By now we all know, hopefully, that whatever your goal, whoever you are, compound lifts are really, really good for you. They should absolutely be a part of everyone’s training programs.
A compound movement can be defined as: Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and multiple muscles.
A major benefit of using compound, or multi-joint, lifts is the systemic stress they exert throughout the target muscles and neighbouring areas (in the case of squats and deadlifts, the whole body is forced to work systemically, thus producing a total-body effect). This results in more calories burned and more lean muscle added.
So, what are they and what do you need to know about them:
Barbell Bench Press
Focus: Chest, Anterior Deltoids, Triceps
Tip: Keep the rib cage high, the lower back arched and the shoulders down and back for maximal muscular recruitment.
Focus: Thighs, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Traps, Forearms
Tip: Rather than rebounding the bar off the floor each rep, come to a dead stop instead, this will remove momentum and force more muscular action.
Focus: Thighs, Hamstrings, Glutes
Tip: Make sure to keep your head up, lower back slightly arched, and the bar set on the upper traps as you squat slowly to a position where the thighs drop just below parallel to the ground.
Focus: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Lower Back
Tip: Keep the knees slightly bent to help support the lower back. Bend the torso at about an 80-degree angle. Pull the bar to the belly button to activate the lats to a greater degree.
Focus: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids
Tip: Change the width of your grip to stimulate different parts of the back. In addition, experiment pulling to the upper, mid and/or lower chest for even greater variation.
Which is best you’re asking then? We’re afraid it’s going to be a bit of a cop out answer… all of them! That’s right, every compound exercise (even those not described) has its merit. They all help create strong, healthy bodies and should absolutely be a fundamental building block to any program.