What Are Compound Exercises And Should You Use Them In Your Training?


Compound exercises are oftentimes referred to as the big, basic exercises. More specifically, they are considered multi-joint exercises. You see, there are basically two types of weight training exercises. They are single joint exercises and multi joint exercises.

Single joint exercises are exercises that require movement around only one joint in the body. Multi joint exercises require movement around more than one joint. Single joint exercises are sometimes referred to as isolation exercises.

Some examples of single joint exercises include the triceps kickback and the calf raise. These exercises isolate and put the focus and stress mainly on one muscle, such as the triceps or the calf muscle.

Multi-joint exercises, or the big basic compound movements, are exercises such as the bench press, dip, pull up, squat and deadlift. Multi-joint exercises work multiple muscles at the same time. While many are used to work a specific muscle, such as the bench press and the pectoral muscle, they stress more than one muscle.

For example, the barbell bench press not only works the chest, it heavily stresses the shoulders and the triceps as well. The deadlift, while considered a back exercise, actually works almost every muscle in the body.

Sure, the back gets thoroughly worked on the deadlift, but it also works the quads, hamstrings, shoulders, even the biceps, in addition to all the various back muscles.

In order to get the best results from your training program, in as little time as possible, you’ll want to focus on the big, basic compound exercises.

Let’s take a look at the criteria you should use when evaluating an exercise to use. First, it should focus on a large muscle through a full range of motion. Second, it should include as many other muscle groups as possible. Finally, it should include as much total body muscle as possible.

There eliminate the single joint, or isolation, exercises. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in a training program, but they should not be the focus. This leaves us with compound exercises.

What Are Compound Exercises That Work?

Here’s a list of the most productive compound exercises for your training programs.

1. Deadlift

2. Bench Press (barbell or dumbbells)

3. Squat

4. Standing Press (barbell or dumbbells)

5. Bent Over Barbell or Dumbbell Rows

6. Pull ups and Chin ups

7. Dips

There are also variations of these exercises that are effective as well. For example, for the legs there is also the Bulgarian Split Squat, as well as Lunges. The bench press can be done with a barbell or dumbbells and can be done on a flat bench, as well as a decline bench and various degrees of incline as well.

Pull ups and chin ups can be done with a normal grip, wide grip or close grip, and with palms facing away from the head or toward it.

By focusing on the compound exercises mentioned above as the core exercises in your training program, you’ll be well on your way to great results.

What Are Compound Exercises Used For?

Now, finally, we get to the true power of using compound exercises and that’s the results. But not just results in terms of strength or even building muscle. Those are the obvious and compound exercises are the best for both of those goals.

However, compound exercises are also the best resistance training exercises for fat loss as well. Yes, really.

For starters, compound exercises cause more muscle damage than isolation exercises, and do so over more of the body because they stress more muscle. It takes energy, which is calories, to repair the muscle damage. By doing more damage, you’re burning more calories during the repair and recovery phase, which happens out of the gym. So while you’re resting, you’re burning more calories.

You’ll also burn more calories in the gym as well. And you don’t need boring cardio. Try this experiment. Take a weight you can get 20 reps with on an exercise like deadlifts. Then perform eight reps and do that for eight sets and rest only 30 seconds between sets.

Now do that for one exercise for each major body part, the legs, back, chest, and shoulders. There’s your calorie burning cardio workout.

By using compound exercises in your training, you’ll build more strength, build more muscle and burn more fat, in less time, than other types of training.

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