The Schmooze

Why Do More Compound Exercises?

When it comes to building a strength training program there are several things to think about. When and how to incorporate isolation exercises, compound exercises or both is one of the things you need to consider.

An isolation exercise is a movement that incorporates limited muscle groups with a single joint movement. This type of movement will allow you to isolate a certain muscle group in which you may be focusing on growing or strengthening.

A compound exercise is a movement or combination of movements that incorporate several muscle groups and joints to be working at the same time. This type of movement engages more muscles, moves more joints and utilizes more energy to complete. This means that you can work more muscles and get more movement in a smaller amount of time while burning more overall calories.

Incorporating compound exercises has many overall benefits including:

  • maximizing time when time is limited

  • burns more overall calories

  • improves coordination

  • increases flexibility

  • increases heart rate and exertion

Does this mean that you should use only compound exercises in your workouts all of the time? Absolutely not, but you should be incorporating them into your routine as either an entire workout at least once a week or thrown into your workouts with isolation exercises.

There are two ways in which you can incorporate compound movements:

  1. single multi-joint movements that incorporate more than one muscle group and joint to move and engage such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, pull-ups

  2. combining two or more exercises together such as a barbell squat and row, a dumbbell lunge and bicep curl, squat and lunge, bicep curl and overhead press, etc.

Here are a few workout examples incorporating compound exercises:

1) Compound exercise only workout for lower body

These lower body exercises are all compound movements and will incorporate multiple muscles of the lower body for each exercise:

  • barbell deadlift

  • goblet squat

  • narrow squat (feet hip to shoulder width apart)

  • wide squat (feet slightly wider than shoulders with feet turned out to about 45 degree angle)

  • plié squat (feet as wide as comfortably possible with feet turned out over 45 degree angle)

  • dumbbell lunges

  • walking lunges

  • reverse lunges

  • side lunges

2) Compound exercise only workout for upper body

These upper body exercises are all compound movements and will incorporate multiple muscles of the upper body for each exercise:

  • pull up

  • narrow grip

  • wide grip

  • push up

  • tricep dip

  • chest press

  • shoulder press

  • lat pull down

4) Compound and isolation workout for the lower body

This workout will alternate between a compound movement and an isolation movement for lower body:

  • barbell deadlift - compound exercise

  • calf raises - isolation exercise for calves

  • goblet squat narrow - compound exercise

  • hamstring curls - isolation exercise for hamstrings

  • lunges walking or reverse - compound exercise

  • seated leg extensions - isolation exercise for quads

  • side lunges - compound exercise

  • hip abduction - isolation exercise for outer thighs

  • plie squats - compound exercise

  • hip adduction - isolation exercise for inner thighs

5) Compound and isolation exercise for upper body

This workout will alternate between a compound movement and an isolation movement for upper body:

  • pull ups - compound exercise

  • bicep curls - isolation exercise for biceps

  • lat pull down - compound exercise

  • single arm dumbbell row - isolation exercise for lats

  • push up - compound exercise

  • chest fly - isolation exercise for chest

  • chest press - compound exercise

  • reverse fly - isolation exercise for rear deltoids (shoulders)

  • shoulder press - compound exercise

  • lateral raise - isolation exercise for deltoids (shoulders)

  • tricep dips - compound exercise

  • tricep kickbacks - isolation exercise for triceps

6) Compound and isolation combos between upper and lower body

This workout will incorporate a lower body movement or hold with an upper body movement. This will really get the heart rate and blood levels elevated forcing several muscles of the lower and upper body to work at the same time.

  • barbell deadlift/barbell row

  • goblet narrow squat/overhead press

  • dumbbell rear lunge/bicep curl

  • dumbbell wide squat/frontal raise

  • dumbbell side lunge/reverse fly

  • squat hold/dumbbell tricep kickbacks

  • bridge hold/dumbbell chest fly

These are just samples of some of the ways you can incorporate compound exercises into your fitness routine. Get creative and see where you can add a few of these compound or combo moves in. They will be sure to fire up your muscles and burn some extra calories getting more out of your workout.

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