Have you ever done squats, pull-ups, deadlifts, or push-ups? If the answer is yes, then you’ve already done compound exercises before.
Compound exercises are amongst the most common and widely used moves on the fitness scene and for good reason. They have a long list of benefits, including weight loss and muscle gain, not to mention they are quite fun too once you get your head around the right technique!
Curious about what the best compound movements are? We'll get to that in a second, but first, let's talk more about what compound exercises are and why they're so effective.
What Are Compound Exercises?
To put it simply, compound exercises are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. A good example of a compound exercise is squats. They target your quadriceps, lower back, glutes, core, and hamstrings, all in one exercise.
While both can be categorized as strength training, compound exercises differ from isolation exercises, which only target a single muscle or muscle group at a time. A traditional bicep curl, for example, would focus almost entirely on your bicep, and in just one plane of movement.
Benefits of Compound Exercise
As we mentioned earlier, compound exercises have a long list of benefits, when performed correctly. One of the main benefits of compound exercises may be that they are an efficient use of your time. With compound exercises, you can work more muscle groups and build more strength in a limited amount of time.
Other benefits you can gain from compound exercises include:
- burning more calories
- improving intramuscular coordination
- elevating heart rate
- improving flexibility
- improving strength
- gaining more muscle mass
5 Best Compound Exercises to Try
Muscles trained: quadriceps, lower back, glutes, core, and hamstrings
How to do it
- Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes turned slightly outward.
- Make sure your chest is held up and out, and engage your abdominal muscles. As you bend your hips backward, shift your weight onto your heels.
- Lower yourself into a squat until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor, making sure to keep your knees aligned over your second toes.
- Maintain a strong chest and core as you push through your heels to stand back up to your starting position, and squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Aim to complete 10 to 15 reps, working up to 3 sets over time.
Muscles trained: hamstrings, lower back, glutes, hip flexors, and core
How to do it
- Start by standing behind a barbell with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart.
- Sit your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and lean your torso forward while maintaining a tight core and a flat back.
- Grasp the barbell with your hands placed shoulder-width apart, palms facing inward.
- Push your feet firmly into the floor and stand up tall, pulling the weight up with you and keeping your arms straight.
- At the top of the movement, bring your hips forward and squeeze your abdominal and gluteal muscles.
- To return to the starting position, slowly bend your knees and push your bottom back to lower the weight back to the floor.
- Throughout the exercise, keep the barbell close to your body and maintain a flat back.
Muscles trained: Lats, delts, traps, biceps, and core.
How to do it
- Begin by standing underneath a pull-up bar and grasping it with an overhand grip, with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your feet off the ground or step up onto a box so that you are hanging from the bar, and engage your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
- Using the muscles in your arms and back, bend your elbows and raise your upper body up towards the bar until your chin is above it. It is important to keep your shoulder blades back and down throughout the exercise.
- To return to the starting position, extend your elbows and lower your body back down.
4. Bench Press
Muscles trained: chest, shoulders & triceps
How to do it
- Lie your back on a flat bench and grip a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. The bar should be positioned directly over your shoulders.
- Press your feet firmly into the ground and keep your hips on the bench throughout the entire movement.
- Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine position, avoiding arching your back. If you are using dumbbells, lift them off the rack.
- Slowly lower the bar or dumbbells to your chest, about nipple level, allowing your elbows to bend out to the sides at about a 45-degree angle away from your body.
- Stop lowering when your elbows are just below the bench.
- Press your feet into the floor as you push the bar or dumbbells back up to return to the starting position.
5. High Plank T-Spine Rotation
Muscles trained: abs and shoulders
How to do it
- Start in a push-up position with your arms under your shoulders and your legs hip-width apart. Engage your core muscles.
- Squeeze your thighs and glutes while firmly planting your right hand on the floor.
- Lift your left arm up and twist your hips and shoulders towards the left, pressing them up toward the ceiling.
- Bring your left arm back down to the ground and plant your left hand firmly on the floor.
- Alternate and twist so that your right arm is in the air.
- Aim to complete 8 to 10 reps on each side, working up to 3 sets over time.
Build your strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance in our Strength Training class. Our class features a series of strength-training exercises, including compound exercises, designed to effectively improve your muscular strength and endurance.