4 Compound Exercises For Total Body Power
With so many different exercises available for you to do in the gym, and so many different pieces of equipment to try, it can be difficult to know where to start. Today I want to talk about the classic compound exercises that have been used by body builders and power lifters for years, and how you can create a simple and effective workout routine based on them.
What Is A Compound Exercise?
A compound exercise is a movement that works lots of different muscle groups at once. The opposite of a compound exercise is an isolation exercise, and these only work one muscle or set of muscles at a time. Compound movements work the body in a natural and effective way, not placing particular stress on one muscle or joint. They can be performed with varying weights, from really heavy weight and reps in the 10-15 range to build big muscle, or lighter weight and reps in the 15-30 range to increase strength and fitness in a gentler way. They also need a minimum of equipment too – all of the movements that we’re going to look at can be done with just a barbell and a bench.
So here we have a training routine using only compound movements. I’ve designed this for all over strength and endurance without complexity. The reps are in the higher range so it’s not ideal for maximum muscle, but will increase muscle, power, strength and endurance for a range of sports. I’ve designed this routine to be done twice a week, and it should take less than an hour to complete.
4 Sets of 20 reps
Works glute, quad, hamstring and calf muscles as well as core and lower back.
The time honoured squat is one of the most respected movements there has ever been. It’s essential that you get the technique right as it’s not as easy as some, but once you’ve got it figured out it’s the best lower body exercise that you can do. A proper fitness trainer who’s got qualifications from a company like CMS Fitness will be able to teach you how to do it right. Take your time and do plenty of warm-ups to make sure that you’re ready for the heavier sets. The squat works all of the leg muscles, as well as the lower back and abdominals as these are used to stabilize the body during the exercise. 4 sets of 20 reps is a great start in the big world of squatting!
4 Sets of 20 Reps
Works pectorals, triceps, front and side deltoids as well as core.
The bench press is another classic compound exercise – possible the most popular upper body movement that there has ever been. It’s mainly considered a chest exercise, but it also works the triceps and shoulders really well too. Simply lay on the bench, grasp the bar with your hands shoulder width apart and then lower it til it touches your chest. pause briefly before steadily powering the bar back up until your arms are almost straight. 4 sets of 20 will give you a really good upper body workout that’s going to give you real results, but you’ll be avoiding the kinds of weight that can cause trouble with your elbows. You’re not going to be the next Mr. Olympia by doing bench presses in the 20+ reps range, but you’ll look toned and definitely bigger. It’s a great way to train.
2 sets of 20 reps
Works front, side and read heads of the deltoid, triceps and core muscles.
The bench press does the chest and shoulders for sure, but the shoulder muscles used are mainly the front deltoid. Shoulder presses work the shoulder more effectively, and use all three heads of the deltoid muscle with emphasis on the front and side head. In conjunction with bench presses, the shoulder press will ensure even development of the entire shoulder system. As you’ve already worked the shoulder when doing bench presses, 2 sets of 20 reps is all that’s needed to round of the shoulder component of the training using pushing motions. We’ll need a pulling motion to work the rear head of the deltoid, and that’s what we’re moving onto next.
4 sets of 20 Reps
Works lats, rear delts, biceps, forearms and grip as well as lower back and traps.
Now we move onto the classic pulling movement – the barbell row. There are machines available that will help you to do this type of movement more easily, but in my experience there’s nothing like doing the exercise with a barbell. It’s harder because you have to balance yourself, but the advantage is that this works many other small muscles in the upper body. That’s the point of compound exercises too, so it makes sense to run with the idea! Simply lean forward with your upper body as close to parallel with the ground as you can and bend your knees slightly. Grab the barbell on the floor with a shoulder-width grip and then lift the bar and pull it up and into your sternum. Go slowly and make sure to keep your back straight without swinging the weight or cheating. You’re aiming for slow, consistent movements. Doing barbell rows will work your back and biceps really effectively and will also work the rear deltoid and forearm grip.
So there we go, a compound exercise routine that will work your whole body really effectively using only 4 separate movements and 14 sets. You can also modify this routine to suit different applications. Use less weight and do more reps for a more cardio vascular style routine, or use heavier weight and less reps for a more body-building style training programme. The movements can stay exactly the same – only the weight and reps need to change. Give this routine a try for a couple of months and let me know how you get on!