I’m a massive advocate of compound exercises.
They are the only type of resistance training you need to perform in order to increase muscle mass and lower your body fat.
Compound moves have been virtually my sole form of weight training exercise for well over 3 years now.
Apart from a spot of Pilate’s now and again and a couple of short 30 minute runs a week, it’s also the only form of regular exercise I do.
My muscle mass has increased, I am stronger than I’ve ever been, my cardiovascular fitness is good, and my body fat percentage is around 14%.
Yet I have not performed one bicep curl, tricep extension or ran long distances.
- 1 The Difference Between Isolation Exercises and Compound Exercises
- 2 Here’s 7 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Be Performing Compound Exercises:
- 3 Why Most People Don’t Do Compound Exercises
- 4 The Only 5 Exercises You’ll Ever Need For Building Muscle Mass
- 5 Summary
- 6 Conclusion
The Difference Between Isolation Exercises and Compound Exercises
Pick up any fitness magazine these days and you might notice a subtle change in the type of exercises they are writing about.
Not so long ago articles were all about individual exercises, or ‘isolation exercises’ that emphasized single joint moves such as:
– Bicep curls (elbow joint)
– Triceps extensions (elbow joint)
– Leg extensions on a machine (knee joint)
– Calf raises (ankle joint)
As the name suggests, these moves isolate and target specific muscles.
The problem with these types of exercises is they isolate neighboring muscles, especially if you use one of the many weight machines in the gym.
Unfortunately these types of articles will always be regurgitated on a monthly basis because they continue to fill the half dozen pages in magazines, in between the advertisements.
Just lately however, in among the rehashed “how to build a beach body in 45 seconds” articles, there are shards of wisdom that are actually worth taking note of.
The Benefits Of Compound Exercises
Compound exercises are a multi-joint ‘lift’ or ‘pull’ that utilize several muscle groups in order to move 2 or more joints through a range of motion.
They are finally being recognized as a lot more important in building muscle and lowering body fat, than performing dozens of different isolation exercises.
People with already well developed physiques and professional bodybuilders, will no doubt smirk at this revelation!
These people have long since built their muscular bodies on performing such compound exercises.
Popular magazines like Men’s Health/Fitness are now giving much more print space to these types of exercise due to their obvious benefits.
However they will never advocate them as the only exercises you actually need to perform, in order to gain muscle and drop body fat.
This is because their comic magazine will only have around 5 pages of useful information, with 100+ pages of adverts.
Not good for readership levels!
Here’s 7 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Be Performing Compound Exercises:
1. Increased Strength For Everyday Activities
By working more than one muscle group simultaneously, and with heavy weights, you will increase your overall strength.
Compound moves often mimic real life movements and situations, such as picking up a bag of heavy groceries for example.
You don’t just use a bicep muscle to pick up the bag, you use your back, core, shoulders, quads and arms.
If one of these areas is weak, such as a weak lower back, you are more likely to injure yourself.
Compound exercises ensure you develop strength in all of your muscles not just the ones for show!
2. Increase Muscle Mass
Compound exercises build the greatest amount of muscle.
A lift or a pull that requires a number of different muscles to complete, is the most effective way to increase muscle.
The deadlift uses virtually every muscle in the body, so your overall muscle mass is going to increase greater than if you were performing isolation exercises.
As a beginner or a skinny guy looking to bulk up and build muscle, compound moves are absolutely your best form of weight training.
3. Develop Stabilizer Muscles
Stabilizer muscles are engaged when performing free weights.
They are the small muscles in your body that are hard to target but come into play in order to keep your ‘form’ correct and stop you from moving or rocking when lifting or pulling any weight.
If you are one of the many unfortunate gym-goers, who only sit at exercise machines to perform leg extensions, chest flies, and bicep curls, then this applies to you!
These machines may even be doing you more harm than good.
Okay, they might be slightly beneficial if you have a specific injury that requires you to isolate the damaged area, but other than that, they should be avoided.
By completely isolating a muscle by using a machine, you totally negate the other stabilizer muscles.
Doing so will continually weaken them, which could eventually lead to an injury.
Free weights – especially when used with compound exercises, will help develop stabilizer muscles, as well as the tendons in your joints.
This will help prevent injuries and enable you to lift much heavier weights, thus increasing your overall strength and muscle mass.
So stop taking the easy route in the gym like most people do.
The guys and girls with the great looking physiques are usually the ones working out in the free-weight area.
4. Increase Core Strength
Without a strong core you will be limited to what you can physically do, in and out of the gym.
Even basic, everyday activities such as walking, stretching for an object high up, picking up a child from the floor, getting out of bed, all require core strength.
