Why Compound Lifts Will Build Muscle Fast
A compound exercise is an exercise that involves multiple joints and muscle groups.
For example, the squat involves moving the knees, ankles, and hip joint and requires a whole-body coordinated effort, with the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes bearing the brunt of the load.
On the other hand, an exercise like the Russian Leg Curl involves moving the knees and focuses on strengthening the hamstrings and glutes.
(Sure, there are other muscles that this exercise engages, but not forcefully enough to stimulate muscle growth.)
That’s why the Russian Leg Curl isn’t considered a compound exercise (it’s an isolation exercise, which we’ll talk more about in a minute).
Here are the most common compound exercises you’ll find in weightlifting programs:
All variations of the bench press–barbell and dumbbell and flat, incline, and decline–are compound exercises.
The primary muscle group trained is the chest (pectorals), but all bench pressing also heavily involves the shoulders and triceps.
This exercise is also known as the military press, and it’s one of the best shoulder exercises you can do.
It also trains the triceps and, when performed standing, the back and core (to some degree).
The dip is a fantastic upper body compound exercise that can be performed in two ways:
With a slight forward lean
When upright, the primary muscle group engaged is the triceps, and the shoulders and chest are the main assistance muscles.
When slightly leaned forward, the chest becomes the primary muscle group and the triceps and shoulders assist.
The deadlift is the ultimate compound exercise because it involves just about every joint and major muscle group in your body.
The primary muscle groups trained, however, are known as the posterior chain (the muscles on the backside of your body, such as your hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles).
Pretty much every other muscle in your body assists in the movement.
The pull-up is a simple compound exercise that will never go out of style because it works.
The primary muscle group is the back and the secondary muscle groups are the biceps and forearms.
This is essentially a machine pull-up that allows you to specify a weight to pull.
Accordingly, the primary muscle group is the back and the secondaries are the biceps and forearms.
Whether a barbell, dumbbell, or machine row, it’s a compound exercise.
The primary muscle group is the back, of course, and secondaries are the biceps and forearms.
Like the deadlift, the squat isn’t just another compound exercises–it’s a whole-body exercises.
And that goes for all variations–front squat, back squat, split squat, and so forth.
It’s estimated that over 200 muscles are activated in the squat, but the primary muscle group trained is the quadriceps.