Compound exercises are quite simply multi-muscle exercises. Think more of the bench press (which activates your pecs, triceps and shoulders) as opposed to a fly movement (which will activate just your pecs). Some of the most common examples (which all have various adaptations) include:

  • Bench Press / Press Up
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Clean and Press
  • Overhead Press 
  • Bent over row
  • Upright Row
  • Pull Up
  • Dips

These movements should make up the core of any workout routine, whether you’re using resistance exercises to improve sports performance, lose fat or build muscle.

Simply put, they are the most effective way to reach a wide variety of fitness goals, compare it to cutting down a tree with a high powered chainsaw, rather than hacking away with an old axe…..

Reason #1 – Less time at the gym.

Here at the Gainstopia, it’s all about efficiency. 

How can you get the most from your workout?

How can you make sure you get a full workout even if you’ve got an hour or less? 

The answer? Compound movements.

Imagine you want to work 10, maybe more, individual muscles to train in a specific session whilst realising you’ve only got a specific amount of time to get home, showered and changed before you’re expected to be at that place (insert school / college / work / to see your partner etc).

As compound exercises use more than one muscle group, you can activate a variety of muscles at once and therefore can cut your workout time into a fraction of what it might have been using traditional isolation exercises (i.e. movements only using one muscle). 

Let’s say you wanted to develop your biceps, you could just do a whole string of bicep curls till your biceps are so tired you’re asking the staff at the gym to pour the protein shake into your mouth for you.

Alternatively, you could spend this time doing a mix of pull ups and bent over rows, this way you’ve not built up stronger and bigger biceps [1], but a whole net of muscles across your back, giving you a much more balanced workout and physique in a fraction of the time. 

Now you’ve got the time to go and see your friends / partner and even pick up some food / flowers on the way!

Reason #2 – Burn more fat

afterburn effeft

As compound exercises use more than 1 muscle at a time, they also burn much more calories than an isolation (1 muscle at a time) exercise will, fact [2]. 

This is because more muscles are being activated and all of these muscles require energy. 

In terms of the total calorie burn from doing this sort of exercise, you not only burn more calories during the workout, you burn more calories after the workout too!

Burning more calories once you’re not even in the gym any more is an incredible tool for building a lean physique and is usually called the “afterburn effect”, aka EPOC, or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. 

Research suggest that with the afterburn effect you can burn approximately 10-15% more calories vs other types of exercise which don’t induce this effect for example cycling or running [3], so rather than burning roughly 2,000 calories on a normal day, after a big session of compound movements (such as the 1 Hour Gauntlet) the next day you’re likely to burn somewhere between 2,200 and 2,300 calories without doing anything extra. 

Think of it as those buscuits you’ve had with your cup of tea not actually counting towards your calories intake (although don’t use this as an excuse to have a couple more to compensate…).

Reason # 3 – Cardiovascular Benefits

cardio benefits

Cardiovascular fitness, whilst sounds quite technical, actually just means how effectively your heart is at pumping blood and oxygen around your body and how then your muscles use the oxygen to give you the energy to move. 

This then translates into breathing easier, running to catch the train without losing your breath and going for longer on the sports field without feeling tired. 

Improving cardio (read: heart) health is so important, it can help reduce the likelihood of a whole range of diseases, which will help you live a longer, more active and an inevitably happier life. 

The heart is the engine of your body, and it’s the only one you’ve got, so why not upgrade it to give you a bit more horsepower in daily life?

If you’re looking for more ways to boost your cardiovascular fitness, check out these HIIT workouts too.

Reason #4 – Hormone Release


Hormones are super important, so I’ll devote a full blog to them and how you can manage them in another blog, for now think of them as little chemical messengers that tell your body to do certain things. 

With regards to compound movements, the two most important increases in hormones are Testosterone & Growth Hormone.

First I’ll explain a little bit about testosterone, it’s the “manly” hormone, responsible for a whole wealth of handy body functions such as building muscle, burning fat and even increasing sexual appetite. 

