Compound Exercise Benefits for Weight Loss
Why You Should Focus on Compound Exercises When You Strength Train
To build strength and muscle size, you must gradually increase the challenge your place on your muscles. Fitness experts refer to this as progressive overload, and it’s a fundamental tenet of strength training. If you ignore this principle, your workout becomes stagnant, and you stop making gains. If you’re serious about improving your strength and total body fitness, that’s not what you want.
Unfortunately, some people devote too much of their workout to cardiovascular exercise because they are not aware of the benefits of strength training. Training our muscles keeps them around longer because with age, we gradually lose muscle size and strength. This process begins after the age of thirty and accelerates once you hit mid-life. What you don’t use, you lose, and most forms of cardiovascular exercise don’t preserve muscle in the upper body and core. Strength training does that. So, the time you spend working your muscles against resistance is time well spent in terms of your future health.
However, there’s a caveat. Not all strength-training exercises are created equal. Some exercises offer more return for the time you spent doing them. These exercises are called compound exercises, and they’re the key to making big gains in strength and muscle size. Furthermore, because you be using more muscles at the same time it will increase the amount of energy used. After all, it take more any to move two muscles than it does to move one.
What is a Compound Exercise?
Compound exercises are strength-training moves that involve movement around more than one joint simultaneously. Compound movements also work more than one muscle group at the same time. Examples of compound exercises include deadlifts, push-ups, squats, dips, bent-over rows, military press, and bench press. For example, the main muscles you work when you bench press are the pectoral muscles in the chest, but the muscles in your triceps and shoulders are activated too. You get more bang for you buck when you perform compound movements.
In contrast, isolation exercises activate a single muscle group. They consist of movement around a single joint. Examples include biceps curls, leg extensions, lateral raises, and chest flies. These exercises offer benefits, but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your workout. Compound exercises have benefits you won’t get from isolation movements.
What Are the Benefits of Compound Exercises?
Compound exercises are time expedient. Since you’re working multiple muscle groups, you don’t have to do as many sets or exercises to get a full-body workout. In fact, you can work your entire body by doing only a few, compound exercises. A few sets of deadlifts, squats, and bench press will work every muscle without taking a lot of time.
Another benefit of compound exercises is they are functional movements. In other words, compound exercises, like squats and deadlifts, train your leg muscles to work more effectively as a unit. Muscles don’t usually work independently of each other, and that’s where isolation exercises fall short. Shifting the focus to compound exercises translates into greater functionality when you do things around the house, like bending over to lift something heavy or squatting down to retrieve something off the floor. Compound exercises are also beneficial if you play sports. It’s a more “holistic” approach to getting strong.
Compound exercises also burn more calories because you’re working multiple muscle groups at the same time. The more muscles you put to work, the more energy stores your body has to tap in to. Compound exercises that work the large muscles in the lower body burn the most calories. So, deadlifts and squats are your friends if you’re trying to get lean and ripped. These are the exercises that get you stronger and leaner faster.
Some studies suggest that working large muscles groups against heavy resistance creates more of an anabolic effect relative to working smaller muscle groups with isolation exercises. In other words, targeting large muscle group with heavy weights stimulates the release of hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, which fuel muscle growth. However, this is controversial. Not all studies support this idea. Yet it does appear that anabolic hormones are elevated for at least 15 minutes after a challenging strength training workout that emphasizes the large muscles in the lower body.
- Bench Press
- Push Ups
- Bent Over Barbell Row
- Pull Ups
- Overhead Press
- Lateral Raise’
The Bottom Line
Include isolation exercises in your strength-training routine but make the focus of your workouts compound exercises. A good ratio is 75% compound exercises to 25% isolation exercises. If you have muscle asymmetries where you’re more developed on one side than the other, isolation exercises on the underdeveloped side can help restore balance. But, overall, compound exercises are a strength and muscle-building ally to take advantage of. When you’re pressed for time, make all of your exercises compound movements to get the most benefits out of the time you have. Twenty or thirty minutes of compound exercises pack a lot more punch than an equivalent amount of isolation exercises. Take advantage of the benefits compound movements offer. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you see gains!