This List of 22 Compound Exercises Is All You Need to Stay Fit For Life
You've probably been doing compound exercises for a long time without even realizing that that's what they are, especially if you're a fan of full-body workouts. Compound exercises are moves that work multiple large muscle groups. You can do compound movements that target muscles all over your body — compound exercises for legs, back, arms, you name it — but the one thing they have in common is they'll hit different muscle groups at the same time, giving you more bang for your buck. So if you're one of those people who's always pressed for time during your workouts, compound exercises are the moves for you.
Compound exercises come with a lot of potential benefits, including weight loss and muscle gain, so you might be wondering right about now what the best compound movements are. We'll get to that in a second; first, let's talk more about what compound exercises are and why they're so effective.
What Are Compound Exercises?
Compound exercises are also called "multijoint" moves because they require you to move more than one of your joints. (Think about how you bend at your hips and knees during a squat, or how you move both your shoulder and elbow joints when you do a push-up.)
You can think of compound exercises as being super efficient, since they target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which saves you time in your workout. If your goal is weight loss or to get your heart pumping harder, compound exercises are a good choice as well, because they elicit a greater energy expenditure compared to smaller, isolated movements like a bicep curl, Pratik Patel, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, director of performance nutrition and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the New York Giants, tells POPSUGAR. Translation: your body has to work a lot harder to get these exercises done.
Compound exercises are useful if you're trying to build muscle, too. Rondel King, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center, tells POPSUGAR that in order to build more muscle, you must first make sure your workouts focus on muscle hypertrophy (maximal muscle growth). That means your rep and set scheme should be between three and five sets of 12 and 15 reps for every exercise in your program. According to King, "You can also do heavy lifting . . . like compound lifts, [such as] squats and deadlifts, where you can do a little more weight."
Now that you know why compound exercises are integral to any workout routine, here's a list of compound exercises you can use for reference or for building your own workouts. (If you aren't sure how to create your own workout, here's a strength-training workout to get you started.) There are so many compound movements out there, so this list is far from exhaustive; however, it's a great place to start. For the record, you can do many of these moves with added weight or with just your body weight — either way, they're still compound exercises.
— Additional reporting by Maggie Ryan and Lauren Mazzo