Exercises for a Challenging Total Body Tri-Set Strength Workout

This sequence of exercises targets each muscle group

This challenging total body workout targets every muscle in your body, including the hips, glutes, thighs, chest, back, shoulders, and arms. Each set includes 3 key exercises. Repeat each set once for a great workout, or twice if you really want a challenge.


See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.

Equipment Needed

Various weighted dumbbells, a barbell, a pull-up bar (or resistance band), a ball, and a step or platform.

How to do the Total Body Tri-Set Strength Workout

  • Warm up with 5-10 minutes of light cardio
  • Perform the exercises in each tri-set, one after the other with very short rests in between
  • For a longer workout, complete each tri-set 2 or more times
  • Use enough weight that you can only complete the desired number of reps

Tri-Set 1: Pause Squat

Woman doing squats butt from behind

Insta_Photos / Getty Images 

Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold medium-heavy weights at your shoulders or sides. See the photo for proper form.

Squat down for 2 counts, hold at the bottom for 4 counts, and then come up with 2 counts

Repeat for 8 reps. 

Resisted Push-Up

Wrap a resistance band around your upper back. Grasp the tubing with each hand. While holding the tubing or handles, place hands on the floor, slightly wider than shoulders

In pushup position (on knees or toes), bend the elbows to lower as far as you can and push back up. The tubing will increase resistance, making the exercise more difficult and thus more effective.

Repeat for 12 reps.

One-Legged Squat

pistol squat

RyanJLane/Getty Images

Place a large inflatable exercise ball against a wall. Lean against the ball so that it is supporting the back. Lift one foot off the floor and lower yourself into a one-legged squat, just a few inches down.

Push through the heel and repeat for 12 reps and switch legs.

Hold weights for added intensity if desired.

Tri-Set 2: Barbell Bench Press

 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lie on a bench or step and hold a heavy barbell with hands wider than shoulders. Lower the weight to your chest and then press it back up, repeating for 12 reps.

Alternating Flies

Choose a moderately heavy weight. While lying on your back, lift the weight up with the right arm and lower out to the side until it is parallel with the bench.

Squeeze the chest to lift the arm back up, switch hands and repeat with the left arm.

Continue alternating for 16 reps.

Incline Chest Press

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lie down on an incline bench or on an inclined step with your head on the higher end of the incline. Hold heavy weights in each hand, keeping your arms straight up over the chest, palms facing out.

Bend the elbows and lower the arms down until the elbows are just below the chest.

Press the weights back up and repeat for 12 reps.

Tri-Set 3: Pull-Ups or Lat Pulldown with Band

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

For this exercise, you can either do ​pull-ups or lat pulldown with a band. 

On a pull-up bar or assisted chin-up machine, do as many wide-grip pull-ups (palms face out) as you can. A proper pull up involves literally pulling your entire body off the floor until your chin is above the bar.

Pull-ups are very difficult for many people, so an alternative move may be a better choice. Substitute with a lat pulldown on a machine or using a band, repeating for 16 reps on each side. 

Front and Reverse Lunge

Holding medium-heavy weights at your sides, step the left leg forward into a lunge.

Push back to start, lifting the left knee to hip level.

Take the left leg back into a reverse lunge and push off the toes to come back to start.

Repeat for 10 reps and switch sides. 

Dumbbell High Row

Hold medium-heavy dumbbells in each hand. Stand with hands wide and tip forward until the back is parallel to the floor, abs engaged and back flat.

Squeeze the upper back to pull the weight towards the chest.  Lower and repeat for 15 reps.

Keep the abs tight and bend the knees as needed to support the lower back.

Tri-Set 4: Bent Knee Deadlift

Verywell / Ben Goldstein  

Stand with your feet wide apart, and place a barbell on the floor in front of the feet.

Squat down (knees behind toes and abs in) and pick up the weights as you stand up.

Squat back down, put the weights down and stand up.  Repeat for 12 reps. 

One-Armed Row

Woman doing a dumbbell row
Woman doing a dumbbell row. Inti St Clair/Getty Images

Place the left foot on a step or the knee on a weight bench.

Support the body by putting your left hand on your thigh as you hold a heavy weight in the right hand, hanging the weight down towards the floor.

Squeeze the back to pull the elbow up in a rowing motion until it is level with the torso. Lower and repeat for 12, then switch sides. 


Verywell / Ben Goldstein  

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and hold medium-heavy weights in front of the thighs.

With the back flat, shoulders back and abs in, tip from the hips and lower the weight as far as your flexibility allows.

Raise up, squeezing the glutes.

Repeat for 12 reps.

Tri-Set 5: Overhead Press Alternating Arms

Hold heavy weights with elbows bent outward, weights next to the ears.

Hold that position and alternate pressing each arm up for 12 reps (1 rep includes both sides).

Incline Curls

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Begin standing with your feet about hip-distance apart. Hold one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward. Let your arms relax down at the sides of your body.

Bend at the elbow and lift the weights so that the dumbbells approach your shoulders. Your elbows should stay tucked in close to your ribs. Lower the weights to the starting position.

Repeat for 15 reps.  

Tricep Press

Sit on a ball or chair and hold a single heavy dumbbell in both hands with arms extended overhead, elbows next to ears, arms straight.

Bend the elbows and slowly lower weight behind you until elbows are at 90 degrees--keep the elbows in and right next to ears.

Contract triceps and straighten elbows to beginning. 

Take It at Your Own Pace

You will probably find some of these exercises challenging as you get started. Rather than allowing yourself to become frustrated, do a smaller number of challenging exercises or use a lighter weight until you are ready to progress.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."