Last week I was talking with a friend who loves to train about the workouts and routines that we can see more frequently on gyms, we agreed that compound exercises are not getting the same attention as some years ago while isolation exercises are the way to go for most people which makes the routines long and more complex.
If your goal is to gain dense muscle mass and get stronger the answer is compound exercises. They will help you gain size and strength while keeping your workouts simple. If your goal is fat loss stick with compound movements, you can use bodyweight which can also be considered compound.
Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles at the same which gives you the opportunity to lift more weight. The more weight you can lift, the stronger you get and you gain more muscle (considering that your nutrition program is right). This type of exercises have a lot of benefits including lowering the risk of injuries (considering that you don´t let your ego get in the way), you can do more in less time and you keep things simple.
Performing compound movements with free weights (barbells or dumbbells) is the best option even when you can´t lift the same amount of weight compared to gym machines or other equipment.
My approach to training is old school, sticking with a few basic exercises with high weight and low reps and adjusting some variables according to the goal you´re working on. Since compound exercises are multi-joint movements you can lift more weight so they are the perfect option to lift more weight in a low rep range.
Compound movements also require balance and coordination so as you keep increasing the weight your performance will increase.
With compound movements you can lift heavy weight for 5 to 8 reps for hypertrophy to build dense muscle, you can go heavier in weight and lower in reps around 1 to 3 reps for strength and power. You can also lift lighter weight for 12 to 15 reps or even more.
When you are using compound movements it is simple and effective but it doesn´t means it´s easy. And since we´re working on low reps and high weight things get harder meaning maximum muscle recruitment and high nervous-system activation this is the right stimulus for muscle growth and strength. Here you need to consider recovery which is as important as your workouts the central nervous system needs more time to recover so you can´t train the same muscle group 2 days continually.
You don´t need to do a lot of different exercises for each muscle group, keep what works and eliminate what doesn´t work. If you focus on key movements you can build a great physique that is also useful, there´s no reason to look great if you can´t perform great. Our goal is to improve body composition and build a physique you are proud of and also that is useful for daily activities at your home or your job.
Compound movements along with bodyweight exercises are the best option for any fitness goal to keep your strength and make sure that you doesn´t lose muscle. You can use both for heavy weight and low reps, which is what I prefer or you can use them for low weight and high reps to work more your endurance. Going high in reps can also help you gain muscle and burn fat it´s not the same type of hypertrophy (muscle growth) but it´s a way to add variety to your workouts.
With any workout it doesn´t matter if it´s cardio or resistance the goal is to improve, every time you workout you need to make some improvement, some days it may be increasing weight, others it may be doing more reps with the same weight or if you are losing fat the goal must be to keep the same weight for the same reps. When you are in a calorie deficit it may be harder to train as hard as when you are on maintenance or building muscle.
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