compound exercises

9 Best Compound Exercises to Supersize Your Muscle and Strength Gains

If you’re a fitness enthusiast and have a workout routine, whether you’re strength training or cardio, there are many different ways to target different muscle groups. Although different training methods have their advantages, if you want an efficient and comprehensive workout, then compound exercises are your best choice.

If you don’t include compound exercises in your fitness plan, it means you haven’t adjusted your weight. Experts agree that failure to perform compound exercises is an incomplete form of fitness and should be avoided. But luckily, even if you don’t intentionally use compound exercises, you can still complete them regularly in your fitness schedule, because compound exercises include some of the most commonly used moves in our fitness routine.

In this article, you can learn what compound exercises are, their benefits, and the compound exercises you can do to ensure you’re performing them optimally and building muscle throughout your body.

What Are Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that engage multiple muscle groups and require coordinated effort across various parts of the body. These exercises involve movements at more than one joint and work multiple muscles or muscle groups simultaneously.

Examples of compound exercises include:

Squats: Engage muscles in the legs, hips, and lower back.
Deadlifts: Work the muscles in the legs, hips, lower back, and upper back.
Bench press: Targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Pull-ups: Work the muscles in the back, shoulders, and arms.
Lunges: Engage muscles in the legs, hips, and core.
Bent-over rows: Target the muscles in the back, shoulders, and arms.

Compound exercises are popular in strength training and weightlifting programs because they are efficient ways to build overall strength and muscle mass. They also help improve coordination, stability, and functional movement patterns.

What Are the Benefits of Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises offer several benefits compared to isolation exercises, which target only one muscle group at a time.

Efficiency
Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, allowing you to get more done in less time. This makes them ideal for those with busy schedules or limited time for workouts.

Functional strength
Compound movements mimic real-life activities and engage muscles in a way that improves overall strength and coordination. This can translate to better performance in daily tasks and activities, as well as sports and recreational activities.

Increased calorie burn
Since compound exercises involve more muscle mass, they typically burn more calories compared to isolation exercises. This can be beneficial for those looking to lose weight or improve body composition.

Hormonal response
Compound exercises, especially those that involve large muscle groups, can stimulate the release of hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which are important for muscle growth and repair.

Improved stability and balance
Many compound exercises require coordination and balance, which can help improve overall stability and reduce the risk of injury.

Enhanced muscle coordination
By engaging multiple muscle groups at once, compound exercises help improve muscle coordination and motor control, leading to more efficient movement patterns.

Overall, incorporating compound exercises into your workout routine can lead to greater strength gains, improved muscle definition, and better overall fitness levels.

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Compound vs. Isolation Exercises

Compound and isolation exercises are two types of strength training movements that target different aspects of muscle development. Here’s a comparison between the two:

Muscle Groups Targeted
Compound exercises: For example, squats work the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Isolation exercises: Target a single muscle group and typically involve movement at only one joint. For example, bicep curls isolate the biceps muscles.

Efficiency
Compound exercises: Are efficient because they work multiple muscles at once, allowing you to train more muscles in less time.
Isolation exercises: These are useful for targeting specific muscles or addressing muscle imbalances but may require more time to work for all muscle groups individually.

Functional Strength
Compound exercises: Mimic real-life movements and improve overall functional strength and coordination.
Isolation exercises: These can be beneficial for targeting weak or underdeveloped muscles but may not translate directly to improved performance in daily activities or sports.

Calorie Burn
Compound exercises: Typically burn more calories due to the involvement of multiple muscle groups and higher overall intensity.
Isolation exercises: Generally burn fewer calories because they target smaller muscle groups and involve less overall effort.

Hormonal Response
Compound exercises: Can stimulate a greater release of muscle-building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone due to the involvement of larger muscle masses.
Isolation exercises: May not have as significant of a hormonal response compared to compound movements.

Muscle Symmetry and Imbalances
Compound exercises: Help promote muscle balance and symmetry by working multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Isolation exercises: Are useful for targeting specific muscles that may be weaker or less developed, helping to address muscle imbalances.

Incorporating a combination of compound and isolation exercises into your workout routine can provide a well-rounded approach to strength training, allowing you to target specific muscle groups while also improving overall functional strength and performance.

What Are the 9 Best Compound Exercises?

Back Squat

The back squat is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It is widely considered one of the most effective exercises for building strength and muscle mass in the lower body.

How:
1. Position the barbell across your upper back, resting it on your trapezius muscles (upper back) and rear deltoids (shoulders).
2. Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, palms facing forward or slightly angled outward.
3. Initiate the movement by bending at your hips and knees simultaneously, lowering your body toward the ground.
4. Keep your weight centered over your midfoot and heels, and ensure that your knees track in line with your toes.
5. Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below, maintaining a controlled and stable position.

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Bench Press

The bench press is a classic compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s a fundamental movement in strength training and is often used to build upper body strength and muscle mass.

How:
1. Position yourself so that your eyes are directly under the barbell.
2. Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing away from you (pronated grip).
3. Unrack the barbell and hold it directly above your chest with your arms fully extended.
4. Lower the barbell in a controlled manner towards your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle relative to your torso.
5. Lower the bar until it touches your chest lightly or comes close to it, depending on your range of motion and comfort level.

