Contents

The Complete List Of Compound Exercises You Need To Do [46 Awesome Variations]

Why do mediocre exercises, when you can do the best exercises?

You already have an awesome workout template, now you need some exercises to fill it in.

Today, we will go over the complete list of compound exercises you need to do to get amazing results.

Each compound exercise will be listed by the body part, and it will include an instructional video.

Keep reading.

Welcome to Part 4 of The WCT Series on Training.

In Part 1, 3 Basic Principles Of Exercise You Ought To Know Before Working Out, we go over 3 critical concepts you must understand about exercise and fitness.

In Part 2, Every Fitness Training Program Needs To Include These 3 Things we discuss the 6 movement categories as well as the how to alter the amount of sets and reps to achieve your goals.

In Part 3, The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals, we discuss provide a drag and drop template you can use to begin training. We also discuss using Major Upper Body and Major Lower Body Compound Exercises, as well as Minor Upper Body and Minor Lower Body variations.

This post will cover:

    • A List of 46 Compound Exercises For Each Body Part

    • The Best Compound Exercises For Legs

    • The Best Compound Exercises For Chest, Triceps, Shoulders and Back

    • And A Resource For The Best Compound Exercises You Can Do Without Weights

Why You Should Do Compound Exercises

What if I told you that the exercises that you use in your routine can make or break your workout program.

It’s true.

Improper exercise selection can mean the difference between accomplishing your fitness goals and wasting your time.

The good news is…

All of the compound exercises in this post will help you achieve your fitness goals, no matter what they are.

So what are compound exercises?

Compound Exercise Definition

Compound exercises are exercises that train multiple muscle groups at once, making them the most efficient exercises you can perform.

As a result, you get the biggest bang for your buck. You get to train more muscles with less exercises.

This is especially critical for busy people like you me, who don’t have hours to spend at a gym.

These exercises are not only efficient, they are also essential.

Alright, enough chit chat.

Let’s get started…

The List of Compound Exercises For Each Body Part

In this next section we will cover…

  • The Best Compound Exercises For Legs
      • Back Squat
      • Pause Squat
      • Front Squat
      • Box Squat
      • Barbell Split Squat
      • The Goblet Squat
      • Front Rack Reverse Lunge
      • Bulgarian Split Squat
      • Step Ups
      • Pistols
      • Thrusters
      • Wall Sits
  • The Best Compound Exercises For Glutes
    • Conventional Deadlift
    • Sumo Deadlift
    • Romanian Deadlift
    • Trap Bar Deadlift
    • Goodmorning
    • Dumbbell RDL
    • Back Raise
    • Cable Pull Through
    • Kettle Bell Swings
    • The Suit Case Deadlift
  • The Best Compound Exercises For Back
    • Barbell Pendlay Row
    • Underhand EZ Bar Row
    • Pull-ups/Chin-ups
    • Power Cleans
    • Lat Pulldowns
    • Seated Cable Rows
    • Dumbbell Rows
    • Horizontal Pull-ups
    • Face Pulls
    • Chest Supported Rows
  • The Best Compound Exercises For Chest, Triceps, and Shoulders
    • Bench Press
    • Incline Bench Press
    • Overhead Press
    • Dumbbell Press
    • Dumbbell Incline Press
    • Push-ups
    • Dumbbell Overhead Press
    • Dips

  • The Best Compound Exercises For Abs
    • Plank Variations
    • Side Planks
    • Ab Wheel Rollouts
    • Weighted Carries
    • Leg Raises
    • Reverse Crunch

Let’s get started.

The WCT’s Best Compound Exercises E-Book

Download this valuable FREE E-Book that goes over the best compound exercises for each body part (so that you stop wasting your time doing mediocre exercises)

1. The Best Compound Exercises For Legs

The Squat pattern is the most fundamental Lower Body Compound exercise for basic human movement.

If you could only do one exercise, the squat would be it.

Believe it or not, everyone squats numerous times a day.

Every single time you sit down and stand up you are squatting.

Every time you pick something up off the ground (if you do it correctly) you are squatting.

The fascinating thing about squats is that it has so many different variations that every single human can find a scalable version of the squat that they can perform.

You can do squats:

– Against resistance (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and even weight vests)

– With your body-weight (air squats, jump squats, box squats)

– With support (i.e. holding onto a chair that is placed in front of you for additional support)

It is unfortunate to hear people say that they cannot squat down because of pain or restrictions.

So what you’re saying is that you cannot ever sit or stand back up?

Regardless of whatever limitation you may have, there exists a squat variation that you can perform to strengthen and relearn this natural pattern.

This is a movement pattern that must be trained and nourished for the rest of our lives.

Squat Exercises Improve

  • The strength of the legs, glutes and core muscles,
  • The mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles,
  • Lean muscle mass development of the lower body

Ok so without further ado… here are the best compound squat exercises.

Major Compound Leg Exercises

1. The Back Squat

2. The Pause Squat

3. The Front Squat

4. The Box Squat

5. The Barbell Split Squat

Now we will cover what I call the minor compound exercises.

These are exercises that are done either with a dumbbell, a kettlebell, or your own bodyweight.

The only reason why they are considered ‘minor’ is because they do not cause as much fatigue as a barbell squat exercise.

Here are the best of the best…

Minor Compound Squats Exercises

6. The Goblet Squat

7. The Front Rack Reverse Lunge

8. The Bulgarian Split Squat

9. The Front Rack Dumbbell Step Up

10. The Pistol Squat

11. The Thruster

12. The Wall Sit

With that we transition into the best compound exercises

2. The Best Compound Exercises For Glutes & Hamstrings: The Hip-Hinge

The next best Lower Body Compound pattern is the hip hinge. These include exercises that activate and strengthen your glutes, your back, and your hamstrings.

These are likely to be the compound exercises women are looking most forward to.

These powerful muscles work synergistically to extend (straighten) your hips from a flexed position.

Not only do these muscles look good, but many trainers would also argue that the glutes are one of the most important skeletal muscles in the body.

The glutes are responsible for keeping you erect while you stand and while you walk, and allow you to stand up from a seated position.

Hip hinge exercises include all variations of the deadlift exercise and a few other close variations.

Hip Hinge Exercises Improve

  • The strength of the upper back, low back, hamstrings, glutes and core muscles,
  • The mobility of the hips and thoracic spine
  • Lean muscle mass development of the lower body and posterior chain

Ok, let’s get to the best glute exercises

Major Compound Glute & Hamstring Exercises

13. The Conventional Deadlift

14. The Sumo Deadlift

15. Romanian Deadlift

16. Trap Bar Deadlift

17. Goodmorning

Now we transition to the minor compound glute and hamstring exercises.

Minor Compound Glute & Hamstring Exercises

18. The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

19. 45 degree Back Raises

20. Cable Pull Throughs

21. The Kettle Bell Swing

22. The Suitcase Deadlift

3. The Best Compound Exercises For Back: The Pull

The upper body pull is the first essential Upper Body Compound exercise that training programs must include in their arsenal.

These exercises train the large muscles of the back including the rhomboids, the posterior deltoids, the trapezius muscles as well as the spinal erectors.

Don’t worry.

These exercises also train your biceps too.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to their training is neglecting the upper body pull.

Unfortunately, the back muscles are not ‘mirror muscles.’ This means that they are less likely to be trained because they cannot be readily seen in the mirror.

Being able to pull objects towards you is a critical human movement that deserves constant attention. These exercises include all rowing variations as well as pull-up variations.

Pulling Exercises Improve

  • The strength of the upper back, lats, and posterior shoulder muscles,
  • The posture that is created from rounded shoulders and a kyphotic spine,
  • Lean muscle mass development of the upper body

Here are the best back exercises..

Major Compound Back and Bicep Exercises

23. The Barbell/Pendlay Row

24. The Underhand EZ Bar Row

25. The Pull-up/Chin-up

26. The Power Clean

Minor Compound Back and Bicep Exercises

27. The Lat Pull Down

28. The Seated Machine Row

29. The Dumbbell Row

30. Horizontal Pull-ups/Inverted Row

31. Face Pulls

32. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

You can also vary the height at which you pull which can emphasize a different part of the back; i.e you can row towards your face, towards your chest or towards your abdomen.

Next we move onto the best compound exercises for chest.

4. The Best Compound Exercises For Chest, Triceps and Shoulders: The Push

The opposite of the upper body pull is the upper body push.

The upper body push is the group of movements that train the deltoid (shoulder) muscles, the triceps and the pectoralis (chest) muscles.

The options are numerous, and they include

  • horizontal pushing,
  • vertical pushing,
  • and incline pushing variations.

These exercises are extremely popular and are already being performed frequently in all gyms.

It is important to know that excessive use of the upper body pushing exercises can exacerbate an anterior dominant posture, creating muscular imbalances and shoulder pain.

Push exercises must be balanced by an equal amount of pull exercises.

Examples are the barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, barbell overhead press, dumbbell overhead press (standing and seated varieties), incline barbell bench press, incline dumbbell bench press and all pushup variations.

Pushing Exercises Improve

  • The strength of the chest, the arms, the triceps, and the shoulder muscles,
  • Stable shoulder positions in the horizontal and vertical plane,
  • Lean muscle mass development of the upper body

Let’s cover the best ones now…

Major Compound Chest and Tricep Exercises

33. The Bench Press (Close, Medium and Wide Grip)

34. The Incline Bench Press (Close, Medium and Wide Grip)

In order to get the most tricep activation from these two exercises, bring your hands closer together and perform them with a close grip.

