There’s no wrong way to fitness. I obviously have my opinions of what will be effective and efficient to getting most people to their goals, but that doesn’t mean other ways of programming and nutrition aren’t correct. Today’s discussion is about movements that everybody, no matter the goal, should incorporate into their training. Today, the discussion is all about compound movements.
A compound movement is defined as a closed chain, multi joint movement. What does this mean? It means that a compound movement is one with either feet or hands planted firmly on a surface (either the floor or a structure, such as with pull ups), and that it works multiple joints and muscle groups at once. Compound movements include exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, and pull ups.
Why do we compound? Since compound movements work multiple joints and muscle groups, the caloric expenditure is much larger as compared to a single joint movement. For example, a squat will burn more calories than a leg extension, and a bench press will burn more calories than a biceps curl, simply because you’re activating more muscle groups, and working harder. Compound movements also tend to be more functional movements than single joint actions. A squat or a deadlift helps to teach proper heavy lifting mechanics, translating over to proper movement during every day life. As well, a push up or pull up can help to increase pushing and pull strength more than single joint movements, which will help increase the likeliness of recovering from a fall. Heavy lifting will help to increase muscular strength, while also increasing core strength and stability. Since there are multiple joints moving at once, the core must be activated and engaged to help stabilize the spine during compound lifts, helping to increase the strength of your core muscles.
Compound lifts directly translate to life outside of the gym. Where a bicep curl just increases the strength and size of the biceps muscle, a pull up or a row increases the strength of the overall movement. Training movements, rather than muscles, will help to increase overall strength and stability in life outside of the gym. No matter what your goal is in fitness, whether to increase strength and muscle size, to decrease body fat, or even to increase endurance, compound movements can help efficiently and effectively get you to your goal. Single joint movements are important too, to help train muscles to assist the primary movers in those big movements, but they should be treated as accessories to the compound lifts.
As with every new movement, start with the basics before attempting anything fancy. The movement itself is the focus, not the weight you can lift during the movement, so proper form should be prioritized above all else. Below are my favorite compound lifts for each movement, try and incorporate them into your workout routine!
Knee Dominant: Squat
Hip Dominant: Hip Thrust
Pull: Pull Up, Bent Over Row
Push: Bench Press, Overhead Press