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Deadlift

The deadlift is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the posterior chain, including the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and traps. It’s considered one of the most effective exercises for building overall strength and functional fitness.

How:
1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the barbell centered over your midfoot.
2. Position your feet so that the barbell is about an inch away from your shins.
3. Keep your arms straight, shoulders back, and chest up.
4. Engage your core muscles by taking a deep breath and bracing your abdominals.
5. Keep your spine in a neutral position, with a slight natural arch in your lower back.
6. Ensure that your hips are at a height where your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly lower.
7. Drive through your heels and push your hips forward while simultaneously lifting the barbell off the ground.

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Pull-up

Pull-ups are an excellent bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi, biceps, and shoulders. If you want to exercise pull-ups with the help of fitness equipment, you can choose pull up bar station.

How:
1. Find a sturdy horizontal bar that can support your weight. This could be a pull-up bar at the gym or a secure overhead bar, such as a playground bar.
2. Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, using either an overhand (palms facing away) or underhand (palms facing towards you) grip. The overhand grip is typically more challenging and targets the back muscles more intensely.
3. Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended and your feet off the ground.
4. Begin the movement by pulling your shoulder blades down and back, as if you’re trying to squeeze them together.
5. Initiate the pull by bending your elbows and pulling your chest towards the bar.

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Lunge

The lunge is a compound lower body exercise that targets multiple muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. It also engages the core muscles for stabilization and balance.

How:
1. Take a controlled step forward with your right foot, ensuring that your knee does not extend past your toes when you lunge.
2. Lower your body by bending both knees until your front thigh is parallel to the ground, and your back knee hovers just above or lightly touches the floor.
3. Keep your torso upright, with your chest lifted and shoulders back.
4. Ensure that your front knee is directly above your ankle and aligned with your toes.
5. Your back knee should be positioned directly beneath your hip, forming approximately a 90-degree angle with the floor.
6. Your weight should be evenly distributed between your front and back feet.
7. Push through your front heel to drive yourself back up to the starting position.

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Shoulder Press

The shoulder press, also known as the overhead press, is a compound exercise that primarily targets the deltoid muscles of the shoulders, as well as the triceps and upper chest. It’s an excellent movement for building upper body strength and stability.

How:
1. Sit on a sturdy bench with back support, or on a chair with a backrest that provides stability.
2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, with your palms facing forward and your elbows bent.
3. Engage your core muscles to stabilize your torso and maintain a neutral spine.
4. Press your shoulder blades down and back to create a stable base.
5. Keep your wrists straight and aligned with your forearms throughout the movement.
6. Keep your elbows slightly forward rather than directly out to the sides to reduce stress on the shoulder joints.
7. Hold the dumbbells overhead for a brief moment, squeezing your shoulder muscles at the top of the movement.

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Bent-over row

The bent-over row is an effective movement for building strength and muscle mass in the back while engaging the arms and shoulders.

How:
1. Hold a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip (palms facing down).
2. Hinge at your hips to bend forward, keeping your back straight and your chest lifted.
3. Allow the weights to hang directly beneath your shoulders with your arms fully extended.
4. Exhale as you pull the weights towards your lower chest or upper abdomen by bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
5. Keep your elbows close to your body as you row the weights upward, aiming to bring them towards your sides rather than flaring them out to the sides.
6. Focus on initiating the movement from your back muscles rather than relying solely on your arms.
7. Hold the contracted position for a brief moment, squeezing your back muscles at the top of the movement.
8. Ensure that your elbows are fully flexed and your upper arms are parallel to the ground.

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Dumbbell Clean and Jerk

The dumbbell clean and jerk is a powerful and dynamic full-body exercise that combines elements of strength, speed, and coordination. It’s commonly seen in Olympic weightlifting and is an excellent way to build explosive strength and improve athletic performance.

How:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with an overhand grip (palms facing your body).
2. Begin by bending your knees and hips slightly to lower into a quarter squat position.
3. Explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles to generate upward momentum.
4. Simultaneously, shrug your shoulders and pull the dumbbells upwards, using the momentum to bring them up towards your shoulders.
5. As the dumbbells reach chest height, quickly drop underneath them by bending your knees and rotating your elbows around and under the weights.
6. Catch the dumbbells on your shoulders, with your palms facing inward and your elbows pointing forward.
7. Maintain a tight grip on the dumbbells to prevent them from slipping.

Dumbbell Snatch

The dumbbell snatch is a dynamic and explosive exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, legs, and core. It’s a popular movement in Olympic weightlifting and can help improve power, strength, and coordination.

How:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand with an overhand grip (palm facing your body).
2. The dumbbell should be resting on the floor between your feet.
3. Begin by lowering into a quarter squat position, keeping your back straight and your chest lifted.
4. Grip the dumbbell firmly and initiate the movement by driving through your legs and extending your hips, knees, and ankles explosively.
5. As you drive upwards, simultaneously pull the dumbbell upwards by bending your elbow and shrugging your shoulder.

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The Takeaway

Compound exercises are an indispensable exercise if you want to get the most out of your exercise program. All in all, compound exercises can increase your strength, and muscle size, and provide the best results for your endurance, fat loss, and athletic ability. That sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

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