5 Great Compound Exercises

What are compound exercises?

When it comes go getting the biggest bang-for-your-buck, compound exercises are where its at. Most exercises can typically be put into two categories: compound exercises and isolation exercises.

  • Compound exercises use multiple muscle groups working together to complete a movement.
  • Isolation exercises generally train a single muscle group, in order to isolate and focus on that particular muscle.

Why are compound exercises so great?

  • If you are low on time, combining supersets with compound exercises are an incredibly efficient way of getting a lot of work in, without having to spend ages in the gym.
  • They burn more calories, as multiple muscle groups are having to work to move more weight.
  • They help train your heart. Although heart-health is largely associated with cardiovascular training, strength training using big compound lifts with a higher rep range and shorter rest period can have similar beneficial effects. 

Back Squats

Back squats (with a barbell) are sometimes called ‘king of leg movements’. Back squats work every major muscle in the lower body, and when substantial weight is put on the bar, it becomes a full-body exercise as you have to brace your trunk to create a stiff core. Muscles used: quads, glutes, adductor magnus (inner thigh), hamstrings, erectors, abdominals and obliques, upper back and lats, calves.


Deadlifts are all about picking up really heavy stuff and then putting it back down again – simple as that. It’s one of the best strength-building and health-improving exercises around. Nothing will challenging your posterior chain quite like a deadlift. Muscles used: quads, glutes, adductor magnus (inner thigh), hamstrings, erectors, lats, traps, rhomboids, abdominals & obliques.

Hang Clean

Hang cleans are technically challenging but fantastic for promoting explosiveness, power-production and teaching full-body coordination. Because they use so many muscles they flood the body with growth hormone, useful for gaining strength and stripping fat. Muscles used: legs, back, biceps, trunk.

Bench Press

This is THE exercise to help improve upper body strength. The bench press can be a particularly useful exercise to assist sport-specific movements, like sprinting, hockey and football. There are a number of variations to target slightly different muscle groups, such as decline and close-grip. Muscles used: pectorals, front shoulders, triceps.


These are one of the toughest bodyweight exercises around. Pull-ups are the ultimate test of upper-body strength and one of the few bodyweight exercises that can also work your back and biceps. This requires minimal equipment, just a bar! Use bands to help you progress if you are struggling. Muscles used: biceps, lats, forearms.

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