Compound Exercises: 7 Awesome Reasons To Include Them In Your Workouts


Compound Exercises

compound exercises for functional fitness

Use Compound exercises in many routines to create powerful workouts. But what are these exercises, and how do they work?

Elite athletes aim to reach for and stay at the top of their game. They only perform exercises that will give them the best results. Using compound exercises is a powerful way to work out, and we look at why.

What are compound exercises?

Strength training usually has two types of exercises – isolation and compound exercises. A simple definition of compound exercises is any group of exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

That is, they work on multiple joints and involve:

  • push
  • pull
  • squat

They target major muscle groups in the lower body, chest, arms.

Isolation exercises target a specific muscle group – in a specific range of motion. They will build strength for that range of motion. To isolate the bicep perform a concentration curl with a preacher bench. Great to build big biceps but don’t build the supporting muscles surrounding the bicep.

Some of the most popular and effective multiple joint exercises include:

  • pull-ups which work your lats, rhomboids and trapezius muscles
  • squats which work hamstrings, thighs and glutes
  • barbell dead-lifts for thighs, lower back and trapezius
  • dips which work triceps, deltoids and other muscles in the chest

Many of these exercises developed as a result of the lack of advanced machines to perform multiple exercises.

A German bodybuilder, Milo Steinborn developed squats as a way to train, and the USA introduced them in the 1920s. Milo would drop the barbell bar on his shoulders and squat up to 250lbs per rep. American athletes soon copied and used the squat and other exercises involving multiple joints to achieve maximum gains. Bodybuilders and other athletes soon discovered the many benefits of compound exercises and started to incorporate them into workout programs.

Benefits of compound exercises

Benefits of compound exercises

Compound exercises have many benefits to offer including:

  • Greater muscle gains
  • Time savings
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved inter-muscular coordination
  • Greater calorie burning

Greater muscle gain

Compound exercises - Muscle Gains

Compound exercises lead to greater muscle gain due to several reasons. First of all, they allow you to work multiple muscle groups at the same time. As a result, muscles that would have taken multiple sessions to build are worked in one session. These exercises prompt quicker protein synthesis, which means that you can build more muscle during recovery.

Finally, working multiple muscles puts a considerable amount of stress on your body. This causes your body to release more testosterone and growth hormone leading to even greater muscle gain.

Time savings

Because compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, they save time. Compared to doing isolation exercises for each muscle group. Arguably those muscles would not be as functional as they are not used to working together.

Improved muscle flexibility

Compound exercises take your body through a process known as dynamic stretching. The opposite muscles to the ones being contracted are stretched during a compound exercise. This means the main muscles lowering are contracting, the opposite stretching, on going back to the start position, the muscles being contracted and stretched swap.

Greater calorie burning

Compound exercises help you build lean muscle mass quickly and this leads to greater calorie burning. This is because lean muscle helps you burn more calories at your resting rate (Basal Metabolic Rate) – energy required for muscle. The more muscles involved, and the bigger the muscles, the greater the calorie burn. This is why a squat is so effective for burning calories.

Improved inter-muscular coordination

Compound exercises improve the way different muscles work together, leading to greater overall functionality and enhancing balance and overall coordination. This is do to the fact that all those muscles are being trained as part of the compound exercise. Those supporting, or “synergist muscles” are then used to working together.

Are compound better than isolation exercises?

Isolation exercises are for a specific purpose. If you are clear on the purpose, then they’re good. If you want general exercises for overall fitness, then compound exercises are difficult to beat.

Compound Exercises – Conclusion

Compound exercises are used in most workouts. The take-away is that they use multiple muscle groups. This means that if you do do isolation exercises, case must be taken not to overlap muscles between each of the exercises. Muscles will be stretched, and opposing muscles, and supporting muscles will also be worked.

Using active recovery – one exercise when recovering from the other, if both are compound exercises, is a really great way to crank up your workouts. You may also be able to halve your time working out. Whichever way you exercises, they are a fantastic way to achieve functional fitness.

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