Some of the best compound exercises are ones we don’t ever think about!

Instead of struggling to come up with exercises that will reach every muscle group, a compound exercise gives you the freedom to choose a whole new workout routine and shake things up.

To get started, it’s easiest to have a list so you can quickly and effectively choose what works best for you.

List of Lower Body Compound Exercises

Compound exercises work multiple areas at once which saves you time while still building and maintaining muscle.

Instead of having to rely on only one muscle group, compound exercises give you the freedom to lift heavier and progress more quickly.

Lower body compound exercises help you increase your mobility, burn more calories, and get your heart rate up.


Squats are one of the most common lower body compound exercises and nearly every gym has a set up to make the most of them.

The technique is crucial when it comes to doing squats well and making sure they’re effective. Once the technique is set, they work your quads, lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors, and core every time.

It’s important when engaging in these squats that you choose a variation that feels comfortable for you.

No exercise is going to be completely comfortable but some will feel more natural and others too far outside of your realm of comfort.

Learn and grow in each of these so you can choose what works best for you.

Barbell Hip Raises

Two of the most important and yet hardest areas to work on are your glutes and hamstrings. Barbell hip raises work both areas with ease!

They help you strengthen these muscle groups and allows you to load up on the weight and make it even more challenging.

Overall the barbell hip raises work your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, core, hip flexors, and biceps.


The technique is very important when deadlifting as the chance for injury seems to increase when bending over.

But this compound exercise utilizes a whole host of muscle groups including your hamstrings, lower back, glutes, hip flexors, and core so don’t overlook it while at the gym.

Deadlifts themselves can be tweaked and varied to create an exercise that works for you.

The exact exercise isn’t as important as engaging the muscles and technique will play more into the engagement of the muscles than the exact exercise.

Clean and Press

If you’re an experienced lifter and you want to engage more muscle groups more quickly, the clean and press is your move!

It builds muscle quickly and engages a large portion of your body each time. A clean and press utilize quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, core, hip flexors, delts, upper chest, lats, traps, and triceps.

There are lots of different variations of the press and you can choose one that works best for you.

Keep your stability in mind as well when you’re focusing on any press or clean and press exercise.

List of Upper Body Compound Exercises

Working out is all about building on a solid foundation.

Compound exercises engage a wide range of muscle groups so you can mix up your workout routine and continue to build on your foundation.

These compound movements also help you stay safe and continue to engage muscles you might have missed otherwise.

Leg-raise Bench-press

Work your chest, biceps, and abs with this move that incorporates your entire upper body.

You’ll lie down on a flat bench and grasp the bar with your hands a fist’s width apart.

Next, lift your legs so they’re off the bench at a 35-degree angle.

Lower the barbell to your chest and as you push it up, raise your legs until they’re at 90 degrees to the bench.

Continue raising and lowering your arms and legs at the same time until your set is complete.

Incline press

This compound exercise works your chest and triceps and if you’re going for all around upper-body workout today, you don’t even have to get off the bench!

This utilizes an incline bench at 45 degrees, dumbbells, and determination.

Keeping the dumbbells at arm’s length, lower them to either side of your chest, pause, and then straighten your arms.

This movement engages your entire chest and arms to workout and builds muscle fast.

Squat shoulder press

This compound exercise engages the upper and lower body and focuses on the shoulders, abs, and glutes for a well-rounded workout.

You’ll just need dumbbells to incorporate this into your routine.

You’ll lunge first so your right foot is ahead of your left with a dumbbell in each hand.

Raise the dumbbells to either side of your head.

Lower your left knee and bend your right leg and as you come up, push the weights up in a shoulder-press then lower the weights again.

Then alternate the forward-facing foot so you get a whole body workout.

Power clean

The power clean is one of the most impressive lifts anyone can do at the gym and it’s often held to be on hallowed ground.

Having a good technique is important and can help prevent injuries. The power clean work the shoulders, traps, and abs.

Squat with your toes underneath the barbell then grabs the bar with an overhand grip.

Straighten up while pulling the bar up and keep it close to your body.

When the bar is just below your chin, rotate your elbows around the bar so your palms are facing out.

Pause, then rotate your elbows back and lower them to the start position.

Squat to Bicep Curl

This is another compound exercise that ventures from strictly being upper-body to incorporating the lower half as well!

To boost calorie-burn this compound movement incorporates your legs as well.

Start by standing shoulders width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Straighten up to your knees to rise and curl the weights to shoulder height.

Bent-over Row

Standing bent over in the gym like this may seem silly but the resulting muscle growth is a powerful testament to the bent-over row!

You’ll start by standing and holding a pair of dumbbells with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Keep your back flat and bend forward until your back is nearly parallel with the floor.

Slowly draw the weights up toward the sides of your chest, pause, then lower them back and repeat.