In addition, the bench presses train the shoulders well, but they tend to stimulate the chest more than the shoulders.

In order to compensate for this, you should aim to include the best compound shoulder exercise which is the..

The Major Compound Shoulder Exercise

35. The Barbell Overhead Press

Again, you can vary your grip here too.

The closer your hands are, the more tricep activation you will get.

Minor Compound Chest and Tricep Exercises

36. The Dumbbell Bench Press

37. The Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

38. The Push-up

Minor Compound Shoulder Exercises

39. The Dumbbell Overhead Press (Seated and Standing)

You can do this exercise standing or seated.

If you sit, less muscles get activated, namely your core.

40. The Dip

In order to stimulate the shoulders during the dip, it is important to maintain an upright posture.

Naturally, you are going to lean forward some, but try to limit this. The more you lean, the more your chest will get activated.

These Are The Only 4 Exercises You Need To Do, Period

I could stop there. These would be the only 4 exercises you need to build muscle, get in shape, burn fat, get ripped, and create effective workouts.

  1. Squat

  2. Hip Hinge

  3. Upper Body Push

  4. Upper Body Pull

These 4 exercises will provide a full body workout and drive significant changes in your body composition.

The other advantage is that you can use a variety of exercises that fall into one of these four categories.

But what about abs?

Many of the aforementioned exercises will train your core indirectly, but no training program is complete without some direct ab work.

5. The Best Compound Exercises For Abs

Core training is already a key component of all training regimens. However, most programs go about training the abs in the wrong way.

The abdominal muscles should not be trained via sit-ups or crunches.

Sit-ups are a horrible exercises that have become extremely popular with magazines and other fitness ‘gurus.’ These exercises create poor spinal mechanics and repetitively place your neck and spine in compromised positions.

Your abdominal muscles are meant to stabilize your core and allow you to maintain a well-aligned posture despite external forces. This is why your abs should be trained for stability.

Having true core strength will allow you to resist lateral, sagittal, and rotational forces on your spine.

Core Exercises Improve

  • The stability of the rectus abdominis, the obliques and the transverse abdominis muscles
  • Spinal health and integrity
  • Low back pain

Okay, the best ones are..

Major Compound Ab Exercises

41. Plank Variations

42. The Side Plank

43. The Ab wheel Rollout

44. The Weighted/Loaded Carries

45. The Leg Raise Progression

46. The Reverse Crunch Progression

To see more amazing core exercises, check out our post on the 17 best core exercises.

Don’t Forget To Pick Up Your Free E-Book With All Of These Exercises!

A Workout Routine That Uses Only These Compound Exercises

So now you know the 5 best exercises ever.

If you only use the exercises listed above, you will improve your strength and fitness levels significantly over the long haul.

Stop wasting your time doing tricep kickbacks and bosu-ball sit-ups.

If you want real results, and you don’t have an hour to spend at the gym, then check out our compound exercise program for busy professionals.

It is a step-by-step 15-week strength program that utilizes only compound exercises.

The best part?

Each workout only takes 30 minutes to complete. Check it out at WCT Strength Program.

Can I Just Do Compound Exercises?

The short answer is yes.

If you only did compound exercises, you would be training more than 80% of all the muscles in your body.

That is not a bad proposition.

With that said, some compound exercises are difficult to recover from, and may not allow you to strengthen specific weak points you may have.

Therefore, I recommend that you do an ~80/20 split.

80 percent of the exercises you do should be compound, and 20 percent could be isolation. Even if you did 90/10 you would probably still be perfectly fine.

What If I Have Pain When Doing Compound Exercises?

One of the biggest excuse people have for not exercising is… pain.

I’ve been there many times, and believe me, pain sucks.

Sometimes pain only occurs during certain exercises such as a squat or a bench press.

The number one reason for pain is improper technique AND poor joint positioning when performing the movement. Besides working on your technique, your posture may also play a role in preventing you from achieving these positions. Check and see how your posture holds up at You Probably Have Bad Posture- Here’s How to Tell.

You will be shocked to learn how pivotal a role posture plays in how well you move and exercise.

Can I Do Compound Exercises At Home Without Weights?

What if you can’t make it to the gym and you could only exercise from home?

Thankfully, our bodies could be used as external resistance. There are several bodyweight exercises that you can do, all of which resemble the 5 exercises described above.

We have created a comprehensive post on The Best Compound Exercises You Can Do At Home

In this post, we cover the 7 key fundamental movement patterns and provide several variations to increase or decrease the difficulty of each exercise.

What Do You Think Of Our List of Compound Exercises?

So there you have it. These are the only exercises you need to create effective workouts, get in shape, build muscle, and lose fat!

To quickly recap

  • The best exercises to build muscle and get in shape are large compound exercises that train functional movement patterns

  • These include the squat, the hip hinge, the upper body push, the upper body pull and ab stabilization exercises.

  • Each of these 5 exercises has many variations, making them useful for any trainee at any level.

Next you should learn:

  • How Often Should I Workout?
  • How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do?
  • How Much Weight Should I Lift?

Now we turn it over to you. What do you think?

Do you agree with our list?

Any exercises you would remove from the list?

Any exercises you would include?

Comment below and let us know!

P.S – Don’t forget to share these compound exercises with someone you care about.

And don’t forget to download your copy of the WCT Workout Template to get you started!

We’d be lying if we said there was one ultimate exercise that would help you burn fat and build muscle. But after speaking to two experts for tips on burning fat and building muscle, two words kept coming up: compound exercises. Compound exercises are multijoint movements like squats and deadlifts that work groups of large muscle. Because they elicit a greater energy expenditure compared to smaller, isolated movements like the bicep curl, your body will burn more calories and fat.

Nutrition is also important in order to change your body composition, but when it comes to exercise specifically, Pratik Patel, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, director of performance nutrition and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the New York Giants, told POPSUGAR to do “movements that recruit more groups of large muscle mass,” aka compound exercises, to get a greater burn.

Rondel King, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, told POPSUGAR that in order to build more muscle, you must first make sure your workouts focus on muscle hypertrophy (maximal muscle growth). Here is the hypertrophy format checklist: your rep and set scheme should be between three and five sets of 12 and 15 reps for every exercise in your program. According to Rondel, “You can also do heavy lifting . . . like compound lifts, squats and deadlifts, where you can do a little more weight” to burn fat and build muscle.

Now that you know why compound exercises are integral to lowering your body fat percentage and increasing your muscle mass, here’s a list of exercises you can create a workout from. Be sure not to do them all at once — you’ll be extremely sore and in the gym all day. If you aren’t sure how to create your own workout, here’s a strength-training workout to get you started.

Seven Best Compound Exercises For Maximum Gains

If you’re looking to build size and strength, then you need to be doing compound lifts.

These are your main, ‘heavy’ lifts which form the base of any strengthening routine.

And if you train regularly, it’s most likely that you’ll already be including a few of these lifts in your workouts. But what’s so important about them? Why do we need to do them to get stronger? And which compound lifts will get you the best results?

Here, we’re going to break down the core principles of compound lifts and go through some of the most effective ways to build muscle.

What are compound lifts?

Compound lifts are any strengthening exercise where you’re using more than one muscle group at the same time. They include exercises such as squats and deadlifts, and there are plenty of benefits to be had from doing them:

  • They’re efficient – by working several areas at once, you can save time. Perfect if you’re trying to squeeze a couple of workouts around a busy schedule, or simply if you want to fit more in at the gym.
  • They allow you to lift heavy – by relying on more than one muscle group, you can afford to load up the weight and go heavy. And this is exactly what you want if you’re looking to get stronger, build muscle and progress.
  • They’re complex – compound lifts also require a lot of focus. And unless you’re a really experienced lifter, you’re always going to be looking to improve your form. So, there’s always something to work towards when you’re down at the gym. Perfect if you’re the type of person who gets bored easily.
  • They burn more calories – doing bigger moves that engage more muscle groups while lifting heavier loads, are all things that contribute to burning more calories. And by taking on more weight, you use more of the glycogen stored up in your muscles. Great for using up that pent-up energy.
  • They get your heart rate up – done right, strength-based workouts can be just as good at getting your heartrate up as cardio-based ones. The reason being, you’re using several muscles at the same time and you’re also asking a lot out of them. So, to make sure your muscles are kept topped up with enough energy to lift, your heart needs to pump harder.
  • They help improve your mobility – compound lifts are often quite technical. And being able to do them correctly, as well as hit all the right muscles, means having a good amount of joint mobility. Hips, shoulders, knees, ankles and wrists all play their part in helping you build muscle. And so, as well as working on your strength, compound exercises also help you focus on improving your mobility.
  • They help to improve your coordination – compound lifts often take years to master. Every little detail should be spot on – not only so you can build muscle but also so you can avoid getting injured. So, learning the movements and allowing your muscles to learn as well, is great for helping you focus and improve your coordination.

Now that we know why compound movements are so important, we can start to look at which ones are going to help you get the best results.

Best compound exercises

Below, we’ve listed a compound workout that is the most effective in building muscle across all of your major muscle groups.

1) Squats

Why do them:

Squats are most likely going to the exercise when you can take the most weight. Mainly because the weight is already placed on top of you, but also because you don’t need to arch or move around to complete the exercise.

