Best list of compound exercises to power up your workout!
If you want the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to get the following compound exercises in your workout routine. Compound exercises refer to any move that works more than one muscle group at once, thus allowing you to see faster strength progress and calorie burning per set.
10. Incline Barbell Press
If you want upper body compound exercises, the incline barbell press is great for building strength. This compound lift is going to work the chest and shoulder muscles at the same time, while also calling the triceps into play to help with stabilization.
The incline barbell press can be done either on a chest focused day or a shoulder focused day – your choice. Or, if you’re training your entire upper body in one day, it’s a great way to save time if you’re in a rush.
Do note that you will typically lift less weight than normal when doing a incline press compared to a flat press, so don’t get discouraged if that is the case. Because it is more focused on you front delts, which are naturally a weaker muscle group than the chest, it’s very normal to see the weight decrease.
When doing this exercise, be sure to keep the core tight to avoid excessive arching in your back, which could lead to pain down the road.
9. Leg Press
For an all around lower body strengthener exercise that just about everyone can do, the leg press is a great choice. The nice thing about this exercise is that it is a compound movement, but the learning curve is very low. There’s not much to know as far as technique goes except that it’s important to keep your lower back pressed into the back pad and the knees tracking properly over the toes.
The other nice thing about the leg press is that there is plenty of variety you can do with this exercise simply by changing how you position your feet.
Place your feet up higher on the platform in order to work the glutes and hamstrings to a larger degree and lower on the platform if you want to target your quads.
You can also turn the feet out or even slightly in to target different regions of the quads.
Finally, if you place your feet closer together, you can expect to work your outer quad sweep more, while if you place them further apart, you?ll hit your hips and glutes to a larger degree.
No compound workout would be complete without the pull-up. Often done as a show of strength, not everyone can master a pull-up so if you can already do one, count yourself a head of the game.
The pull-up is great because you don’t need any special equipment to do it, which is rare for a compound exercise and it can easily be done in the comfort of your own home if you install a pull-up bar (or have some other overhead pipe you can use).
Pull-ups are a fantastic back builder and will also target your bicep muscles as well, so can help you gain that look of great strength and power. They focus more on back width than thickness as they’ll get your lats growing quickly, so note that most people with their training will want to pair the pull-up together with something like the bent over row that helps to improve thickness as well.
You can also add more variations to pull-ups by changing how wide you place your hands on the bar as well as by either using an overhand or underhand grip.
One note: avoid letting your lower body swing while doing this movement. Your lower body should stay as straight and stationary as possible in order to avoid letting momentum come into the exercise and help make the entire process of execution that much easier.
7. Bent Over Row
Now we come to the bent over row exercise, which is a fantastic movement for building up your back. When doing this exercise with a barbell, you?ll hit your lats, your traps, as well as your biceps and you?ll even work your core and erector muscles as they need to get involved in stabilization.
If you aren’t one for barbell rows, you can still make use of dumbbell rows or single arm rows that allow you to focus on just one side of the body at a time.
The most important thing to remember when doing bent over rows is to avoid rounding out the back (it should be kept relatively flat instead) and to ensure that you are keeping your upper body as stationary as possible.
Some people will really get into the habit of using momentum to carry them through the exercise and you?ll notice they are almost swinging the weight up, rather than controlling it up through their muscular power.
6. Standing Shoulder Barbell Press
To target the shoulder muscles exceptionally well and help build great strength and power, turn to the standing shoulder press exercise. This is done again with a barbell and will help you build more strength in the shoulders than done with dumbbells instead.
While dumbbells and barbells will work the same muscle groups, the dumbbells require more stabilization on your part, which will take away from your total strength output.
If you’re looking for a compound exercise to help build as much maximum strength development as possible, the barbell press is simply the smarter route to go.
When doing this exercise, it is very important to keep your core muscles tight and spinal column in proper alignment when you have the weight over head. Some people let their back arch, which will immediately place great strain on the lower back vertebrae and dramatically increase your risk for lower back pain.
5. Bench Press
If a stronger chest is what you seek, look no further than to the bench press. One of the gold standard exercises that many people use to demonstrate how strong they are is the bench press, and it is one of the best compound moves for the upper body.
The bench press will target all the muscles in the chest region as well as hit the delts to some degree and the triceps as an assistor muscle and biceps for stabilization.
