What Are Compound Muscle Exercises?

If you want to build muscle and increase strength in the shortest amount of time, compound muscle exercises are the ones best to spend your time doing. With compound muscle exercises, you are using multiple joints throughout the range of the exercise. Consequently you are also using multiple muscle groups associated with each joint exercised.

Types of Compound Muscle Exercises

Some of the best compound muscle exercises are:

1 - Deadlifts


If you could only do one compound muscle exercise, it would be this one. Why? Because it is one that uses the most muscle groups including, quads, glutes, hamstrings and back in the lower body, and the forearms, traps, rear deltoids and abdominal core in the upper body.


2 - Squats


This exercise is great for building leg muscle. Primarily it works the quads, but also employs the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and abs. The hands are only used to balance the barbell as well as the shoulders supporting it, but they really don’t get worked all that much.


3 - Barbell Press


While squats work the lower body, presses work the upper body, in particular the chest, triceps and shoulders. The exercise can be done on a flat, inclined or declined bench and it is the best exercise for building chest muscle.


4 - Shoulder Press


The shoulder press is done from the sitting position on a bench and uses a pair of dumbbells. Muscles worked include anterior deltoids, triceps, lateral deltoid and the traps. The abdominal core is also worked as it is employed to provide stability when pushing the weight up over your head.


5 - Rows


The family of row exercises primarily work the muscles of the back – the traps, lumbar and rhomboids. However, depending on the type of machine used, it can also bring into play the rear shoulders, quads, glutes, biceps and abs.


6 - Dips


Done primarily for the development of triceps, dips can also work the lower chest and shoulders. Basically you are lifting your whole body weight using your triceps.



You can set up a routine that works for you or use the above compound exercises in the following routine:

  • Monday – Chest and Triceps
  • Tuesday – Legs and Abs
  • Wednesday – Rest Day
  • Thursday – Back and Biceps
  • Friday – Shoulders, Traps and Abs
  • Saturday – Rest Day
  • Sunday – Rest Day


On two of the rest days, you can either add in some cardio training or weight training that uses other types of muscles. On one of the rest days, actually take it off and do not train. The body needs that day off per week to recover and build.