What Are Compound Exercises & Why You Should Be Doing Them

While there’s no way to speed up results at the gym (because nothing can replace consistent hard work), there are ways to make sure you’re training smarter. Hint: compound exercises is one of them.

Incorporating these exercises into your routine is perfect for those looking to juggle their busy schedule and still find time for a quality workout!



Compound vs. Isolation Exercises

The key to any effective strength building or weight loss program is compound exercises. These exercises are single movements that incorporate several muscle groups all at once. A great example of this is the squat, which simultaneously engages the quads, hamstrings, calves, lower back, and core.

Isolation exercises on the other hand, like bicep curls, concentrate on only one single muscle group. There are times where isolating a specific muscle group is necessary, especially if there is a muscle imbalance or weakness in a particular area of your body.

While there are definitively benefits to both, compound movements deserve much more attention than isolation work. These five benefits show how compound exercises can bring compound results!

1. Compound Exercises Allow You to Lift Heavier Weights

Imagine you are trying to lift your living room couch. It would probably be very tough to do by yourself but when you include a couple friends, this becomes a much easier task.

Since compound exercises involve more muscle groups, they can be used to move heavier weights that progressively overload your muscles. Why is that significant? Because the more you overload your muscles; the faster they grow!

2. Compound Exercises Significantly Raise Testosterone and Growth Hormone Levels

The reason compound exercises get some much praise from fitness experts is because of how much damage it does to your muscle fibers. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing!

When your body encounters this kind of stress, a chain reaction occurs where growth hormones such as testosterone are released. These hormones repair structural damage to your muscle fibers and fuel their growth.

Testosterone can also be extremely beneficial for women, especially those who are older. Women who are deficient in this hormone often experience symptoms such as poor moods, low sex drive, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.

3. Compound Exercises Burn More Calories

To keep it simple, your body requires more fuel when it expends more energy. And since calories is that source of “fuel” for your body, you’ll burn even more calories since multiple muscle groups are being put to work.

Full body exercises like squats, bench press, and lunges challenge your heart to pump even more blood, which can significantly speed up your metabolism. That elevated heart rate can turn your body into a fat burning machine.

4. Compound Exercises Save You Time at the Gym

If you have a busy schedule, it’s critical to maximize the limited time you have at the gym. A workout full of compound exercises allows you to hit more major muscle groups with a small number of exercises.

Even without heavy weights, you can stimulate all major muscle groups with just 8-10 of these compound movements. That means you can get a full body workout and eliminate the need for excessive isolation work. More importantly that means less time at the gym!

5. And Compound Exercises are Also Really Great at Working Your Core

These versatile exercises are beneficial for more than just building muscle and torching calories; your abs are also going to be put to work. Most compound exercises require you to activate your abdominal muscles to help stabilize and power through the movements.

While tight abs look great, there are so many more benefits to a strong core. It improves your balance and coordination, gives you a more confident posture, and helps prevent injuries.

Follow This Plan and Lunge Your Way to Results!

If you are a beginner or just getting back to the gym, start with one set of each exercise until muscle fatigue (usually between 8-12 reps) for a full workout.

To give your body some rest, schedule these workouts on alternating days like Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

EXERCISE 1: Barbell Squat

EXERCISE 2: Barbell Deadlift

EXERCISE 3: Dumbbell Lunges

EXERCISE 4: Bench Press

EXERCISE 5: Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Downs

EXERCISE 6: Overhead Shoulder Press

EXERCISE 7: Abdominal Bicycle


If you are looking for an even more intense workout, throw in some isolation exercises like bicep curls or seated leg press. Researchers suggest that the majority of your workout (70-80%) should focus on compound movements, while isolation exercises make up the rest.

The Bottom Line on Compound Exercises

Isolation exercises are perfectly fine if you have the time and motivation to spend hours at the gym. But if you want to build strength and burn calories as quickly as possible, you need to focus the majority of your effort on compound exercises for a complete and efficient workout!

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