Cross training workout: exercise your full body with this routine

Improve your fitness and physique with this whole-body cross training workout

Man doing cross training workout in gym
(Image credit: Getty)

Cross training workouts are efficient. Unlike a pure strength or cardio session, you tick a lot of fitness boxes within the one gym visit when you cross train. 

You will experience variety in a single workout, so your motivation stays high. You won’t get bored or repeat exercises over and over, plus you’ll have unlimited workout creativity because there are many challenges open to you. Given the number of training methods in cross training, you’ll need to wear the best shoes for cross training (opens in new tab).

In this article we’ll look at a cross training workout that mixes strength and cardio elements. You’ll train your whole body in less than an hour and enjoy fantastic results in the process.

Simple and effective cross training workout

In the workout you’ll mix three types of cardio and be performing seven resistance exercises. This means you’ll train all the muscles in your body and perform a significant amount of cardiovascular exercise. The plan is to keep the rest periods at no longer than 60 seconds between sets.

The exercises are ordered so you won’t train the same body part twice in succession, so when one body part is working, the others are resting. This is so you won’t fatigue too quickly, which would make the exercise quality drop.

Lift a weight you can manage all of reps of each exercise with, but you should be fatigued at the end of each set. If it’s too easy, move up to the next weight, and if it’s too hard do the reverse.

This particular routine is designed for a gym environment. Want home exercise ideas? Try this full body home workout (opens in new tab) instead. 

Treadmill

Man running on treadmill in gym

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: To start the workout, run at a comfortable speed for 1 mile or 10 minutes

Guidance: You're just getting started, so keep a steady state at this stage. You should still be able to hold a conversation – that's the level of exertion you're aiming for. When you’ve finished either the mile or the 10 minutes, it’s into the first round of the weight-training stage.

Push ups

Older man doing push up

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: Perform 3 x 8-10 (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

Guidance: Lie prone on the floor with your hands slightly outside of your shoulders. Keeping your core tight and your back straight (preventing the lower back from sagging), push yourself up until your arms are straight. Lower yourself down until your chest nearly touches the floor. Need an adjustment? Perform the exercise with your knees resting on the floor, to take away some weight from the movement.

Trains: chest, shoulders, triceps, core

Squats

Woman squatting with barbell on back

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: Perform 3 x 8-10 (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

Guidance: Place a barbell across your back or hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height and stand up straight. Keeping your chest up, push your hips back, bend your knees and squat until your thighs reach parallel with the floor. Pause and then stand back up straight. If you want a gentler version of this exercise, try doing it without the weight. 

Trains: Legs, core, glutes

Military press

Gym class performing military press exercise

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: Perform 3 x 8-10 (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

Guidance: In a standing position, hold a barbell across your chest, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Keeping your core tight, press the bar overhead until your arms are fully extended. At the top of the press, pause and slowly lower the bar down to your chest. If you find this too difficult with a weighted barbell, try replicating the movement with lighter dumbbells or doing it with an unweighted barbell. 

Trains: Shoulders, upper chest, triceps, core

This is the first weight-training section over with, so now you move onto the second cardio burst. The rowing machine is ideal because it’s tough, but there’s no impact on the joints.

Rowing machine

Woman using rowing machine

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: 1,000m or five minutes. Whichever is quicker.

Guidance: Try to maintain a powerful rowing stroke throughout – pace yourself well, though, so don’t sprint at the start otherwise you’ll tire too quickly. When you’ve finished the row, it’s straight back to the weight training. We’re going slightly heavier now, with sets of six to eight reps for these exercises rather than 10.

Deadlifts

Older man doing deadlifts in gym

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: Perform 3 x 6-8 (3 sets of 6-8 reps)

Guidance: Place the bar on the floor to start. Keep your back straight, bend your knees and crouch down until you can hold the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Maintain an upright torso throughout. Keep your back straight and lift the bar from the floor, initiating the movement with the legs. When the bar reaches thigh height, push your hips through to complete the movement. When you’re stood up straight, pause and lower the bar to the floor by keeping your back straight and bending your knees.

Trains: lower back, legs, core

Dumbbell bench press

Woman doing bench press with dumbbells

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: Perform 3 x 6-8 (3 sets of 6-8 reps)

Guidance: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie back on the bench and position the dumbbells to either side of your torso, in line with your shoulder horizontally – you should feel a stretch across the chest in the starting position. Press the dumbbells up, meeting them in the middle. Slowly lower them back to the starting position and repeat.

Trains: chest, shoulders, triceps

Supported dumbbell rows

Man performing dumbbell row exercise in gym

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: Perform 3 x 6-8 (3 sets of 6-8 reps) 

Guidance: Place dumbbells on the floor, either side of a weights bench. Set the bench to a slight incline and lie face down, with your chest being supported by the bench. Take a dumbbell in each hand and row them up to chest height, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. At the top, pause and slowly lower them back down. 

Need something a little gentler? Try the option illustrated in the photo above. Place one knee and one arm on a bench, then – with control – pick up a dumbbell and bring it in line with your torso. Repeat on the other side. 

Trains: back, biceps

That’s the conclusion of the second weight-training section, so now it’s on to the final cardio burst. Here, we want you to work as hard and as fast as you can – this is the chance to ramp up the calorie burn for the last time.

Bike

Woman on exercise bike

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: 1 mile or five minutes. Whichever is quicker.

Guidance: The coaching point here is simple: ride like you’re a paperboy being chased by an enthusiastic dog!

Single leg plank

Man doing single leg plank at home

(Image credit: Getty)

Duration: One minute

Guidance: The final exercise here is the single leg plank – a core exercise to finish off the workout. Support your weight on your forearms and your toes. Keep your back straight and your core tight. Lift one foot off the floor for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Alternate this way for the entire minute. Maintain this position without letting your back sag or your core over-rotate. If you need a gentler variation, try the standard plank for a 30 second duration.

Trains: core

Steve Hoyles is a personal trainer, weightlifting coach and gym owner based in the UK. Across his two decades in fitness he has helped thousands of people improve their health and fitness without the need for fad diets and crazy training plans. He believes health and fitness should be a series of simple endeavours… lift, move, eat and sleep well. He has written about health and fitness for over a decade, including for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, BBC, Catalyst Athletics and hundreds of fitness websites as clients. He’s usually found at his gym (opens in new tab), behind his laptop or being a dad to his two sons!

 You can follow more of his fitness approach by following him on Instagram (opens in new tab).