That’s not to say they’re easy. And getting the technique right when you’re lifting a decent amount of weight at the squat rack is all the more reason to be accurate with your form.

But in terms of building muscle mass, squats are vital as they hit so many areas at once. Plus, you can pile on the weight for maximum gains.

What they work:

Quads, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and core.

2) Barbell hip raises

Why do them:

Your glutes and hamstrings are two of the most important areas to strengthen. They’re your support when you squat, your strength when you deadlift and your power when doing any form of plyometrics or sprint work.

They can be, however, notoriously difficult to strengthen. And when looking to target these areas, many people will do squats, not realising that these aren’t necessarily the best exercises to do to work these muscles. Unless you can really push your weight back, squats mainly focus your quads. And to really bring your glutes and hamstring up to speed, you need to be changing it up with some more focused lifts.

Barbell hips raises are a great way to work your hamstrings and glutes. And because you can load the barbell up, you can really bring your posterior chain up to speed, which will help with a range of other exercises as well.

What they work:

Glues, hamstrings, lower back, core, hip flexors and biceps.

3) Deadlifts

Why do them:

Deadlifts are one of those compound strength exercises that many people are just not sure about. From a young age, many of us are taught that bending while lifting is bad. So, from a beginner’s perspective, they can look like injuries waiting to happen.

However, the correct technique involves keeping your back straight throughout the whole exercise.

It’s true that technique is really important when deadlifting. However, once you have got the form correct, they are more likely to help prevent injuries then create them. They’re incredibly useful for targeting the weaker areas of your posterior chain and they will really help you to make great strides in reaching your strength goals.

The important thing to remember is to get the technique right. Practise with just a barbell and make sure you’re lifting with your glutes and hamstrings, not your upper body.

Just starting out? Shrug bars will help you perfect your form while you’re still learning. They will also help to eliminate the temptation to let your weight fall forward as you lift.

What they work:

Hamstrings, lower back, glutes, hip flexors and core.

4) Incline bench press

Why do them:

Bench presses are great, but pecs are big muscles. So, doing flat bench presses tends to just target one part. By varying your bench presses and doing both incline and decline versions, you can target the upper and lower chest as well.

Incline bench presses are particularly important because they work your upper chest. This is going to help lift your chest muscles as well as balance everything out.

You probably want to go for a 45-degree angle, but this will change slightly depending on your height and body type. The most important thing to do is remain engaged with your muscles. That way, you’ll be able to tell you have the right angle because you’ll be able to feel what muscles you’re working.

What they work:

Upper chest, front delts and triceps.

5) Clean and press

Why do them:

The clean and press is a slightly simplified version of the clean and jerk which is an Olympic weightlifting move. It’s a very technical exercise and is something that’s more suited to experienced lifters. It is, however, fantastic for building muscle because it works so many areas in one go. And because it’s so complex, it’s ideal for developing your functional fitness levels.

A clean and press is basically a close-body deadlift which is then followed up with a shoulder press. The most difficult part of this exercise is the transition in the middle. This is where you need to change your grip on the bar so you can go from a pull to a push. You also need to have a good amount of flexibility to be able to catch the bar and pause with it front-loaded at the top of your chest.

They take a lot of practice but are great for building strength as well as Crossfit style exercises.

What they work:

Quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, core, hip flexors, delts, upper chest, lats, traps and triceps.

6) Parallel dips

Why do them:

Parallel dips are fantastic for building muscle mass across your upper body. They’re not the easiest of exercises, but that’s what makes them a fantastic challenge and all the more satisfying when you finally get the hang of them.

There are a couple of different types of parallel dips – those that target the chest area and the type that focuses your triceps. It just depends on how you position yourself.

Do them with weighted chains, to really pile on the muscle.

Just remember, if you have any shoulder issues, particularly with your ac joint, you’re better off leaving these and substituting them with upper body exercises that are less strenuous.

What they work:

Delts, triceps, chest and core.

7) Pull ups

Why do them:

The term ‘pull ups’ refers to a multitude of exercises that can be done on a pull up bar. The most popular type being chin ups. However, all forms have their benefits so once you have mastered one type, it’s good to keep mixing it up.

Pull ups are one of the best ways to target your back and they’re great for improving your functional fitness levels too. And by having to take your entire bodyweight, they’re ideal for building up your grip strength too which is vital for a full range of lifts.

What they work:

Lats, delts, traps, biceps and core.

Include accessory lifts

Compound lifts are ideal for ensuring your training is both efficient and effective. But it’s also important you supplement your heavy lifts with accessory lifts – such as working with dumbbells – to help maintain balance and improve functional fitness. This is also a good way to target any weaker areas.

Want to know more about including compound lifts in your training? Check out the different types of deadlifts for building both strength and muscle mass.

And if you have any questions or would like to get in touch, you can find us on Instagram @MirafitOfficial.

Compound Exercises Bring Compounded Results: Get More In Less Time!

Most people who don’t exercise will often state lack of time as their reason for not starting a regular fitness program, but it is possible for people to juggle busy lives and still find the time for a quality workout!

The key is to build a weight-training program composed of compound exercises.

Compound Vs. Isolation Exercises

Exercises can be classified as either compound, which involve multiple joints and more than one muscle group (such as the deadlift, bench press, and overhead press), or isolation exercises, which are exercises that isolate a single muscle group only (such as a triceps pull-down or calf raise).

For the most time-efficient workouts, compound lifts are recommended because a mere 8-10 compound exercises can stimulate all the major muscles in the body at once. Compound lifts create the greatest change in body composition in the shortest time, and have the added benefit of helping to develop the body proportionately.

Since compound exercises require the use of multiple joints, more muscle groups are recruited and used per compound exercise than with other exercises.

For example, the deadlift is a multijoint exercise because both the hips and knees are working to execute the movement, triggering several connected muscle groups at once, including the glutes, hams, quads, lats, traps, deltoids, and the full range of grip and core muscles!

On the other hand, the biceps curl is a single-joint exercise since only the elbow joint is moving. The biceps curl only works one major muscle and is an isolated exercise. Focusing on isolation movements when you’re strapped for time and trying to get the most out of your workout routine seems about as silly as only working out the toes of your left foot and praying for overall muscle growth.

The best way to get a quality workout that hits multiple muscle groups is through compound exercises, even without heavy weights. Compounds performed with even just a barbell and body weight, in a high-rep routine, can provide a total-body, muscle-building workout that puts single arm exercises to shame.

An added benefit is that compound lifts also increase overall strength and size far more effectively than single-joint, isolation exercises because they signal the production of large concentrations of testosterone and growth hormone.

Some people are afraid of getting too big following a program of compound lifts, but most people don’t have to worry about that. Women, especially, do not often possess enough of the hormone testosterone to accidentally build large, bulky muscles simply by following a full-body weightlifting routine.

Overall, single-joint exercises are not less important than compound movements—isolation exercises play an important role in fitness, especially for body sculpting—but if your schedule calls for reduced exercise time, compound exercises are the way to go.

Compound Exercises For Huge Results

For a powerful compound workout, consider incorporating these exercises into your routine. You can use heavy weights, or even scale down to just body weight if needed.

EXERCISE 1: Barbell Squat

Tied for the kingship of lower-body exercise, the squat is at the top of the list as one of the best compound exercises.

EXERCISE 2: Barbell Deadlift

The deadlift’s importance in lower-body muscle building can’t be overstated, but it’s also an incredible upper-body builder, so if you had to choose between the squat and the deadlift for all-around strength training, the deadlift dethrones the squat.

EXERCISE 3: Dumbbell Lunges

Along with squats and the deadlift, lunges rock for lower-body development and strength-building, hitting the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, abs, and back all at once.

EXERCISE 4: Barbell Bench Press

Watch the muscles of your back develop and take shape in no time at all with this granddaddy of exercises for the back. You will also be impressed with how toned your arms will become without doing even one biceps curl!

EXERCISE 5: Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Downs

Watch the muscles of your back develop and take shape in no time at all with this great exercise for the back. It will also tone your arms!

EXERCISE 6: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The overhead shoulder press is excellent for developing the shoulders, upper back and neck, and for toning the triceps. The overhead press can also be performed with a barbell.

EXERCISE 7: Abdominal Bicycle

This abdominal exercise, done on the floor, is one of the best compound movements to target the whole abdominal area, including the upper, lower, and side regions.

How Many Sets Should You Do?

If you’re only starting out, one set of each of these exercises to muscle fatigue—probably between 8-12 reps—is enough for one day’s workout, using light weights.

The last few reps of each set should be challenging but shouldn’t cause you to compromise your form.

You can do this workout on alternating days like Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to give your muscles some rest days.

It’s best to ease into compound movements over a period of a few weeks, creating good habits before increasing your weights. As you progress in technique and strength, extra sets of each exercise and more weight can be added.

You’ll soon figure out the best way to structure your fitness routine. Maybe two days a week you go light and only do six of the exercises, 2 sets apiece, and one day a week you go heavy, adding weight but only doing half the exercises, with more sets apiece.

At some point, you can start to superset with pull-ups or chin-ups, which are also compound exercises, between your weighted compound exercises.

Compound exercises are proven, time-efficient muscle builders, so the next time you’re tempted to back out of your workout because of time concerns, remember that you should be working smarter, not longer. Combined with plenty of sleep, clean-eating principles, and a positive attitude, you’ll see huge improvements in your fitness level!

Want results? You have to master the basics! Compound moves build the best bodies.