Your core muscle group is one of the most under-emphasized parts of exercising.
Compound exercises involve all your core muscles, particularly your lower back, which so many people suffer pain in.
I have always suffered from lower back problems and being in the Fire Service it can be even more problematic.
These days I spend a lot of time strengthening my back and core, in order to prevent the pain I used to suffer.
Exercises that strengthen the back and core this way, (particularly the deadlift) dynamic stretching, and a weekly Pilates class, have all helped to improve my core strength and keep my lower back, free of injury.
5. Increase Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is an essential hormone needed by men and women for muscle growth.
The more muscle you add, the more testosterone your body produces.
Lifting heavy weights using compound exercises has been proven to increase testosterone levels in men and women.
6. Reduce Time Spent in the Gym
As opposed to isolation exercises, compound exercises allow you to train multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
This greatly reduces the amount of time you spend working out.
The thought of long, arduous training sessions are often the reason people give up on their training goals and stop going to the gym.
Compound exercises mean you can achieve a full body workout in around 30 to 35 minutes.
My average workout takes less than 50 minutes from start to finish. I’m able to cycle to the gym, (7 mins) have a workout (30-35 mins) and cycle home (7 mins).
It cuts workout times in half, and makes training simpler and more enjoyable.
7. Cardiovascular Benefits
One of the biggest concerns I had with concentrating almost exclusively on lifting weights, was the negative effect it might have on my cardiovascular system.
However, studies now identify resistance training as beneficial to the heart and cardiovascular system.
A new study from the Appalachian State University reveals that resistance training actually produces a greater blood flow to the limbs.
This leads to a longer lasting drop in blood pressure, (around 20%) compared to aerobic type training.
Compound exercises are physically demanding.
You will notice a rapid rise in your heart rate when you perform them – a lot more so than isolation exercises.
Why Most People Don’t Do Compound Exercises
There are a few reasons why compound exercises aren’t performed as often as they should be:
- Compound exercises aren’t good for gym memberships!
Have a look around any commercial gym and you’ll see rows and rows of cardio machines and isolation machines.
These ‘money makers’ come with computers, TV. screens, headphone points, nice soft seats, pretty chrome designs and as much comfort for the user as possible.
This is how gyms attract members.
They don’t give a shit about actual health benefits; it’s all about profits and new members coming through the doors.
All the useless fancy gym equipment helps to ‘sell the dream’.
A few barbells, a bench and some free weights lying about in the corner, don’t look nearly as appealing to would-be members.
- Muscle/fitness magazines won’t have anything to write about
As I mentioned earlier, popular subscription magazines like Men’s Health/Fitness fill their pages with adverts and regurgitated isolation move articles.
Compound exercises mostly negate the need for isolation moves and produce better results.
Unfortunately this information would leave very little else to write about, so they continue to recycle the same crap, month after month.
The majority of people who read these magazines and go to their local gym don’t know any better and wholeheartedly believe what they see and read.
- Compound exercises can be exhausting!
If you cut your gym-time by half, there has to be a pay-off somewhere.
Compound moves put people off simply due to the amount of effort they need to put into them.
..or you could (as I’ve seen plenty of times) sit at a leg extension machine while watching television, talking on the phone or reading a book!
- There aren’t many compound exercises to do
To me, this is actually a good thing!
I’m all about keeping it simple.
However, if you get bored by doing the same routine over and over, compound exercises on their own might not be for you.
However, with only a few exercises to learn and master, you won’t have to keep a diary of all the various isolation exercises you ‘intend’ to perform over the next 6 months.
Like any resistance training you can use less weight and add more reps, or increase the weight for less reps.
I find a combination of the two works great and keeps your interest levels up.
The Only 5 Exercises You’ll Ever Need For Building Muscle Mass
These are the only 5 compound exercises you’ll ever need to build muscle mass.
I’ve been using them (and virtually only them) for over 3 years now, and it’s really made a difference to my physique and overall strength.
Trust me, these exercises work, and they will transform your body, (as long as you get your diet right too).
Hopefully you can now see the difference and benefits of performing compound exercises over single move, isolation exercises.
Compound exercises will help you achieve the following:
- Increase muscle mass
- Improve strength
- Stronger core
- Involve and develop lesser used stabilizer muscles
- Improved cardiovascular system
- Increase essential testosterone levels
- Spend less time in the gym
- See faster progress
Unless you are a professional bodybuilder or have a specific injury, compound exercises really are the only form of resistance training you need to perform in order to increase muscle and lower body fat.
Even if you just want to tone-up and lose a little fat, you can still perform compound moves by using less weight and adding more reps.
Aerobic exercise still has its place in general fitness and well-being, but for building muscle, compound exercises are king!