What Are Compound Exercises?

March 30, 2021

When you’re developing a strength training plan, you’ll definitely want to include compound exercises in the mix. 

A compound exercise is any movement where you’re using more than one muscle group at a time. Consider a squat: This one simple motion engages your core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calf muscles and hip flexors. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, work one specific muscle group at a time (such as a bicep curl).

Both compound exercises and isolation exercises have their place and purpose. For beginners, however, compound exercises allow you to build a foundation of strength in a quicker amount of time. As an article on MyFitnessPal.com explains:

“Compound exercises should form the base of your strength routine. Compound exercises treat your body like the complex system of interconnected muscles, joints and nerves it really is.”


Benefits of compound exercises

Maximize time & calorie burn

Compound exercises are time-saving! They fire up multiple muscle groups simultaneously so you can get more done in less time. This also means you burn more calories, since multiple muscles and joints are put to work at once.


Increase dynamic flexibility

Compound exercises boost your dynamic flexibility, range of motion and coordination. These are all vital for improving your performance in the gym and in real life, too. 


Build functional fitness

The seven primal movement patterns of the human body — Pull, Push, Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Rotation and Gait — are what the body was designed to do in order to safely navigate life. It’s no coincidence that each of these are compound movements.

Isolation exercises don’t necessarily simulate real-life movement; they’re often intended to add more definition to a specific body part, or target an imbalance. However, before fancy workout equipment existed, ancient humans didn’t train in isolation. Instead, their daily lives revolved around multiplanar movements. That’s why compound exercises are so great at helping you carry out everyday activities, like carrying groceries, with more strength and ease.

Compound exercises to try

Compound exercises come in many, many forms. You can do bodyweight moves with no equipment needed, or incorporate weights. You can also get creative and enlist the help of household items, or even your wall.

Here’s just a short list for some inspiration…

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Pushups
  • Planks
  • Wall sits
  • Step-ups
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Sumo squats
  • Barbell rows
  • Pullups
  • Ab wheel rollouts
  • Barbell hip raises
  • Dumbbell walking lunge
  • Romanian deadlifts

As you can see, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to compound exercises!


Personal training at CA

Personal trainers maximize your time just like compound exercises. Plus, a personal trainer can help you gain confidence and accountability as you work toward your fitness goals. At CA, we offer both in-person and virtual personal training options. Learn more on our website.


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