Here’s how to make them work for you! Compound lifts are often a topic of discussion.

Yet, so many people still use isolation training for the majority of their workout. The point of strength training workouts is to develop muscle strength, power, definition and/or size.

Regardless of the training program being chosen, compound lifts are capable of being inserted into everything. Let’s take a look at this type of exercise and what benefits may await you.

What Are Compound Lifts?

All across the internet this term is used. Still, not too many actually give enough info about compound lifts. That changes here! A compound lift is also referred to as being a big lift or core lift.

Basically what is being stated is that the compound lift will be the strongest exercise being performed with top training priority. That means all energy is concentrated on a compound movement. The energy left after this is then depleted with isolation lifts.

Compound movements are ones that use multiple muscle groups and joints to perform an exercise. The muscles in your body work to encourage contraction, balance and energy. This allows you to target multiple muscle groups that increase strength and power. In short, the compound lift is like a full body workout and an awesome strength training workouts for beginners.

Isolation lifts are when you target a particular muscle region.

Some fitness pros have stated that in order to have big arms, you must gain 10 pounds of weight.

This is just a theory, but it does make pretty good sense. Your body must grow as a whole in order for you to get the body type you want.

Compound training requires resistance. That resistance can be from your bodyweight or some type of equipment involving free weights to progressively change your resistance levels.

Compound Lifts Revolve Around Push and Pull Exercises

Push and pull exercises require multiple joints and muscle groups to move the resistance. Hence the reason compound based moves revolve around these two categories of training.

There are lots of examples of compound lifts. These include deadlift variants, squat variants, pull-ups (no barbell required), dip (no barbell required), lunges, bent over rows, overhead press and chest press variants. You can always find fitness videos to show you how to do deadlifts, squats, etc.

These are the primary exercises you will use for compound training. They all work similar muscle groups, but more emphasis is placed on varying muscle regions. For example, squats focus more on your quads. Meanwhile, deadlifts focus more on spinal erectors.

The barbell is great for these lifts.

Why?

The reason is because you are forcing your muscles to work together during resistance movement. But, if you have only dumbbells available it is okay.

You just have to make sure that you are moving the dumbbells at the same time unless you are focusing on offset and unilateral training.

Compound Lifts Are The Foundation For All Exercises

You have probably heard it time and again because it’s true. Proper form allows you to prevent injuries and receive benefits from training. Compound exercises were not only created to change your body structure, but also to help you develop proper form.

Think about it for a second. Almost all exercises require your spine to be in the neutral position. Of course, this is where all vertebrae are vertically straight with each other.

Each compound exercise uses the neutral spine position to allow core muscle activation for stabilization and max energy output. You properly learn to move the weight safely and effectively, while also learning how to properly breathe and create the most beneficial workout possible.

Proper breathing patterns are not only crucial for energy output, but they are also needed to prevent blacking out. Black outs after a strenuous lift are common for powerlifters. The reason is obvious. There is a heavy load being moved. But, the average person should not be blacking out during training.

Why?

Safety concerns. The whole load could drop on your body. That could be devastating. Once dizziness and black spots start to appear, stop what you’re doing. Rack the weight right away. Go take a seat with your body sitting upright. Regroup and recover.

Breathing is natural, but can be hard for a lot of people when it comes to coordinating it with exercise movements. You just have to not think about it. There is a right way to be breathing during compound lifting.

How?

Grasp your bar and inhale deeply and slowly with your stomach. Do not breathe in with your chest. Of course, this is when you roll your shoulders back.

Stomach breathing is properly using your core muscle known as the diaphragm. Exhale slowly as you lift the load and move the weight for contraction. Inhale again as you lower the load down and repeat for every rep.

Simply put, inhale before and after rep. Exhale during the rep. Once you have the squat, deadlift, chest press and overhead press down, you can then move on to all the other exercises since you would have the basic fundamentals of movement and posture perfected.

All Load Types Can Be Used To Fit Your Training Program

The common belief is that compound lifts are only good for you with heavy load settings. Wrong! This is a false assumption that should be changed. Compound movements can be used for circuit training with lighter loads and muscle building with moderate loads.

It’s true that heavy weight settings are beneficial.

Doing 5x5s non-stop could be bad for your joints with all the heavy loads being used. A lot of bodybuilders from Arnold’s days have even stated that they wish they lowered the weight and increased the reps more often. A good workout to check out is The Arnold Workout.

Keep this in mind when you choose any exercise for training. It is not the amount of weight being used necessarily. It is the type of training program that best fits the chosen load to be used.

The compound training program that will be given shortly is not being stated as the only training you should be doing. You are just taking a break from isolation training.

With that being said, you could of course just stick to the compound training if you wish. Isolation exercises are still good for targeting areas where you may be lacking in strength or size. Of course, taking a break from them is good from time to time.

Doing so will help you get your focus back on the big lifts that truly matter.

Rest And Recovery Are Important For A Compound Lifts Workout

Big lifts require a lot of energy since you are using a large number of muscles to boost your maximum power and strength output. With that being said, you need at least 24 hours of rest between each training day since you will be doing a full body workout.

This guarantees full recovery that allows your muscles to heal and grow. You will most likely still feel sore, but just not as much once the next training day arrives.

Proper nutrition planning is essential for recovery. When you do not have enough nutrients within you, your body suffers terribly. Muscle soreness is going to be high and fatigue will be long lasting.

Why?

The reason is because your muscles are injured and crying for nutrients to repair and recover. Don’t forget that! It’s a mistake made by a lot of people. You need to eat the right amount of nutrients that fit with your training and muscle building diet.

Protein is your primary concern when it comes to muscle repair and growth. This nutrient is essential for your body to live and function properly. That is especially the case when it comes to fitness training. Carb cycling is also quite important.

Why?

They give your body instant access to use nutrients for energy. Fats then become the secondary energy source once your carb storage has been depleted.

This Is The Compound Lifts Training Program

You will be doing a three-day per week workout program. This will last a whole month. You will use only moderate weight settings for the first three weeks of training. After that, you will do heavy load training in the final week.

Here is what your training program will look like:

Monday you do compound lifts.

Tuesday is for rest.

Wednesday you do compound lifts.

Thursday is another rest day.

Friday you again do compound lifts.

Saturday and Sunday are both for rest.

Weeks 1-3 is for Moderate Load Training

Moderate load training is using moderate load settings. You can progressively increase the settings after each set is done. The last set may or may not cause failure. But you should be close to fatigue by the end of the workout with the exercises given.

Notice that it does not take a lot of exercises within a training day to get the job done. You will train for three days each week. On those days, you’ll be doing four different exercises. You should be resting for the remaining four days of the week.

Here’s a more in-depth look:

Monday Exercise Sets Reps

Barbell squat 5 8-10

Barbell flat bench press 5 8-10

Bent over rows 5 8-10

Bodyweight dips 5 15

Tuesday is for rest.

Wednesday Exercise Sets Reps

Conventional deadlifts 5 8-10

Leg press 5 8-10

Overhead barbell shoulder press 5 8-10

Barbell lunges 5 8-10

Thursday is for rest.

Friday Exercise Sets Reps

Stiff leg deadlifts 5 8-10

Front squats 5 8-10

Incline barbell bench press 5 8-10

Bodyweight pull-ups 5 15

Saturday and Sunday are both for rest.

Week 4 Is For Heavy Load Training.

Heavy load training should be done with a spotter to prevent injury. But, if no spotter is present, then you should just slightly increase the load amount beyond your moderate load setting.

During this week, you will be doing four exercises on each of your four training days. Of course, you will rest on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s a more in-depth look:

Barbell squat 5 5

Barbell flat bench press 5 5

Bent over rows 5 5

Weighted dips 5 10

Tuesday is for rest.

Conventional deadlifts 5 5

Leg press 5 5

Overhead barbell shoulder press 5 5

Barbell lunges 5 5

Thursday is for rest.

Stiff leg deadlifts 5 5

Front squats 5 5

Incline barbell bench press 5 5

Weighted pull-ups 5 10

Saturday and Sunday are both for rest.

Stretching Is Key With Compound Lifts.

Make good use of the rest days. Be sure to stretch and keep your muscles on the right course to recovery. This is the only way to allow for muscle growth and strength increases. You could also do this training program using lighter load settings (12 to 15 reps per set) in the first three weeks.

In the final week you can perform with moderate load settings.

Stretching is mentioned because this allows your muscles to keep from tightening up and actually prevents the soreness. Using dynamic stretches prior to training for a warm up is good.

Why?

Simple, it gets your joints ready for the strenuous exercises to come. This is not a requirement, but it may be a good thing to do. Static stretches are better performed after your training program.

Conclusion

If you ever had any doubts about compound moves being great for your body, they should be erased by now. These simple moves are the basics you need. Train smarter and hit more muscles per rep.

Make sure you aren’t sacrificing form to get through your workout. Compound moves are precise. If you do them right, results will follow.

– By Brian Pankau, CPT

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Compound Health and Fitness

Compound Health and Fitness is a fitness studio that offers more than just personal training and classes. Our philosophy is built on our 3 pillar system of exercise, nutrition, and mind+body. We help coach our clients in developing a healthy lifestyle through programs designed to improve these 3 key areas of health.

We have a team of trainers who specialize in different methods of training from functional fitness, sports performance, TRX, Yoga, rehabilitative therapy, and more! And all can be done in a 1-on-1, small group, or even class setting.

