By Gregory R. Owens Sr.
On any given day at the gym, I can be found lifting weights using compound, combination, and full-body movements. I do it because my objective is to increase lean mass and decrease fat simultaneously, rather than isolating muscle groups to increase their size. It’s my way of getting the biggest bang-for-my-buck during weight training.
I consistently achieve 90% of my training results from compound movements, which are also a function of my workout design and exercise selection.
Unfortunately many people workout daily with no real strategy in mind to achieve their ultimate weightlifting goals. Often times they are lifting using many different resistance machines and weightlifting bars, without any idea why they’re there in the first place.
So, if your weight training goal is to get stronger overall and decrease body fat, then I believe you should focus on exercises that work a lot of muscles at the same time. Compound exercises should be the foundation for your workout program.
Compound exercises utilize multiple joints and usually incorporate multiple, major muscle groups at the same time, which often incorporate many small, stabilizing muscle groups as well. I believe compound movements are at the heart of strength training.
As meaningful and taxing as compound exercises can be, it’s not advisable for you to build a workout program that is made up entirely of compound movements. This is particularly true if you’re focusing on a specific body-part in your workout. A good example would be your quads, while deciding a compound movement such as front or back squats to work your quads, while also working many more muscles other than your quads. If done correctly you will work your entire leg, core and back muscles.
Now you can follow your squats with a secondary exercise that also hits the quads. I would recommend something like walking lunges, split squats, or leg curls. An exercise that uses lighter weight and is less taxing on the central nervous system.
I believe that you can get great results from just one compound exercise for each major muscle group of your body, which fits in perfectly with the 90/10 rule. Find which 10% compound exercise that gives you 90% of your results and work your program.
Below are 15 of the best compound exercises to incorporate into forming the foundation of your strength training program, while also structuring secondary exercises to focus on specific muscles:
1. Front Squat – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
2. Back Squat – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
3. Barbell Thrusters – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
4. Kettlebell Swings – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
5. Conventional Deadlift – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
6. Sumo Deadlift – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
7. Romanian Deadlift – quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
8. Flat Bench Press (Dumbell or Barbell) – chest, core, arms, shoulders
9. Incline Bench Press (Dumbell or Barbell) – chest, core, arms, shoulders
10. Decline Bench Press (Dumbell or Barbell) – chest, core, arms, shoulders
11. Push Press – shoulders, quads, hamstrings, arms, core
12. Power Cleans – shoulders, back, quads, hamstrings, arms, core
13. Hang Cleans – shoulders, back, quads, hamstrings, arms, core
14. Back Rows (Dumbell or Barbell) – back, shoulders, arms, core
15. Pullups (All Variations) – back, shoulders, arms
Strength training isn’t just about weightlifting, but also about strength of character, a tough mindset through discipline, and strength of person.