Pull-ups / Pull-downs

The simple pull-up may be the bane of every freshman P.E. class but it’s an excellent compound exercise that engages multiple areas of the body including biceps, triceps, core, lats, and chest.

This can be done almost anywhere either indoors or outdoors too! Grasp the bar with your hand’s shoulders width apart.

Focus on your muscles and pull your body up off the ground until your chin clears the bar.

Slowly lower yourself back down until your arms at a 90-degree angle, pause, and repeat.

Smith Press Machine

This incorporates a machine and free weights so you can easily mix up and utilize several different muscle groups.

Start by sitting on a bench with back support directly underneath the barbell of a Smith Machine.

Grip the bar as tightly as possible and press it overhead until your arms are completely locked out. Lower and repeat.

Benefits of compound exercises

Exercising in general is a huge benefit to anyone looking to improve their health.

Compound exercises maximize the time you spend in the gym and help you create an overall healthier routine and lifestyle.

Burn More Calories

The body in general expends 5 calories to consume 1 liter of oxygen. Any exercises that involve more muscle tissue like lifting weights, running, or calisthenics require more oxygen and thus burn more calories.

Engaging more muscles increases the amount of oxygen needed to be consumed, and causes the body to expend even more calories.

Improve intermuscular coordination

Improving coordination even within the body is a huge benefit to anyone, not just athletes or competitors.

By engaging several muscle groups at once, the coordination and timing of muscles around joints are improved.

Engaging these muscle groups teaches them to work together and improve control.

Cardiovascular training

Cardiovascular training is meant to improve the ability of the heart to function as a pump.

Running, biking or swimming are traditional cardiovascular training but simply sitting at a weight machine may not engage the heart as much.

Compound movements and exercises are designed to engage more muscle which challenges the heart to pump more blood and move faster to keep up.

Dynamic flexibility

Static stretching leaves room for injuries when it’s followed by a dynamic activity.

Engaging in dynamic stretching like the kind that’s provoked by compound exercises is a great way to allow the muscles to engage and stretch without breaking and being injured.

It also improves the length and reduces tension in the long run.

Improve movement efficiency

Training only one muscle group at a time can cause those muscles to become stiff and only want to move or be engaged in that specific direction.

Engaging in compound exercises teach your muscles to move and be fluid throughout the time you’re training and beyond.

Instead of being stuck in a rut, your muscles are taught to respond to your body instead of dictating how it works.

Customized to you

Choosing your workout routine can feel like a chore and it often falls into the same movements over and over again.

Incorporating some new, compound exercises is a great way to mix it up and customize your routine to you and your lifestyle.

There are several questions you should ask yourself when creating your workout routine and when you’re deciding if you want to keep doing this exercise.

Ask yourself if you enjoy the movement if you can do it pain-free, can you use the proper technique, if you can feel the muscles working, and if you can use the full range of motion after adding or trying a new exercise.

These customized movements and exercises allow you to be comfortable and creative when it comes to your workout.

Instead of focusing only on mass or muscle growth, introducing and pushing on compound exercises will help you create an all-around healthier lifestyle and routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the big 5 compound exercises?

There is any number of combinations of compound exercises but the most common and most frequently used are squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell row, and overhead barbell press.

Are compound exercises better?

Compound exercises engage multiple muscle groups and focus on making them more flexible and stronger.

By starting with the unique muscle groups, you can strengthen them to the point where using and initiating compound exercises will be a benefit rather than a hindrance.

How many times a week should you do compound exercises?

Two to three days out of a week is best if you’re a healthy, active adult.

Adding in more than this can put too much strain on the muscles and cause injuries or pain throughout your training time.

Are compound exercises best for mass?

Compound exercises will eventually create mass but because it’s not focusing specifically on a certain muscle group, the growth will be slower.

You’re more likely to notice and see results from compound exercises that are more focused on being leaner and more flexible over time.


The compound exercise engages a wide range of muscles and helps stimulate the heart as well. But they can’t create a healthy lifestyle or workout routine by themselves.

In addition to adding in muscle group-specific lifts, engage in an array of specific cardiovascular exercises that will help improve your heart’s capability to pump blood.

Your muscles will end up being useless if you can’t get blood to them when they’re needed!

There are several compound movements and exercises to choose from but the big 5 are squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell row, and overhead barbell press.

Each of these then has several variations that can be incorporated to make sure you’re safe, comfortable, and growing in your exercise journey.

Compound exercises help save you time in the gym as well as improve functionality and coordination, increase blood floor and heart rate and gives you a way to mix up your workout routine.

The exact exercises don’t matter as long as you’re engaging your muscles, learning, and growing throughout the process.

Rather than becoming stiff as you focus on only one exercise and one muscle group, allow your body to grow, expand, learn, and become more flexible as you engage with any number of compound exercises.

Let’s hit the gym and see just what you can accomplish! 

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