Our studio also has a demo kitchen on site where we do hands on coaching around healthy cooking, hold community education events on nutrition, and partner with local food vendors to bring healthy eating to Overland Park and surrounding areas.

It’s time you found a health coach that doesn’t just count the calories burned, but is counting the healthy days added to your life. That is what we pride ourselves in at Compound Health and Fitness, better quality of life!

How to Add Compound Exercises to Your Workout Routine

1. Deadlift

Equipment needed: barbell (optional; can add weights to barbell for additional challenge)

Muscles targeted: forearms, lats, glutes, hamstrings, core, upper-, mid-, and lower back

  1. Stand with barbell on floor, feet hip-width apart, toes under bar.
  2. Drive your hips back, keeping your core tight and your spine neutral as you squat down. Your back should remain flat, not curved.
  3. Grasp the bar with your hands. Your hands should be placed on the bar slightly wider than your thighs.
  4. Keep knees soft and push through your heels as you start to lift.
  5. Pull the bar up so your hips and the bar rise at the same time, keeping bar close to your body as you lift.
  6. Finish in a tall stance with a glute squeeze at the top.
  7. Slowly lower the bar to the ground while hinging at the hips.
  8. Perform 10 to 12 reps and rest for at least 30 to 60 seconds between sets. Work up to 3 sets.

2. Reverse lunge to balance with bicep curl

Equipment needed: set of dumbbells

Muscles targeted: glutes, hamstrings, abs, hips, biceps

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be extended down with your palms facing the body.
  2. Step backward with right foot and lower hips and legs into a lunge position.
  3. Anchor your left foot into the ground and bring your right foot forward to return to standing. At the top, stay balanced on the left foot, and don’t let the right foot touch the ground.
  4. Perform a bicep curl with both arms at the same time.
  5. Return right leg into lunge position, bringing arms back down and dumbbells parallel to the body.
  6. Repeat 6 to 8 reps on the right leg before switching to the left.
  7. Rest 60 to 90 seconds after completing the left side. Complete 2 to 3 sets.

3. Squat

Equipment needed: none

Muscles targeted: quadriceps, glutes, and calves

  1. Start with feet slightly wider than hip-width, toes turned slightly out.
  2. Keep your chest up and out, engage your abdominals, and shift your weight back into your heels as you push your hip back.
  3. Lower yourself into a squat until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor. Your knees should remain aligned over your second toe.
  4. Keep your chest out and core tight as you push through your heels to stand back up to your starting position. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
  5. Perform 10 to 15 reps. Work up to 3 sets.

4. Front lunge with twist

Equipment needed: none

Muscles targeted: glutes, hamstrings, abs, hips

  1. Stand up tall with feet shoulder-width apart and with your arms outstretched in front of you.
  2. Step the right foot forward into a lunge position, keeping your arms outstretched. Your front leg should form a 90-degree angle and your knee should not extend beyond your toes. Your back leg will also form a 90-degree angle.
  3. In the lunge position, twist your upper body to the right, then twist back to the center.
  4. Return right leg to starting position and lunge forward to repeat movement with the left leg.
  5. Perform 8 to 10 lunges on each leg. Work up to 3 sets.

5. Dumbbell shoulder press on exercise ball

Equipment needed: set of dumbbells, ab or exercise ball

Muscles targeted: abs, deltoids, pectoralis major, triceps brachii

  1. Begin seated on an exercise ball with your core engaged. Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Place dumbbells on your thighs to start and then use your thighs to help you propel dumbbells up to shoulder height, at a 90-degree angle with elbows to the sides and dumbbells facing forward.
  3. Press dumbbells straight up until your arms are straight overhead.
  4. Slowly return your arms to a 90-degree angle, with your elbow in the shoulder height position. Don’t go lower than this or you’ll put pressure on your shoulder joint.
  5. Perform 12 to 15 reps. Work up to 3 sets.

6. High plank T-spine rotation

Equipment needed: none

Muscles worked: abs, shoulders

  1. Start in a push-up position, arms under shoulders, with your core engaged. Legs should be about hip-width distance apart for this exercise.
  2. Squeeze thighs and glutes while anchoring right hand straight into the floor.
  3. Lift left arm up and twist your hips and shoulders toward the left, pressing them up toward the ceiling.
  4. Bring left arm down to the ground and “anchor” left hand straight into the floor.
  5. Alternate and twist so the right arm is in the air.
  6. Perform 8 to 10 reps on each side. Work up to 3 sets.

© Rob Hammer / Aurora Photos/Getty Images These multi-tasking movements are called compound exercises. Learn why they make you a more efficient athlete, and then add this list of compounds exercises to your workouts ASAP.

Nothing is more frustrating than working hard in the gym day in and day out, but feeling like you’re not seeing results. Thing is, to really see (and feel) major changes, you’ve got to focus your workouts wisely.

We’re listening! Tell us what you think about Microsoft News

Compound exercises not only make your gym time more efficient, but help you get stronger and fitter in less time. Here’s why, plus everything else you should know about compound exercises, including a list of the best compound exercises to do and how to add them to your workouts.

What Are Compound Exercises?

To understand compound exercises, you need to understand the difference between compound and isolation exercises. (Related: Common Weight Lifting Questions for Beginners Who Are Ready to Train Heavy)

Compound exercises are exercises that use multiple muscle groups and require multiple joints to move throughout a rep, explains trainer and physical therapist Bill Kelley, D.P.T., ATC, CSCS, owner of Aeries Physical Therapy in South Florida.

In a squat, for example, both your legs and core fire up as you move your hip, knee, and ankle joints to lower down into that seat-like position and then stand back up.

Isolation exercises, on the other hand, use just one muscle group and require only one joint to move in order for you to perform a rep.

A perfect example: Biceps curls. You contract your biceps muscles to move your elbow joints and curl the dumbbells up, but no other joints get in on the action.

The Benefits of Compound Exercises

Isolation exercises are great if you want to really hone in on one muscle group, whether it’s because you want to avoid using injured muscles or to grow that muscle group specifically; however, compound exercises are an absolute game-changer for your workouts and overall fitness.

When you use multiple muscle groups together to perform a compound exercise, you “create greater functional strength, greater force, and power, and get a bigger bang for your buck in the gym,” says Kelley.

In fact, a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Physiology compared exercisers who used compound versus isolation exercises throughout eight weeks of otherwise equivalent workouts, and found that the group who focused on compound exercises made greater gains in both strength and VO2 max (a marker of cardio fitness).

In the short-term, using multiple muscle groups together demands a lot of energy from your body, meaning you burn more calories. In the long-term, those improvements in functional strength, force, and power mean you not only perform better in the gym but can also handle everyday tasks (like lugging your suitcase up a broken airport escalator) more easily.

“More complex movements require better control and timing of multiple muscle groups—as well as the joints they act upon,” says Kelley. “And that coordination and control translate to other activities, helping you be stronger and more balanced out in the world.” (These strength moves will also help you prevent common muscle imbalances.)

An added bonus: “Since compound exercises involve a greater amount of muscles to contract, they create greater resistance against the heart as it pumps blood, which ultimately strengthens your heart,” explains Kelley. After all, your heart’s a muscle, too! (This is just one of many major benefits of lifting weights.)

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Oh, and on a purely practical level, since compound exercises work more muscles at once, you can string together just a few moves to create a full-body workout, adds Kelley. (Getting a full-body burn from isolation moves alone would likely take twice the time.) So if you’re crunched for time but still want to reap as many benefits from your workouts as possible, compound moves can get you there.

Are There Any Downsides to Compound Exercises?

While there’s not really much of a downside to burning more calories, getting stronger faster, and becoming an all-around more physically badass human, there is one thing gym newbies should keep in mind.

“Compound exercises are generally more technically advanced,” says Kelley. “Essentially, they require more skill to maintain proper form—especially once you start feeling fatigued or increase the weight you use.”

Without proper motor control and awareness during compound exercises, you do increase your risk of getting hurt. While it’s pretty difficult to mess up a biceps curl (and not a huge threat to your body if you do), doing a squat improperly can put your body (read: lower back) in a pretty sketchy position—especially if you’re using heavier weights. (That’s why you should always do compound exercises first during your workout (when you have the most energy) and save isolation moves for later.)

As with anything in fitness, though, just “start slow and light and progress as your strength and skill allow,” says Kelley. And it’s never a bad idea to have a trainer give you a form-check or walk you through the proper movement patterns solo or during a class.

List of Compound Exercises to Incorporate Into Your RoutineIf you want to max out the strength- and calorie-burning benefits of a short gym session, a few staple compound exercises can help you build functional strength all over.

Squats: Squats involve your ankle, knee, and hip joints, putting everything from your quads and hamstrings to your glutes and core to work. This fundamental exercise helps you go from crouching to standing and is a movement you use in pretty much every sport (even to get on and off the couch), says Kelley.

Deadlifts: “This is a big one for your posterior chain muscles, like the hamstrings, glutes, and back extensors,” Kelley says. Deadlifting involves your knees, hips, and back, developing your ability to pick things up off the ground (and boosting your grip strength).

Lunges: The handful of lunge variations out there all require a stable core and strong, balanced legs as you bend at the hips, knees, and ankles to lower down towards the ground and then push back up.

Shoulder Presses: You may think overhead presses use only your shoulder muscles, but your core fires up to keep your torso stable, your chest and triceps help you push that weight upwards, and your lats and biceps help you lower them back down. Need to put something heavy up on a high shelf? Shoulder presses gotcha covered.