The bench press, as it does take a great deal of strength to perform, should typically be done towards the start of your workout session and then followed by any shoulder pressing activities if you are doing them in the same workout.
When you do the bench press, watch that you don’t lockout the elbow joint at the top of the exercise but instead, keep a small degree of constant tension in the arms. This will help you avoid great shoulder or elbow pain down the road.
Also be sure to lower the weight down so it’s nearly touching the sternum so you don’t cheat yourself out of results because you weren?t using the full range of motion.
4. Walking Lunge
If you want strength and cardiovascular benefits at the same time, the walking lunge is a fantastic go-to. This exercise can be done in so many different manners: bodyweight only, with dumbbells at your sides, with a barbell on your shoulders, or stationary with one foot up on a bench behind you so there’s no shortage of options and boredom will never come into play.
Walking lunges are great for hitting all the main muscles in the lower body – the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves and will also work the core as well as it comes into play to help you maintain good balance.
When doing walking lunges note that the further away you step with the forward foot, the more emphasis you?ll place on the glutes and hamstrings and the closer you step, the more you?ll be working the quads.
Be sure not to adopt any sort of sharp forward lean while doing the walking lunge and keep the knees moving over the toes at all times.
Squat exercises can be used to demonstrate lower body strength and is one that definitely does take some skill to do. Whether you choose to perform the back squat, high bar squat, or front squat, there is some heavy technique involved in this compound exercise, so be sure to get a personal trainer to show you how it’s done if you don’t already know.
Squats are very intense and will work your entire lower body as well as your core because your core has to contract hard to help keep your body balanced throughout the entire movement.
Squats are also a great way to get your heart rate up, especially if doing higher rep squats so will make for a very powerful full body workout.
Your risk of injury doing the squat is high if proper form isn?t used so as noted, be sure to brush up on that.
Along with squats, deadlift exercises are also powerful training for the lower body, you?ll want to add into the mix and be sure you’re using on a weekly basis. While squats tend to target the front and back of the body equally well (with the exception of front squats, in which the anterior of the body is the focus) the deadlift works the posterior of the body.
You?ll be targeting the glutes, hamstrings, erector muscles, lats, traps, and even the upper body to some degree during this movement as it has to hold onto the bar as you lift it off the ground.
Likes squats, deadlifts are all about technique so it’s important that you learn good technique and nail that before moving forward.
You can perform conventional or stiff legged deadlifts with the primary difference being stiffed leg deadlifts will focus more on the hamstrings and glutes and less on the upper back than conventional deadlifts will.
Both are great compound exercises to have in your workout routine.
1. Clean and Press
Finally, if you really want to up the intensity of your session, consider the clean and press, which his an exercise that is designed to work both the upper and lower body simultaneously. These compound movements are also very common powerlifting moves and will have you starting with a focus on the lower body as you clean the weight and then pressing it over head where your upper body takes over.
This is a more advanced exercise, so not one for beginners but one that you can graduate to after spending some time perfecting the other compound exercises noted above.
The clean and press, because so many muscles are being utilized will be awesome for helping to boost your total calorie burn, build high levels of strength, and improve balance and agility as well.
Use it at the start of your workout program when you’re feeling most fresh.
Once you’ve added these compound exercises to your workout, try now focusing on specific muscles groups with our range of exercises for different muscles.
I’m Troy and I’m the creator of SuperHuman You and Co-Founder of Alpha Lion.
I created SuperHuman You to give you access to the most cutting edge information so you can reach your body goals as fast as humanly possible.
I’ve been obsessed with training since 2005 when I attended IMG Academy and got to train alongside NBA, NFL and Olympic Gold Medal winning athletes.
Now I’m on a mission to transform as many lives as possible and I’m so excited you found us!
I’ve been fortunate enough to train alongside and pick the brain of some of the best pro athletes, bodybuilders and trainers in the world – and this site represents over 15+ years of insights from the world’s best.
Want more gains? Here are a few suggested actions:
Head over to the world’s largest exercise database for a wide variety of unique exercises for every muscle group
Visit our Youtube Channel where you can watch Balloon Method™ workouts for Every Muscle Group.
Check out Alpha Lion so you can learn more about 1 of the fastest growing fitness lifestyle companies in the world and stack up on the best science-backed supplements.