Compound Exercises – The Best Muscle Building Exercises

Exercise experts agree little, but all coaches and researchers agree on the effectiveness of compound exercises, whether in gaining strength or building muscle mass.

Most of the research and studies “if not all” confirm that compound exercises are the best muscle building exercises, but also the fastest.

So what is the secret that makes these exercises in particular the major focus of all effective and strong training programs?

To Read: How to Maintain the Muscles During the Breaks From Training? 

What are compound exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups simultaneously.
The bench press is an outstanding example of this, as it activates many muscles of the upper body, including the chest muscles, shoulder muscles, and triceps.
It even activates parts of the upper back and legs “slightly” to stabilize the body on the bench during exercise
Unlike an exercise such as flying “or lightening with dumbbells” as some call it, which isolates the chest muscle from the shoulder and triceps muscles.
Benefits of compound exercises
Benefits of compound exercises

1- Building muscle in a short time

Because it works to activate over one muscle “or over one muscle group”, this increases the total muscle mass gained.

2- Lifting heavier weights

Looking at a complex exercise such as the bench press, you find that the shoulder and triceps muscles help your chest muscles in performing the exercise.

Therefore, you can lift heavier weights compared to other exercises, such as lightening with dumbbells, for example.

3- Fat burning

Compound exercises require more effort while performing the movements because they activate a lot of muscles, and thus stimulate the body to burn more calories, including fat, to provide the energy needed for training.

4- Stimulating the body to produce more testosterone

Testosterone is a wonderful and very important hormone for men and not only does it build muscle, it also associated with improved cardiovascular health in men and increased cognitive function.

Research confirms that compound exercise is more effective in producing testosterone when compared to isolation exercises. Source.

5- Save time in the gym

Sometimes we find ourselves busy with important things and do not find enough time to exercise, and this problem causes a loss of effort for months of training.

So compound exercises solve this problem, as you can perform full body exercises in just one class and over just two or three days a week.

Isolation exercises

In no case, we can’t neglect isolation in your training program.

Yes, compound exercises are the best, but isolation exercises an important role in building muscle, and its importance is as follows.

1- Strengthening weak and late-growing muscles

Although compound exercises activate over one muscle, not all muscles work with the same force.

To overcome this problem, we advise you to use isolation exercises to target the delayed or weak muscles.

2- The ability to perform distinct groups

I mean here the distinct groups, for example:
  • Superset: Performing different exercises “for the same muscle or for different muscles” without resting between them.
  • Giant set: Performing several exercises 4-5 exercises for the same muscle group without resting between them or resting for brief periods. For example, “targeting all parts of the shoulder in the front, side and back, respectively.”
This feature is unique to isolation exercises, and you cannot vary between groups during compound exercises. Because of the great effort made, which deserves to rest after each exercise.

3- Adjust your training program better

Reliance on fully compound exercises may cause you to neglect some muscles that are not very helpful in training.

For example, the lateral shoulder muscle must target specifically.

Therefore, some isolation exercises must included in the exercise schedule to work on these muscles individually.

The best compound exercises for every muscle

There are so many compound exercises, and the following list includes 10 of the best and most effective ones.

1. Squat


It is not just a complex exercise, but a full-body exercise. Research shows that squats activate about 200 “large and small” muscles in the body.

  • Basic muscles: front leg muscles – hamstrings – buttocks.
  • Auxiliary muscles: the back leg muscles – the lower back – the calves – so that the abdomen activated for balance.

How to perform the exercise??

  1. Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your arms at your sides.
  2. Keep your chest and chin straight and slide your hips back with your knees bent as if you were sitting on a chair.
  3. Go down until your thighs are parallel to the floor with your arms in front of you in a comfortable position.
  4. Pause for one second, then extend your legs and return to the starting point.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps and rest for at least 45 to 60 seconds between sets.

2. Deadlift

It is one of the best compound exercises because it stimulates the entire back of the body.
  • Core muscles: the posterior – psoas muscles.
  • Auxiliary muscles: active most parts of the back of the body, including the “upper and lower back” – calves – posterior shoulder – bolts.

How to perform the exercise??

  1. Stand behind the bar with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Keep your chest up and bend your knee slightly.
  3. Keep your back straight and hold the bar with the palms of the hands in an excessive fist.
  4. Pull up while keeping your feet flat on the ground.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Complete 3 sets of 12 and rest for at least 45 to 60 seconds between sets.

3. Bentover Row

Bentover Row

One of the strongest back exercises and it activates most of the upper parts of the back.

  • Core Muscles: mid back.
  • Auxiliary muscles: Bolts – posterior shoulder – biceps muscles – forearm.