Bench Presses: Firing up pretty much all of the muscles in your upper body (and utilizing all of the joints from your shoulders to your fingers), the bench press is a quintessential upper-body move.

Video: Why does my workout cause weight gain? (Courtesy: Shape)

Looking for the secret sauce that will make your workouts shorter and more effective? “Combination exercises give you more bang for your workout buck—working double the muscle groups than you normally would doing the isolated exercises on their own,” says Women’s Health fitness director Jen Ator, C.S.C.S. “It also can make your routine more efficient and cut your time in the gym in half.”

That’s why we asked Jen to demonstrate 10 combo moves that’ll help you get in and out of the gym while still challenging your entire body:

​ ​

They key to mastering this routine: “You want to make sure you’re focusing on both elements of the exercise and completing both parts independently rather than having it blend into one fluid motion,” says Ator. “Sometimes it can help to simply say the name of the move or the motion as you’re doing it: ‘Squat down, raise up.’” (Score more fit-spiration with Women’s Health’s Ignite routine from Next Fitness Star Nikki Metzger!)

Choose four to six moves from the video above, striking a balance between exercises that require you to “row” or “raise” and those that ask you to “press.” Do 10 to 12 reps of each exercise back to back without rest, repeating for a total of two to three sets.

Work More Muscles in Half the Time with These Compound Exercises

13. Split squat chop

Holding a weight with both hands, step right foot back and hold. Reach the weight up on a high diagonal toward right shoulder, keeping hips facing forward and allowing shoulders to twist.

Bend knees and lower into a lunge as you bring the weight toward left hip in a chopping motion. Return to starting position with the weight on a high diagonal. Repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: Keep the weight at your chest as you perform the lunge.

14. Hip drive halo into bottoms-up lunge

Sit on the floor with your butt resting on your heels. Hold a weight against your chest with both hands.

Squeeze glutes and drive hips forward to an upright kneeling position. Step right foot forward.

Engaging abs, circle the weight around your head, making a “halo.” Bring the weight to your chest and step up to stand, keeping left foot off the floor.

Lower your left knee back to the floor and reverse the entire movement to return to starting position. Repeat on the other side, making sure to halo the weight in the opposite direction.

Make it easier: Perform the same movement, but skip the halo. Complete the hip drive to kneeling lunge to standing position without pause.

15. Reverse lunge with biceps curl

Start standing, holding a weight in each hand, with palms facing forward. Step right foot back, engaging glutes and abs to lower into a lunge.

Perform a biceps curl, keeping shoulders pressed down and abs tight. Lower the weights and step right foot forward to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

16. Glute bridge chest press

Lie faceup with knees bent, core engaged, and hands at your sides holding weights. Squeeze glutes to raise hips into a bridge.

Perform a chest press by pushing both weights up over chest, engaging pectorals. Lower weights and hips together.

Make it easier: Drop the weights and practice raising your arms in a chest press motion, creating your own resistance.

17. Glute bridge with overhead press

Lie faceup with knees bent and core engaged. Holding a weight with both hands just below your sternum, squeeze glutes to raise hips into a bridge.

Push the weight straight up, then slowly lower it overhead with elbows slightly bent. Slowly bring the weight back overhead, then lower it to your chest before lowering hips to the floor.

Make it easier: Skip the overhead press. Hold weight in place while lifting hips or extend weight up without bringing it overhead.

18. Hip thrust abs rocker

Sit with knees bent and legs hip-width apart. Place hands on the floor directly under shoulders, fingers facing away from your body. Squeeze glutes and lift hips straight up so you’re in a tabletop position.

Lower hips back to the floor. Engage your abs and lift hands and feet off the floor, reaching arms forward.

Lean back and extend legs forward, coming into a V shape, keeping your shoulders and upper back off the floor. Return to starting position.

19. Lateral lunge with chest press

Stand with feet wider than shoulder width, holding a weight in both hands at your chest. Lean to the right, pushing hips back, bending right knee, and keeping left leg straight.

You should feel your right glute engaged and a stretch in your left leg. At the lowest part of the lunge, push the weight forward, engaging pectorals (chest muscles).

Your arms don’t need to get totally straight. Focus on keeping your upper body upright. Pull weight back to chest and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

20. Single-leg deadlift to hammer curl

Stand on your right foot with knee slightly bent, holding a weight in your left hand. Keep back straight as you hinge forward at hips.

With left leg straight out behind you, let arms relax at shoulders and weight hang toward the floor.

Engage glutes and hamstrings to slowly stand. Perform a biceps curl, keeping shoulders down and engaging your core for stability.

21. Single-leg Romanian deadlift with row

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in right hand. Lift right foot off the floor and hinge at your waist, leaning forward with a straight back. Think of your body as one straight line from head to heel.

Let right arm naturally fall forward so it’s perpendicular to your torso. At the lowest point, perform a row with the weight. Return to starting position.

Make it easier: Skip the row.

22. Push-up to side plank

Start in a high plank position and perform a push-up. Lift left hand off the floor and rotate your hips to come into a side plank on your right hand, extending left arm up.

Return to high plank. Perform another push-up and repeat the side plank on the other side. Make sure to keep your shoulders and hips moving in the same line.

23. Low-to-high Spiderman plank

Start in a forearm plank, with shoulders directly over elbows and core tight. Push off right forearm to come to right hand, then repeat on left side to come to a high plank position with shoulders over wrists.

Keeping abs tight and hips still, bring right foot toward the outside of right hand and tap the floor so you’re in a low lunge position for a moment.

Return to high plank, then tap left foot to outside of left hand. Return to starting position.

24. Squat jumpback to push-up

Stand with feet hip-width apart and lower into a squat. Jump back into a high plank position, keeping abs tight and hands under sternum.

Perform a push-up. Hop feet forward to a wide squat so hands are between feet. Stand up and jump.

Make it easier: Step back one foot at a time into the high plank (instead of hopping) and skip the push-up.

25. Side plank with leg lift

Start in a right side forearm plank with feet stacked, hips lifted, core engaged, and shoulder directly above elbow. Raise left leg 6 inches, then slowly lower. Repeat on the other side.

What Are Compound Exercises and Why Are They So Important?

Rob Hammer / Aurora Photos/Getty Images

Nothing is more frustrating than working hard in the gym day in and day out, but feeling like you’re not seeing results. Thing is, to really see (and feel) major changes, you’ve got to focus your workouts wisely.

Compound exercises not only make your gym time more efficient, but help you get stronger and fitter in less time. Here’s why, plus everything else you should know about compound exercises, including a list of the best compound exercises to do and how to add them to your workouts.

There are two main classifications of exercises: compound exercises and isolation exercises. In this post, we will cover exactly what a compound exercise is.

A compound exercise is one that uses multiple muscle groups at the same time to perform a movement. A good example of a compound exercise is the squat; it uses many muscles in the legs and lower body, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes as well as engaging the core and lower back.

Isolation movements, on the other hand, tend to focus on a single muscle or muscle group. A bicep preacher curl, for example, would focus almost entirely on the bicep, and in just one plane of movement.

What are the benefits of Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are prescribed to athletes, as they replicate movements that are more natural and ensure the athlete is training as efficiently as possible. Take the squat again; it is replicating the movement for standing up, driving forward, jumping and many other movements you might see in sports or real life, with each muscle getting attention during the movement.

The other benefits of adding compound exercises into your workout are as follows:

  • Burning more calories per exercise, as more muscles are being used
  • Allows you to work more muscles in a short space of time, increasing the efficiency of your workout
  • Can help to improve coordination and balance
  • Can help to improve joint mobility and stability through moving in natural patterns
  • Increases your heart rate during strength training, helping to assist the improvement of the cardiovascular system
  • Allows you to exercise the same muscle group for longer periods with lower levels of fatigue
  • Allows you to lift heavier weights and build overall strength more quickly.

Examples of Compound Exercises:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Lunge
  • Bench press
  • Dips
  • Lying pullover
  • Push ups
  • Pull ups
  • Lat pull downs
  • Shoulder press
  • Jump rope

Why use Compound Exercises?

If you are looking to improve your overall strength, and get in an efficient and functional workout, then one full of compound exercises will certainly give you what you need. If you have goals that are more specific or requirements, then isolation can often be more suitable.

A program that incorporates both types of movements can be highly beneficial, with compound movements forming the foundation of the workout and isolation exercises added on top to target specific muscle groups.

5 Compound Exercises You Should Add to Your Workout

Sometimes when we train we try to get too fancy. We forget the simple exercises that can hit multiple body parts at once. Compound exercises, for example, allow you to “use the heaviest load possible, involve multiple joint articulations and stimulate a large amount of muscle mass,” explains Eric Cressey, president of Cressey Sports Performance. “As an added bonus, the majority of these movements are performed standing position, meaning that you will need to display proper control of your body. Compound exercises are also more likely to increase your anabolic response to training, which is paramount when you’re trying to increase lean muscle tissue.”

Compound exercises address many actions at once, making them both efficient and effective. Here are some of the best compound exercises to add to your workout.

1. Hip Hinge or Deadlift

This compound movement targets the forearms, lats, glutes, hamstrings, core stabilizers and upper-, mid- and lower-back. It’s an amazing exercise for the whole posterior chain.

