Fit Tip: Best Exercises for Total Body Strength

Posted On Apr 17, 2019 By James White

A trainer helping a person with a bench press.

When I started working out, I had no idea what I was doing in the gym. I made some progress simply by showing up consistently, but my results would have been much greater if I had a better plan. Back then there was no internet. You learned from muscle magazines or older guys at the gym. The problem with most of the advice was that it was meant for professional bodybuilders, not average guys/gals.

After many years of trial and error, I learned the most effective methods for building a lean, strong physique. This article will outline the best exercises for total body strength that you should include in your fitness program.


Every good training program should include some form of squatting. The squat is one of the fundamental exercises everyone needs to know how to execute properly.

There are many variations of squats. It doesn't matter which version you choose, so long as you perform them with efficient form and they provide a challenge for your body. Squats are a lower-body exercise but they also require use of the muscles of your midsection, back and arms if you are holding free weights.


Pressing is one of the fundamental movement patterns every good training program should include. Just like squats, there are plenty of variations of presses. Each of them has value if your goal is total body strength.

Some of the best options include: bench press, dumbbell presses, overhead presses, floor press, landmine press. A good routine will include a couple different press variations and allow for flexibility and creativity as a training program evolves.

I've had great success with a total body workout plan that includes a different press two or three times per week. For example: day 1- bench press, day 2- overhead press, day 3- single-arm dumbbell presses.

No matter how you set up your program, you should include different pressing variations to achieve total body strength. Pressing exercises primarily target your shoulders, chest, triceps.


Every good strength training program features a significant amount of rowing exercises. The most common are the dumbbell row, barbell row and cable row. One of my favorite row variations is the chest-supported row. It's not as popular as the others, but it's very effective at targeting the muscles of the upper and mid-back, along with the smaller muscles of the rear shoulders.

When your program includes a significant amount of pressing exercises that work the front of your upper body, you want to include a balanced amount of strength training exercises that target the rear of your upper body. This will help keep your shoulders healthy and maintain an aesthetically-balanced physique.

Just like the squat and presses, you want to include a variety of rows in your training plan. One day you can perform cable rows while another day you can choose between chest-supported rows or barbell rows. As always, be sure to learn how to perform each movement properly to ensure safety and the best results from your training.


Some folks call squats the king of all exercises, while others say it's the deadlift. Regardless of which side you fall on, both exercises are essential for total body strength.

There are quite a few deadlift variations, including the standard deadlift with a barbell, sumo-stance, snatch-grip deadlift, dumbbell romanian deadlift, trap-bar deadlift etc.. Each variation has unique benefits. One difference between the deadlift compared to the other exercises we have discussed already is the deadlift is not an exercise you want to perform more than once per week.

The deadlift can be taxing on the lower back and often takes longer to recover from than other exercises. There are always exceptions to every rule, but it's good to be mindful of this factor when you're creating a training program. Try out some deadlifts and see which works best for you. As always, be sure to learn proper technique to ensure your safety and to make continuous progress in your workouts.

The foundation of total body sterngth

Of course there are plenty of other exercises that are great for building total body strength but the four exercises discussed here should be the foundation of your training program. No matter which training program you follow, be sure to include a squat, press, row and deadlift in the majority of your workouts and see your total body strength increase immensely.

Be sure to challenge yourself with heavier weights or more reps when possible and don't forget to nail down your nutrition! Best of luck to you on your quest for total body strength.

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