Time is precious. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an experienced lifter looking to make better use of your time, compound exercises are the most efficient way to train your body and pack on muscle.
Although the human body is a complicated machine, there are only a few movements that we can actually perform; We can push with our arms, pull with our arms, hinge at the hips, and bend at the knees.
If you’ve read our post on weightlifting basics, then you already know that pulling movements work your back and biceps, pushing movements work your chest and triceps, and knee-bending or hip-hinging movements work your legs. Compound exercises require multi-joint movement and are a great way to engage all of your body’s major muscle groups. Even muscles that aren’t primarily targeted get recruited in a supporting function. But, because these exercises are so involved, performing them incorrectly can leave you prone to injury. Make sure you take the time to warm up and learn proper form.
Here are the 3 essential exercises for every resistance training routine
The deadlift is the gold standard of compound movements, and it is one of the few exercises that actively targets both the upper and lower body.
Stand with a barbell on the floor in front of you, with your feet shoulder distance apart. Keep the bar as close to your shins as possible – about 1 or 2 inches away. Prepare yourself for the movement by pinning your shoulders back and bracing your core for support. While maintaining a straight back, bend slightly at the knees and hinge at the hips as you reach down to grab the bar. Once you’ve secured your grip, push through your feet to stand up.
Pro tip: Stop mirin’. Keep your eyes focused down on the bar to maintain a natural neck position.
You should feel this in the in your lower back muscles (NOT YOUR SPINE), your legs, your traps (upper shoulders), your forearms, and your abdominal muscles.
They tell you not to skip leg day for a reason, and the squat should be the highlight of the event. Squatting engages your body’s largest muscles and helps kick-start natural metabolic processes.
Start by setting up in the squat rack so that the bar rests on your upper back muscles, just below your neck. Grip the bar at a comfortable shoulder width and remove the weight from the rack. Set up your stance so that your feet are planted slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and your toes are pointed slightly outward. Brace your core for support, and then sit back and hinge at the hips. Bend at the knees and lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Exhale and push through the heels of your feet as you stand up.
Pro Tip: Keep your eyes focused on the ceiling to maintain a straight and upright back. When you’re performing the squat, push your legs outward, as if you are spreading the floor apart with your feet. This will help keep your knees aligned and prevent injury.
You should feel the burn in your glutes and your quads. The supporting muscles in your abs and lower back will also be engaged.
The bench press is probably the most popular compound exercise. You can’t step into a gym or watch a boxing movie without seeing someone pushing weight. But the bench press isn’t just about impressing your high school friends. It is a power movement that helps build strength in the chest, triceps, and abdominal muscles.
Lie flat on the bench and set up your grip so that your hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Make sure that the bar’s starting position is low enough so that you can comfortably re-rack the weight at the end of your set. Push your chest out and tuck your shoulder back and down, as if you are sliding your shoulder blades into an imaginary pocket on your back. Brace your core as you lower the bar to the centre of your chest and plant your feet as you push the bar back up.
Pro Tip: Envision pushing the weight up with your elbows, instead of with your hands. This mental trick will help maximize chest engagement and prevent shoulder injury.
You should feel this primarily in your chest, but as a beginner, you may experience soreness as you strengthen your tricep and shoulder muscles.
These three compound movements should be all that you need to build a strong and healthy physique. But if you’re looking to further supplement your routine, these exercises should be next on your list.
Pull-ups are the best way to target your entire back and add balance to your training, especially if you are bench pressing often.
Soldiers have boulder shoulders, and I’d like to think that the military press has something to do with it. Overhead pressing movements target both heads of the shoulder muscle and require substantial lower back and abdominal support.
Once you’ve finished grinding out these compound exercises, your body will be starving for nutrition. Suppy protein is a great way to refuel and kick-start the recovery process after an intense training session.