Stand with feet about hip-width apart. Make sure you are close enough to the bar. Drive your hips back. Take tension out of the bar. Brace your core, keep tension in the lats and the knees soft as you push your heels into the floor. As the bar approaches the knees, think about shooting your hips into the bar. Finish in a tall stand while clenching your glutes.

2. Squat

This exercise enhances mobility in the hips and ankles, and challenges core stabilizers, posterior chain, lower legs and quads. Through lack of soft-tissue work, faulty movements, mobility issues and muscle weaknesses, many people struggle to perform a deep squat, but ideally, you want to work toward achieving a full, deep squat.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Dial your feet into the floor, activating your hips. Control the downward, or eccentric phase toward the floor—don’t let gravity lower you down. Move the tailbone toward the floor, while maintaining a tall, engaged torso. Push the floor away and rise to stand, fully extending.

3. Loaded Carries

This exercise targets grip, shoulders, back, core stabilizers, arms and legs—in other words, it’s a full-body exercise that is also very functional. You can perform loaded carries with dumbbells, buckets of water, kettlebells, sandbags, trap bars, etc. Just be sure the load is heavy.

Brace your core and bend down and grab two of the heavy implements you will be using and walk as far as you can. Rest and then do it again…and again.

4. Pull-ups

The primary movements of the lats are upper-arm adduction, internal rotation and extension, but their secondary properties make them adaptable to train for posture. Strengthening the lats will provide better postural stabilization of the spine and lower pelvis because of its attachment points. The pull-up also trains grip, arms, shoulders, back, core and pelvic floor.

Use a bench or jump and grab a pull-up bar. Arms should be fully extended. True pull-ups work through a full range of motion. Retract the scapula, stabilize the girdle and initiate the work or muscular contractions by pulling your body up until your chin is over the bar. Lower the body in a very controlled manner until arms are fully extended.

5. Push-ups

Push-ups are often done incorrectly, largely due to poor body awareness and a lack of postural stability and core strength. Push-ups require dynamic control to prevent the body from sagging. Your arms, shoulders, serratus, core stabilizers and pectoral muscles, along with the legs, glutes and lats are all engaged to help you maintain a zipped-up line.

Place your hands on the floor directly under the shoulders with fingers spread wide. Pack the shoulders, squeeze the glutes and press the heels away. Keep your head in line with your body and bend the elbows to lower the chest with control toward the floor. There should be no sagging anywhere in your body. Keep the legs, glutes and shoulders engaged as you press back up to the starting position.

Are Compound Exercises Better Than Isolation Exercises?

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You want to build muscle.

You want to get strong.

And you want to do these things as quickly and effectively as possible.

What exercises should you do and why?

Ask different people and you’ll get different answers.

Some will say that compound exercises are all you need. They train every muscle in your body and are “highly functional” to boot.

Others will say compound exercises are overrated or even dangerous, and that the right isolation exercises can give you everything your little heart desires.

Who’s right?

Well, in this article, we’re going to find out. By the end, you’ll understand the pros and cons of both compound and isolation exercises and how you should use them in your workouts based on your goals.

Let’s start with a simple question: what exactly are compound and isolation exercises?

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What Is a Compound Exercise?

A compound exercise is an exercise that involves multiple joints and muscle groups.

For example, the squat involves moving the knees, ankles, and hip joint and requires a whole-body coordinated effort, with the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes bearing the brunt of the load.

On the other hand, an exercise like the Russian Leg Curl involves moving the knees and focuses on strengthening the hamstrings and glutes.

(Sure, there are other muscles that this exercise engages, but not forcefully enough to stimulate muscle growth.)

That’s why the Russian Leg Curl isn’t considered a compound exercise (it’s an isolation exercise, which we’ll talk more about in a minute).

Here are the most common compound exercises you’ll find in weightlifting programs:

Bench Press

All variations of the bench press–barbell and dumbbell and flat, incline, and decline–are compound exercises.

The primary muscle group trained is the chest (pectorals), but all bench pressing also heavily involves the shoulders and triceps.

Overhead Press

This exercise is also known as the military press, and it’s one of the best shoulder exercises you can do.

It also trains the triceps and, when performed standing, the and core (to some degree).

Dip

The dip is a fantastic upper body compound exercise that can be performed in two ways:

  1. Upright
  2. With a slight forward lean

When upright, the primary muscle group engaged is the triceps, and the shoulders and chest are the main assistance muscles.

When slightly leaned forward, the chest becomes the primary muscle group and the triceps and shoulders assist.

Deadlift

The deadlift is the ultimate compound exercise because it involves just about every joint and major muscle group in your body.

The primary muscle groups trained, however, are known as the posterior chain (the muscles on the backside of your body, such as your hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles).

Pretty much every other muscle in your body assists in the movement.

Pull-Up

The pull-up is a simple compound exercise that will never go out of style because it works.

The primary muscle group is the back and the secondary muscle groups are the biceps and forearms.

Cable Pulldown

This is essentially a machine pull-up that allows you to specify a weight to pull.

Accordingly, the primary muscle group is the back and the secondaries are the biceps and forearms.

Row

Whether a barbell, dumbbell, or machine row, it’s a compound exercise.

The primary muscle group is the back, of course, and secondaries are the biceps and forearms.

Squat

Like the deadlift, the squat isn’t just another compound exercises–it’s a whole-body exercises.

And that goes for all variations–front squat, back squat, split squat, and so forth.

It’s estimated that over 200 muscles are activated in the squat, but the primary muscle group trained is the quadriceps.

When performed properly, the glutes, hamstrings, and calves are also forcefully recruited.

Leg Press

The Leg Press is a compound exercise that requires less technical skill and stabilizing muscles than the squat.

Similar to the squat, the primary muscle group trained is the quadriceps and the secondary groups are the hamstrings and glutes.

The Bottom Line on Compound Exercises

As you can see, most simple movements that have you push, pull, and squat against the forces of gravity are compound exercises.

You may also notice that all pushing involves the chest, shoulders, and triceps, all pulling involves the back and biceps, and squats and deadlifts involve large portions of the body.

If you have some weightlifting experience under your belt, you also know that compound exercises also allow you to safely use heavy weights.

This makes them particularly good for building muscle and strength. (We’ll talk more about this soon.)

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What Is an Isolation Exercise?

An isolation exercise is one that involves just one joint and major muscle group (the participation of other muscles is limited).

The biceps curl is an example of an isolation exercise because the only joint involved is the elbow and the biceps muscles to do more or less all of the work.

Here are the most common isolation exercises you’ll find in weightlifting programs:

Dumbbell Fly

This exercise isolates the chest but is limited by the fact that you can’t use heavy weights without putting your shoulders at risk of injury.

I haven’t done a fly in years but if you like it, I recommend you save it for the end of your chest workouts. (It’s not a replacement for heavy pressing.)

Dumbbell Pullover

Many bodybuilding legends like Arnold, Reg, Ronnie, and Dorian credited this exercise with helping them build their impressive chests.

Research shows they were probably onto something.

Like the dumbbell fly, this exercise is better suited to higher rep ranges and better done after your initial heavy pressing.

Lateral Raise

This is one of the few isolation exercises that I think belongs in every bodybuilding program.

It’s the simplest and best exercise for training your lateral (side) deltoids, which will fall behind your anterior (front) delts if all you do is shoulders pressing.

Front Raise

This is a simple exercise that isolates the anterior deltoid.

It can’t deliver the same results as barbell and dumbbell pressing, but it’s well suited to lighter, higher-rep work.

Cable Straight Arm Pulldown

You don’t see many people doing this exercise but it’s one of the few that allow you to isolate your lats.

Biceps Curl

This is the simplest and most effective exercise for building bigger and stronger biceps.

Leg Extension

This exercise isolates the quadriceps but I generally don’t recommend it because:

  1. It places a large amount of stress on your knee joint and ligaments.
  2. It’s just not a very effective quadriceps exercise.

Leg Curl

This is an isolation exercise for the hamstrings and it’s a worthwhile addition to your legs workouts.

Calf Raise

In many ways, the calves are like the abs.

Some people just come with them and some have to work hard just to have something to show. (I’m in the latter camp.)

The calf raise is the easiest way to isolate the calves and should be used when necessary.

The Bottom Line on Isolation Exercises

As you can see, movements that have you raise, curl, or extend a limb are generally isolation exercises.

These exercises are also generally more suited to lighter weights and higher reps, which makes them good for periodization and controlling workout volume (more on this in a minute).

What Are the Advantages of Compound Exercises?

One of the biggest fitness mistakes people make is underestimating the importance of compound exercises.

I should know because I had to learn this lesson the hard way.

When I first started lifting, I let bodybuilding magazines dictate my diet and training.

That means I ate way more food (and protein) than necessary and did a lot of long (2+ hour) high-rep workouts consisting mainly of isolation exercises.

After about seven years of that, here’s what I had to show for my efforts:

I looked “okay,” I suppose, but I expected more from so many years in the gym.

Soon after this picture was taken, I threw away the magazines, stopped buying supplements, and got serious about educating myself.

I dramatically changed the way I ate and trained and here was me a year or so later:

A huge improvement, if I may say so myself.

But I wanted to gain a bit more size and bring up what I felt were still weak points (my shoulders and lats in particular).

I plied my barbell, dumbbells, and forks and knives for another year and change, and this was the result:

(And this is the look I now maintain more or less year round. Read this article to learn how.)

As you can see, just about every aspect of my physique has dramatically improved since the beginning of my journey.

