Do Compound Movements Really Work?

Guest post by Marshall Evans

When it comes to working out, have you ever wondered whether compound movements or isolation movements are better? Or do you have any idea why a lot of professionals recommend doing heavy compound lifts like squats or deadlifts? Well, actually, compound movements are very beneficial and they really work for people of all fitness levels. So, the question is: “Do compound exercises really work or triumph over isolated exercises?”

The Definite Answer

Yes, yes and yes! Compound movements are much more beneficial than isolated movements no matter who you are or what your level of fitness is. In short, it’s important to do compound movements and if you’re looking for specific reasons, here are some of them.

1. Compound movements are the best for building muscle and strength

In general, compound exercises allow you to work for different muscle groups at the same time why isolation ones cannot. That means with compound movements, you can add more training volume and get a greater amount of work done in the same amount of time. That’s the reason why the big 3 including deadlift, squat, and bench are the best choice for building muscle.

Besides, working more than one muscle groups help you handle a bigger weight while all the muscle groups involved are working in synergy. Because you are working out using heavier weights, your strength, especially the core strength, can be improved quickly. And I believe that building strength and muscles are one of the highest priorities of most people who work out.

2. Compound movements help burn more fat/calories

Have you ever heard anyone say that compound lifts can help you burn fat more effectively than isolation exercises? Well, that person has his point because as mentioned above, compound exercises use more than one muscle group at a time, hence, they obviously help you burn more calories than isolation movements.

Furthermore, I believe that when it comes to fat loss, compound movements are even better than cardio. Why? This is because they are effective for your muscle growth and calorie burn while doing cardio only helps you burn calories.

Besides, remember that spending 30 or 45 minutes running on a treadmill or a spin bike only allows you to burn a few hundred calories only during the cardio. On the other hand, even though strength training, especially doing compound movements burn less calories during the workout, it helps you boost your metabolism or resting energy expenditure because of the muscle growth. That means you can burn more calories even when you’re not doing anything, not only during the workout. So, do less cardio and isolation exercises and instead, focus on compound lifts for a lean body.

3. Compound movements improve your cardiovascular health

Overall, cardiovascular health, while sounds quite technical to most people, means how effectively your heart pumps blood and oxygen around your whole body. In fact, when it comes to heart health, it’s best to do cardio. However, compound movements such as squats and deadlifts can also improve the ability of your heart to function as they involve a significant amount of muscle fibers and tissue. Tell me, when doing the squat vs doing knee extensions on a leg-extension machine: which one you feel is more challenging for your heart to pump blood to keep all the muscles active and fueled?

In short, for cardiovascular health, make sure you balance weight or strength training and cardio to maximize the results. In my experience, if you do general fitness, just spend the first 45 to an hour doing strength training exercises and end with a 15-20 treadmill workout.

4. Compound movements boost your growth hormone levels

Needless to say, hormones are extremely important for our body and compound movements can help you increase both testosterone and growth hormone as well. While the first hormone is the “manly” hormone which helps your body build muscle and burn fat effectively. The other hormone is responsible for the growth of our cells, contributing to fat burning, cell regeneration, and reproduction which are essential for athletic performance.  

Therefore, no matter what gender you are, doing compound movements is highly effective at increasing growth hormone which results in positive body functions.

5. Compound movements improve your joint health and prevent injuries

A lot of sports require moving in more than only one direction at a time. It could be swinging the racket faster in tennis or jumping high in basketball to block a shot. Compound exercises help you perform a full range of motion, utilizing stabilizing muscles and improving mobility. This way, you can reduce the risk of injury when playing sports or doing any other activities in your daily life.

For example, if the stabilizing muscles are weak on your knees, chances are you will have difficult sprinting along a field and you’ll be more susceptible to injuries. In short, even if you are not a serious lifter, just think of compound movements as the foundations of a house that are very helpful for your daily performance.    

Best compound movements everyone should do

There are so many different compound movements out there you can do but if you’re looking for just the basics, here are the 3 most popular exercises:

1. Flat barbell bench press

This bench press exercise can target your entire chest, shoulders, and triceps at the same time. That’s the reason why every guy in the gym does this one to have an aesthetic upper body.  

How to do it:

  • Step 1: Lie face up on a flat bench and keep shoulder blades retracted, back slightly arched and feet flat on the floor.
  • Step 2: Grab the bar using an overhand grip, just a little wider than shoulder width apart
  • Step 3: Inhale and lower the barbell to your chest level until the bar gently touches your body
  • Step 4: Press the bar back up while exhaling to return to the starting position.safe_image-(9)

2. High-bar back squat

When it comes to the squat, there are different squat variations that target different muscle groups. However, the high-bar squat is the most common variation and it engages your quads, hamstrings, and glutes at the same time. So if you do general fitness, this is the best exercise for your leg workout.

How to do it:

  • Step 1: Slide under the bar and place it on your traps. Grab the bar tightly and keep your head straight
  • Step 2: Take a deep breath and contract your core muscles to prevent rounding or overarching your torso and gently unrack the bar.
  • Step 3: Take a few steps back, place both feet just a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Step 4: Lower your body by bending your knees and hips until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor
  • Step 5: Drive through your midfoot and straighten your legs to get back to the starting position, then exhale.shutterstock_555918037-(1)

3. Conventional deadlift

This is the most difficult and the heaviest lift ever in weight and strength training. And to be honest, the deadlift is my favorite exercise as it allows me to work almost my whole body. In details, the main muscle groups involved are glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back, abs, traps, and forearms. See, people call it a total-body exercise for a reason.

How to do it:

  • Step 1: Place your feet under the barbell with your legs shoulder width apart, core tight and back naturally arched.
  • Step 2: Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor, grab the bar with an overhand grip or a mixed grip.
  • Step 3: Inhale, lift the barbell by straightening your legs and at the top of the movement, contract your back.
  • Step 4: Exhale once you return to the starting position.Sports-background.-Young-athlete-getting-ready-for-weight-lifting-training


author-imageMarshall Evans

I’m Marshall and I’m a founder of I love fitness so I spend years searching for training and nutrition tips to get in shape. I really want to share my experiences and all my tips for anyone who cares about this area; that’s why I started in 2017. Through the blog, I have a chance to write about everything I want to share with you guys to make you love fitness more and help you get an aesthetic body.