What are compound movements and do they help build muscle fast?

Fitness / Monday, January 29th, 2018
compound movement

Instagram body-builders may have led you to believe that bodybuiling is a delicate process, full of movements tailored to building that one specific muscle you’ve never heard of. But what most people often forget is that building muscle is a brutal undertaking.

Think about it, you purposefully make micro-tears in your muscles, for them to rebuild, bigger and stronger than ever before. The process sounds wolverine-esque, and it is. Compound movements reinforce that philosophy, expanding on the fact that to become a beast, you must train like one.

If you’re a firm believer in the aforementioned, then compound movements are for you.

What are compound movements?

The bookish definition of a compound movement is: “Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and, indeed, multiple muscles.”

Simply put, compound movements work many muscle groups at the same time.

How do they benefit me?

The biggest benefit of incorporating compound movements in your exercise routine is the stress they exert throughout the target muscles as well as neighboring muscles. Pretty much your whole body is forced to work when you start doing a compound workout.

All this extra effort pushes your body into overdrive, causing it to produce hormones — testosterone and growth hormone — which facilitate muscle growth.

Secondly, compound movements are focused on pushing, pulling, squatting, pressing and lifting. These exercises mimic real-life actions, which means you develop ‘functional strength’, also known as useful strength, helping you complete daily tasks with greater efficiency.

Lastly, compound movements bolster fat burn. Because of their demanding nature, your heart is forced to work harder, causing your metabolism to also elevate. When that happens, your cardio-respiratory systems and fat burning systems are beneficially altered, promoting (of course) fat loss, better stamina, and pure, lean muscle.

Think of it as your body getting a system upgrade; it gets stronger, faster and a LOT better.

The big 5 compound exercises

Let’s get to the best part. These are the movements you need to incorporate into your routine to turn into Ryan Reynolds six to eight months from now (progress takes time, at least I’m keeping it real).

compound movement


The deadlift is quite possibly the best exercise you can do…ever. This compound movement targets your ENTIRE body. Glutes, hamstrings, forearms, traps, abs, you name it, this movement works it.

Here’s a detailed article I wrote explaining the origins, the howto, and the benefits of the King of all workouts.

And a video:

compound movement


Squats are associated with a big booty. While that is true, it’s not the only thing Squats are good for.

This exercise improves physiological strength, meaning you’ll move better, your hips will feel less stiffer and you’ll feel nimbler overall.

The squat works core stabilizers (obliques and abs), quads — the biggest muscle in your body,  and lower legs.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to perform the squat:

compound movement

Bench Press

Aah, the Bench Press. Probably the most well-known movement for aspiring gym-goers. The fascination with the Bench Press isn’t new. The craze started back in 1930 when enthusiastic lifters laid on a ‘wooden bench’ and pressed a barbell off of their chest in a display of raw strength.

The Bench Press very obviously targets and develops the Chest. But like all compound movements it targets multiple muscle groups, which include: triceps and shoulders.

All variations of the Bench Press, whether it be incline, decline, or flat are classified as compound movements.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to perform the Bench Press:

overheadpress sabaiblogger

Military Press/ Overhead Press

Is there anything more fulfilling than lifting something up, and pressing it directly over your head? It demonstrates the beauty and the power of the human body so effortlessly. Yet, this might be the hardest compound movement to perform and get stronger at.

The movement works your shoulders, triceps, traps, and core.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to perform the Overhead Press:

compound movement

Barbell Row

Most people seem to replace the humble Barbell Row with Dips. To them I say, that’s like..totally your opinion, man.

For me, the barbell row completes the list. This exercise primarily works the back (surprise, surprise, it’s my favorite body part to train), biceps, rear delts, and forearms.

Basically, this compound movement mostly works the ‘behind-the-scene’ muscles. These are groups you probably don’t see until the (t)shirt comes off, but rest assured, without these muscles any man or woman is guaranteed to look, and feel incomplete.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to perform the Barbell Row:

The verdict

As you realize, compound movements are simple yet effective. They focus on pushing, pulling and squatting against gravity. You may also notice that these exercises involve all the major muscle groups, developing them simultaneously, this makes them particularly good for building muscle and strength.

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