I should also mention that I’m far stronger now than I ever was before.

In those ~2.5 years, I added close to 100 pounds to my bench press, about the same to my military press, and doubled my squat and deadlift.

And better still, I did it all in just 4 to 6 hours in the gym each week, which was about half of what I used to put in.

One of the major changes in my training that helped me achieve all this was shifting my focus from isolation to compound exercises.

There are several reasons for this:

  • They train many muscles at once.

And the more muscles you can effectively train in a given exercise, the more overall muscle you can build as a result.

(This also makes them time efficient. One compound exercise can do the work of several isolation exercises.)

  • They allow you to lift heavier weights.

The best compound exercises put dozens of muscles and multiple joints through a large range of motion.

Consequently, they enable you to move more weight than isolation exercises and thus better progressively overload your muscles.

This is significant because the better you can progressively overload your muscles, the faster they grow.

  • They significantly raise testosterone and growth hormone levels.

The magnitude of post-workout elevations in anabolic hormones relates to the amount of muscle involved in the workout.

This is why research shows that compound exercises produce larger increases in both testosterone and growth hormone than isolation exercises.

These effects don’t influence muscle gain as much as some people would have you believe, but they do have other benefits as well.

The bottom line is this:

I attribute much of my success with my physique to the fact that, after learning about the power of compound exercises, I made them 70 to 80% of the work I do in the gym.

That is, for several years now, 70 to 80% of the sets that I do every week are of compound exercises.

I still do isolation exercises, but I now know which side my bread is buttered on.

Another major change to my training was the emphasis of heavy lifting (80 to 85%+ of 1RM).

I used to spend much of my training time chasing a pump with fancy techniques like drop sets, supersets, and giant sets.

I no longer do that. Instead, I’ve simplified my approach:

Use heavy weights, hit the top of my rep range (4 to 6, mainly), add weight to the bar, repeat.

This, combined with sufficient weekly volume (total reps), has helped me gain a significant amount of muscle and strength.

So, the key takeaway of this section is this:

If you want to build muscle and strength as quickly as possible, you need to focus your efforts on compound exercises.

If you want to know which exercises specifically and how to build a workout routine that works, check out this article.

What Are the Advantages of Isolation Exercises?

Many people would tell you that isolation exercises have no place in a real weightlifting program.

That all you have to do to build a killer physique is squat, deadlift, and bench and overhead press.

I disagree.

The first thing you must understand is every compound exercise has a prime mover that is the star of the show and will benefit most from it.

Assistance (secondary) muscles can benefit as well, but not as greatly as the primary muscle groups.

This means that compound exercises can create imbalances in the growth and progression of the various muscles involved.

For example, if all you did for leg training was front squats, you’d likely develop an imbalance between the strength and size of your quadriceps (prime movers) and hamstrings (secondary).

If you didn’t address this, you would, in time, increase the risk of hamstring injury, knee problems, and other undesirables.

Another good example is the shoulder development of someone who has done nothing but overhead and bench pressing.

What’s usually missing here is the round, “capped” look that frames the upper body and makes the shoulders pop off the arms.

To understand why, you first need to know that the shoulders consist of three muscles:

  • The anterior (front) deltoids
  • The lateral (side) deltoids
  • The posterior (rear) deltoids

When you overhead press, the anterior deltoids are the protagonists, the lateral deltoids only assist, and the posterior deltoids aren’t involved at all.

This is significant because it’s the latter two muscles–the side and rear delts–that mostly determine how “3-dimensional” our shoulders look, not the anterior deltoids.

Thus, you can have tremendously strong overhead press and relatively underwhelming shoulder development as a whole.

And this is where isolation exercises like the side and rear lateral raises can save the day. They allow you to train these small, hard-to-activate muscles and bring them up to snuff.

Another benefit of isolation exercises is they allow you to better control volume for each muscle group.

When we’re talking weightlifting, volume is the total amount of reps performed, and it’s an extremely important aspect of muscle building.

  • If volume is too low–if you do too few reps per major muscle group per week–you’ll struggle to gain size and strength.
  • If volume is too high, you’ll run into problems related to overtraining.
  • Get volume right, though, and you’ll be able to gain muscle without compromising your recovery.

I break this down fully in another article on the science of hypertrophy, which I recommend you read, but here’s what you need to know for the purpose of this discussion:

Research shows that, when using weights in the 60 to 85% of 1RM range, optimal volume appears to be in the range of 60 to 180 reps per major muscle group per week.

As you can guess, the heavier the training, the fewer reps you can and should do every week.

These findings also agree with another large review conducted by researchers at Arizona State University.

When lighter weights are used, more sets per week is optimal. As the weights get heavier, however, total sets must come down.

For example, if you were training exclusively in the 80 to 85% of 1RM range, like you do on my Bigger Leaner Stronger program for men, you’d want to be around 60 to 80 total reps per major muscle group per week.

If you were doing a low-weight, high-volume type of program, however, you’d want your weekly volume for each major muscle group to be closer to 180 reps.

And if you were doing something in between, like with my Thinner Leaner Stronger program for women, your total weekly reps would be somewhere in between as well.

Now, how does all this relate to isolation exercises, you’re wondering?

Well, isolation exercises allow you to increase the volume on specific muscle groups without impacting others that you need to let rest.

This helps you better program your workout routine to avoid under- or overworking specific muscle groups.

For example…

  • The dumbbell lateral raise allows you to increase volume on the lateral deltoids without putting much stress on the other muscles in your shoulders.
  • The chest fly allows you to increase volume on the pecs without much involving the shoulders or triceps.
  • The front raise allows you to increase volume on the anterior deltoids without involving the triceps.
  • The hamstring curl allows you to increase volume on the hamstrings without engaging the quadriceps.
  • The leg extension reverses this: it isolates the quadriceps without involving the hamstrings. (It’s not a very good exercise, though.)
  • Biceps, triceps, and calf exercises are all isolation movements and are the only way to directly train these muscles without increasing volume on larger muscle groups as well.

This is why a well-designed weightlifting routine includes both compound and isolation exercises.

The compound exercises are the foundation because they’re used to directly train and overload your major muscle groups. This helps you gain overall size and strength.

Isolation exercises are then included to further develop specific muscle groups that aren’t sufficiently trained by compound exercises but that contribute greatly to your overall appearance.

An Example Workout With Compound & Isolation Exercises

Cogent arguments and copious PubMed links mean nothing if you can’t use the information to get results.

And that’s why I want to leave you with a few workouts to choose from that will allow you to put my “teachings” to the test.

In terms of overall results, the 5-day program is better than the 4-day, which is better than the 3-day.

The 5-Day Workout Routine

Working sets are done with 85% of 1RM (4 to 6 rep range) unless specified otherwise.

Warm-up by doing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps with 50% of 1RM.

Rest 3 to 4 minutes in between working sets.

Rest 1 minute in between warm-up sets.

Add weight once you hit the top of the working set rep range for one set.

DAY 1

CHEST & ABS

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Face Pull – 3 working sets of 8 to 10 reps per set with 1 to 2 minutes of rest in between these lighter sets

3 ab circuits

DAY 2

BACK & CALVES

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Optional: Close-Grip Lat Pulldown – 3 working sets

Optional: Barbell Shrugs – 2 working sets

Calf Workout A

DAY 3

SHOULDERS & ABS

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 3 working sets

3 ab circuits

DAY 4

LEGS

Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Leg Press – 3 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 3 working sets

Calf Workout B

DAY 5

UPPER BODY & ABS

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per set with 1 to 2 minutes of rest in between these lighter sets

Barbell Curl – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets (no need to warm up after the chest pressing)

Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 3 working sets

Seated Triceps Press – 3 working sets

3 ab circuits

The 4-Day Workout Routine

DAY 1

CHEST & TRICEPS & CALVES

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Dip (Chest Variation, weighted if possible) – 3 working sets

Seated Triceps Press – 3 working sets

Calf Workout A

DAY 2

BACK & BICEPS & ABS

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Barbell Curl – 3 working sets

3 ab circuits

DAY 3

UPPER BODY & CALVES

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per set with 1 to 2 minutes of rest in between these lighter sets

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 3 working sets

Calf Workout B

DAY 4

LEGS & ABS

Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Leg Press – 3 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 3 working sets

3 ab circuits

The 3-Day Workout Routine

Rest at least one day in between each workout.

DAY 1

PULL & ABS

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Barbell Curl – 3 working sets

3 ab circuits

DAY 2

PUSH & CALVES

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

Optional: Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets

Calf Workout A

DAY 3

LEGS

Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Leg Press – 3 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 3 working sets

Calf Workout B

Pick one of those workouts and do it for the next 8 weeks and see how your body responds.

If you like what happens and you want more, then you should check out my books, which give you a 360-degree understanding of building muscle and losing fat as well as a year’s worth of workouts.

The Bottom Line on Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises

No matter how you look at it, compound exercises deserve more attention than isolation exercises.

  • If your goal is to improve athletic performance (run faster, jump higher, be more explosive, etc.), compound exercises will deliver far better results than isolation exercises.
  • If your goal is to improve whole-body strength, you may not need to do any isolation work whatsoever.
  • If your goal is to build muscle and look good, you’ll get there quickest by focusing on compound exercises and supplementing with isolation exercises where needed.

The only sensible reasons to emphasize isolation exercises would be related to injury and/or age, but even then compound exercises may still be the better choice.

List of compound exercises

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