Adapting key rowing machine elements like flywheel resistance and a PM5 Performance Monitor, the SkiErg turns the user’s orientation vertically to simulate the movements of real cross-country skiing. The machine targets your legs, arms, and core for a complete full-body cardio workout.
- Great Handles—Strapless handles with a texture that doesn’t soak up sweat.
- Strong Monitor—Durable and well-built monitor.
- High-strength Cords—provide options for different pulling methods.
- Versatility—Can be free-standing or wall-mounted.
- Limited Market—Made for more serious athletes.
- Design Function is Limited—Lacks handle and pulley options.
- Not Ideal for Gaining Strength—Mostly for Cardio.
Best Bodyweight Full-Body Workout Machine—Price: $200
TRX All-in-One Suspension Training
The TRX system is one of the most recognized bodyweight training systems around. Today, TRX is used by the military, pro athletes and can be found in many gym chains across the country. By using your own body weight as resistance, TRX allows you to target key muscle groups in the back and core especially.
- Proven History—The original bodyweight training system.
- Convenience—You can set it up at home or on the road.
- Lightweight—So light you can use it in your doorway.
Limited Range—e doorway anchor limits the range of motion.
Not Designed for Big Gains—You won’t make substantial muscle growth gains.
More Injury Risk—TRX puts higher loads on your weaker range.
Which Full-Body Workout Machine Should You Choose?
For most people looking for a full-body workout, The X3 Bar will be the best choice. It’s the most advanced form of variable resistance training available and is perfect for full-body workouts. It doesn’t matter whether your fitness level is in the beginner or advanced stages.
Traditional weights overload your joints and underload your muscles. Your body is seven times stronger at full extension in impact-ready positions compared to joint-compromised starting positions.
The X3 system provides varied resistance through each movement, freeing you to target more muscle, produce higher growth hormone levels, and trigger greater gains.
- Reduce the risk of injury compared to traditional weights and other equipment
- Lift heavy loads with higher repetitions in limited space
- Strength train while protecting both joints and tendons
- Reach complete muscle fatigue faster for greater gains and more weight loss
- Experience a true compact home gym that trains your cardiovascular system and helps burn fat
What Do You Get with the X3 Bar?
The Steel Bar
A 21.5-inch steel bar with machined alloy steel. The bar is rated for over 600 pounds of force. Ball bearings and hook attachments at each end allow the bar to rotate, keeping the band’s orientation consistent. Additionally, the ball bearing feature ensures the bands never get twisted or kinked during a set.
Most people say the bar feels like they’re holding a standard barbell, which is a significant improvement over the flimsy plastic bars on the market.
The Resistance Bands
X3 comes with four resistance bands. The heavy-duty resistance bands are designed to provide more resistance than bands you’ve probably seen in the past.
Each resistance band is made specifically for the X3 system and features layered latex for superior strength. The four included resistance bands come in the following resistance ranges:
- Super lightweight: 10–50+ lbs as a single loop, then doubled over, 100+ lbs
- Lightweight: 25–80+ lbs as a single loop, then doubled over, 160+ lbs
- Middleweight: 50–120+ lbs as a single loop, then doubled over, 240+ lbs
- Heavyweight: 60–150+ lbs as a single loop, then doubled over, 300+ lbs
You can also “double over” a resistance band to double the resistance (the heavyweight band goes up to over 300 lbs).
The X3 Elite resistance band can be purchased separately. It provides 110–300 lb of resistance and over to 600 lbs when doubled over.
The quality and resistance level of the bands is one of the biggest features that sets the X3 Bar apart from the competition. Before X3, the heaviest resistant tubes seen on the market provided only half this resistance weight at most. The X3’s high-resistance bands wouldn’t be nearly as effective or safe without a strong Olympic-style bar or ground plate.
The Ground Plate
Nobody likes standing on resistance bands when training. They pinch your feet and put a lot of uncomfortable pressure on your bones and tendons. They’re also risky. The X3 system solves this common issue by providing a stabilizing ground plate.
The high-density polyethylene surface has a notched-out area on the bottom designed to keep the band in place. Using the ground plate makes exercises like biceps curls and shoulder presses a lot safer and more comfortable.
The plate is designed to withstand over 600 lb of force, allowing it to keep up with the heavy-duty resistance bands.
Every X3 Home Gym System comes with a 12-week online training program to help you get the most out of every workout.
In the beginning, each week consists of two different workouts, each performed twice per week (one workout on Monday and Thursday, the other on Tuesday and Friday for a total of 4 workouts per week). After completing week 4, users move to a 6-day workout schedule.
Each workout is simple and only consists of four exercises. Users perform just one set per exercise. However, that one set is performed to failure (until you can’t move the bar even an inch).
The online program also includes nutrition tips to help you lose weight and gain muscle. The tips vary from week to week and are designed to be progressive. Dr. Jaquish puts a lot of emphasis on different ways to cut sugar out of your diet.
Best Full-body Workout Machines for 2024 Wrap Up
You now have a good idea about what type of full-body workout machines are out there. For some, spending the money on a smith machine combo, bench press, squat rack, and other expensive equipment will give them their total gym.
For those of us with limited time and energy, using a great full-body workout system will be the best choice. Compound exercises are the fastest route to meeting your fitness goals. You don’t need a personal trainer putting you through circuit training hell and measuring calories burned. You just need a well-built machine designed to give you the biggest payoff with the least time.