What are compound workouts? | Match properly

What are compound exercises? You’ve probably heard that they’re a great addition to your exercise routine, but what exactly are compound exercises?

Essentially, these are movements that target multiple muscle groups at once. It is useful to include them in your regimen as they are efficient and help improve strength in multiple areas of the body. These moves are great for those who are short on time and can’t spend hours targeting multiple muscle groups individually.

While you can do compound exercises without equipment — performing the bodyweight versions — a best kettlebell or set of adjustable dumbbells or a barbell is an ideal way to make compound exercises work a little harder.

Compound exercises can be done at home or at the gym. They can be incorporated into HIIT workouts, CrossFit workouts, and any form of gym-based training. In fact, you may already be incorporating compound exercises into your workout without even realizing it.

Not sure what’s what when it comes to compound exercises? We spoke to Chelsea Labadini, Personal Trainer and Founder of Chelsea Labadini’s Online Coaching (opens in new tab).

Chelsea Labadini

Chelsea Labadini is a qualified Personal Trainer with a Level 2 & 3 Personal Training Diploma. She educates women about results-based fitness and helps them regain their body confidence without fad diets and excessive exercise programs.
Chelsea is passionate about dispelling the fitness myths that have shaped the mindset and workout plans of so many women, often with unrealistic goals and restrictive diets that take the fun out of life.

What are compound exercises?

Compound exercises offer real value for money because they engage multiple muscle groups. So the important thing is that any movement that requires you to use more than one muscle group at a time is classified as a compound exercise. Take the deadlift for example; This movement works the hamstrings, back, core, upper body, and glutes.

“Compound exercises are one of the most common exercises and the kind that you may have been doing without even realizing it,” says Chelsea. These include squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and bench presses to name a few.

Chelsea adds that compound exercises are different from isolation exercises like sit-ups or bicep curls. Isolation exercises focus on a specific muscle group, with little input from other muscles. In fact, these isolation exercises do exactly what they say they do; they isolate a muscle group.

Man performing a barbell deadlift

(Image credit: Getty)

The benefits of compound exercises

“Compound exercises offer a number of benefits, but the main one is that they work multiple muscles at the same time, making them more efficient,” explains Chelsea.

“The squat is a compound exercise because it works multiple muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.”

So instead of single moves targeting those muscles, you can hit them all with one move. This saves time; Ideal for busy people.

Chelsea also says that engaging multiple muscle groups also makes calorie burning more efficient and allows you to lift a heavier load, which can accelerate strength gains.

“The beauty of compound exercises is that they work for everyone,” adds Chelsea.

“As you get stronger and more confident in your form, you can improve the exercise by increasing the weight or the number of repetitions. It’s certainly a more rewarding way to exercise, rather than just exercising to burn calories.”

In addition, compound exercises help build useful everyday strength because many of the movement patterns are the same as in everyday life, such as: B. Squats. This is a movement many of us do every day as we crouch down to pick something up off the floor.

“Compound exercises are often functional movement patterns that can improve our daily lives,” says Chelsea.

Add to this the cardio benefits of compound exercises. Because these movements target multiple muscle groups, they increase heart rate, which can also support the cardiovascular system.

Studies have also been conducted on the benefits of exercise involving one or more joints in terms of muscle strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth). Research has found that both single-joint (like bicep curls) and multi-joint (like the lat pull-down) exercises are equally effective at promoting muscle strength gains. However, it’s important to note that this focuses solely on the upper body.

Man jumping while carrying two kettlebells

(Image credit: Getty)

Do you need weight to perform compound exercises?

Simply put, no, you don’t necessarily have to use weights when doing compound exercises.

“If you’re a beginner or don’t have access to equipment, you can use your own bodyweight as resistance for compound exercises. This includes squats, lunges, squats, push-ups and pull-ups,” says Chelsea.

To make the compound bodyweight exercises a little harder, Chelsea recommends doing as many reps as possible until those last few are tough, since that’s when you’re recruiting the most muscle fibers.

Then rest and repeat until you’ve done at least three sets.

Five basic exercises for beginners

“Once you perfect these basic beginner exercises, you’re good to go,” says Chelsea.

“These exercises are the basic movement patterns in a good exercise program, no matter how experienced the person is.”


Chelsea Labadini performs a squat

(Image credit: Chelsea Labadini)

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes slightly outward. Inhale and engage your core and lean your butt back as your knees bend. When you get back up, imagine pushing your feet through the floor. Exhale as you stand back up.

You can use dumbbells or a barbell across your back for this movement.

Push up

Chelsea Labadini performs a press up

(Image credit: Getty)

Start in a high plank position with your hands flat on the floor. Don’t forget to engage your glutes and core as well. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor. Exhale as you push yourself up and imagine pushing the floor away from you with your hands!


Chelsea Labadini lunges

(Image credit: Chelsea Labadini)

Start with your feet about hip-width apart. When doing lunges, you want to shift most of your weight onto the working leg (the one that stays static). Bring one leg back and keep your core tight and shoulder blades together. Your knee should hover just above the floor before pushing yourself up through your front heel and returning to the starting position.

Again, you can add dumbbells or a barbell for this move.

Bent over row

Chelsea Labadini performs a bent over row

(Image credit: Chelsea Labadini)

Hold a weight in each hand with your palms facing each other. Rock your butt back while keeping your shoulder blades together and bring your torso so that it’s roughly parallel to the floor or slightly above it. Keep your spine neutral and drive your elbows back. Imagine tucking the weight into your pocket while retracting your elbows, then slowly returning to the starting position.

Romanian deadlift

Chelsea Labadini in a Romanian deadlift

(Image credit: Chelsea Labadini)

Probably the hardest to master, but practice makes perfect! Start standing with weak knees. Place your feet hip-width apart. Move your butt back and do the movement with your butt. Imagine pushing your butt to the back of the room. If your butt falls back, keep your back tight and your spine neutral. Imagine you’re painting your legs with dumbbells (don’t let them swing away from you). The weights should stop about halfway down your shins. Drive through your feet (imagine pushing into your heels) to straighten your hips and knees to return to standing.

Still looking for more answers to your fitness questions? Read on to find out what bench press is. Or maybe you want to know what the core muscle is and start building strength and muscle there.

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