4. Pull-ups


This exercise has many benefits in developing your back muscles completely. Try it for yourself and see how your back muscles will develop.
  • Core muscles: the genus.
  • Auxiliary muscles: most parts of the back – the bolt – the posterior shoulder – the biceps – the forearm.

How to perform the exercise??

  1. Stand under the pull-up bar and pull it over with an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than the shoulders.
  2. Raise your feet off the ground or place them on the aid bar, then pull your body to the bar by bending your arms and pulling your elbows toward the floor.
  3. Once your chin crosses over the bar, slowly extend your arms to lower your body.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions and rest for at least 45 to 60 seconds between sets.

5. Barbell Bench Press

Barbell Bench Press

One of the oldest and most popular upper-body exercises and its performance requires activating many muscles.
  • Core muscles: chest muscles “upper, middle and lower”.
  • Auxiliary muscles: the front shoulder muscles – the triceps – “so that the back shoulder and legs work to stabilize the body and balance.”

6. Dips


Also known as the parallelepiped, it considered one of the best exercises for strengthening the arms and nerves and working on several muscles at the same time.

  • Core muscles: chest muscles.
  • Auxiliary muscles: anterior shoulder and triceps.

How to perform the exercise??

  1. Grip the parallel bars and lift your body.
  2. Keep your elbows straight and head in line with your torso and your wrists line up with your forearms.
  3. Put one leg over the other to stabilize your lower body and pull your stomach muscles.
  4. When you exhale, bend your elbows to lower your body. Keep your elbows close to your sides. Your legs should be directly below your body to avoid tilting or swinging.
  5. Lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Keep your wrists straight.
  6. Pause, straighten your elbows, push the bars with your hands and return to the starting position. Keep your body vertical and your wrists straight.
  7. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps and rest for at least 45 to 60 seconds between sets.

Note: If you have a hard time doing this without help, look to see if your gym has a machine that helps you do a good workout or try an alternate workout.

7. Military press

The best shoulder exercises ever as it fully activates the different parts of the shoulder

  • Core muscles: front shoulder.
  • Auxiliary muscles: the lateral and posterior shoulder – triceps – “the back and legs also work in small steps to achieve balance and aid in propulsion.”

8. Lunges


This exercise targets lower body parts with incredible efficiency, combining the benefits of both squats and deadlift.

  • Core muscles: the front and rear leg muscles.
  • Auxiliary muscles: lumbar – lower back – calves – hamstrings

9. Shrug

As an exercise that requires lifting heavy weights, it needs to activate an enormous amount of muscles.
  • Core muscles: bolts
  • Auxiliary muscles: the upper back – the forearm – the hand fist – “and the shoulder slightly posterior.”

10. Bicycle Crunches

Yes abdominal compound exercise, this exercise works to strengthen over 10 muscles.

  • Core muscles: the lower, upper, and lateral muscles at the same time
  • Auxiliary muscles: the lumbar – the front and lower leg – the buttocks – and the neck muscles.

The effect of compound exercises on your program and muscle recovery and muscle volume

When using compound exercises, this means you use an exercise schedule that allows you to train each muscle group at an ideal frequency.
The method of training specific muscle groups of the body becomes easier than what you intended to use because of using the muscles individually, during exercises that target specific muscles, basically.
Besides that, the subject of muscle recovery or muscle recovery, for example, you can train the chest one day and the triceps muscle the next day, but in compound exercises you may have to exercise the triceps muscle on two consecutive days, which may cause a problem in recovery if adequate care and planning was not present for each muscle group separately, so these are points that must take into account when designing your training program and arranging them during the days of the week, so based on this speech we will provide you with advice in the training program for compound exercises.

Compound exercises schedule:

If you are a healthy adult, this often means that you can safely perform compound exercises two to three days each week. Try to follow the following tips:
  • When focusing on multiple muscle groups, wait at least 48 hours after training a specific muscle group in compound exercises between training sessions to allow the trained muscles to rest.
  • You can alternate between compound exercises that focus on the upper body in one day and exercises that focus on the lower body in the next training session.
  • You can also add cardio training days to your exercise regimen to increase heart rate, burn fat, and reduce calories. Add cardio exercises on days when you are at a break from compound exercises.

Tips for your safety

Compound exercises such as deadlift require a specific technique to help you stay safe and avoid injury, so it advised that you work with a trainer or fitness specialist when performing such exercises, especially if you have not tried them before to make sure your technique is sound and fine.

And helping you to know the weights to start with a good basic rule is to start with a lightweight and do the exercise comfortably from 10 to 15 repetitions of one set, when you feel comfortable, increase the weight in the second and third groups.

It is good to feel difficult to exercise, but it is not It is always good to exhaust yourself, especially if you are at the beginning of trying such exercises.

Finally, we recommend that you drink water between exercise groups, but not too much, and stop training if you feel dizzy and tired.

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