For men above 30, testosterone levels begin to decline gradually, with the resulting factors being fatigue, depression, loss of sex drive, decreased muscle mass, increased body fat and erectile dysfunction, all the changes to ensure the quality of your personal life and career takes a nosedive faster than an aircraft with the engine turned off [5]….

But don’t reach for the hormone replacement therapy yet, completing an intense session of compound movements has been shown to increase natural levels of testosterone, keeping that old age beer belly and a monk’s sex life at bay.

Secondly, there’s the growth hormone (or Human Growth Hormone / HGH), as you might have guessed, this hormone is responsible for the growth of all cells inside the body, it also contributes to effective fat burning, cell reproduction and regeneration, functions which are all particularly important for improving athletic performance. 

Again, doing compound movements is highly effective at stimulating growth hormone, which in turn will ensure all the positive body functions above are running effectively. Couple this with coconut oil to boost these hormones further and that’s your ticket to a stronger & leaner physique. 

Reason #5 – Better Strength Progress


As we know by now, compound exercises recruit more muscles per movement, this means that you’ll be able to handle a bigger weight as your muscles are working in synergy. Why is this good you ask? Due to the fact your working out using bigger weights, your strength will also go up at a faster rate. 

In order to maximise the increases in strength over time, make sure you incorporate a few of the big compound exercises into your routine, i.e. the deadlift, bench press, squat and bent over row etct then ensure that you’re increasing the weight when you find the weights become easier. 

Ensure you’re enough protein and before you know it you’ve built some new muscle. 

Finally, compound exercises are a more functional way to strength train, meaning you can now do daily tasks with greater ease. Having difficulties moving that furniture to your mates house? Not any more your not.

Keen to build muscle as well as strength? You’ll need to know the 3 absolute essentials for building muscle.

Reason #6 – Improved Joint Stability

sports performance

Many sports, whether it’s football, rugby, snowboarding, tennis or any other sport you can think of, all require moving in more than 1 direction at a time. It could be jumping that bit higher in basketball to block a shot or swinging the racket faster during a serve in tennis. 

Compound movements use all the muscles in an area to help you perform a whole range of actions, as such, they also utilize stabilizing muscles, think of these like the foundations of a house, which keep you balanced and upright whilst moving.

What’s the point in having the stability muscles developed? 

Not only will it allow you to lift more during compound lifts, amplifying all the benefits that have already been stated, it will also reduce the risk of injury during sports and other activities. 

If you’ve got weak stabiliser muscles in your knees, sprinting along a field will be much more difficult and will leave you more succeptible to injury [6]. 

Imagine a skyscraper without foundations or good structural engineering, one small earthquake and it all comes tumbling down, or if you’re on the sports field, one rugby tackle or landing awkwardly on your knee might damage your ligaments and leave you out of the game for weeks if not longer. 

So do yourself a favour and not only improve your performance in sports and daily life, but also help to protect yourself against injury by ensuring your stabiliser muscles are strong. 

The best way to do that? You’ve guessed it: Compound Movements!


So through this post we know know that compound movements not only set you on the journey to a strong and lean physique in a fraction of the time it may take otherwise, in addition to giving those little chemical messengers the triggers they need to do fantastic work on your body, but also stabilise your joints and superpower your heart in the process, couple this with some green vegetables, coconut oil and great protein sources as part of your diet and you’ll be amazed at how your health improves. 

Next time you head to the gym to work on your back, don’t forget to do some deadlifts, you can thank yourself for it later….

Know someone who could benefit from making their workouts more effective?

Or maybe someone who focuses on isolation movements every session?

Share this to spread the knowledge! 🙂


[1] Compound Exercises for Bigger Arms –
[2] Compound vs Isolation Exercises –
[3] The Final Nail in the HIIT EPOC Coffin –
[4] Exercise Prevents Heart Disease as Effectively as Expensive Medications –
[5] How to boost testosterone –
[6] How can one strengthen stabilizer muscles?