Before we get into it; if you’re unfamiliar with the term; a compound exercise is one that works two or more muscle groups and more often than not, this is in a multiple joint movement.

Above all else; it should be noted that these are by far the most efficient of exercises to add to your workout routine. 

The reason for this is because; the more muscle groups you train in one single movement, the more efficient your results.  And when all is said and done, this is the primary reason why deadlifts and squats are crowned the king of exercises.

But you should know that compound exercises don't stop at just the big moves.  In fact, there are a number of exercises that target smaller muscle groups in the same way.

Furthermore, and for your own information moving forward; you can also create your own by simply combining two isolation exercises. 

For example; you could immediately follow up your bicep curl with an overhead press.  So you see, rather than just work your biceps, you’re now also recruiting your pectorals, deltoids, trapezius and triceps in one fluid movement.

And to state the obvious, the above method is not just an efficient muscle builder, it is also an excellent time saver!

This therefore makes this particular style of training ideal for almost anybody.  So if you're short on time and/or if you want to just get a lot done in the time you have, these should be your go to.  And let's be real, who doesn't want to do more in less time? 

Check out some compound exercises below; these are broken down by muscle group.  

Hint!  The highlighted exercises link to further information. 

Compound exercises by muscle group

Leg exercises

Squat (any)

Deadlift (any)


Chest exercises

Bench press (any including incline and decline)

Dumbbell chest press

Chest dips

Dumbbell chest flye

Back exercises

Deadlift (any)

Good mornings

T-bar row

Bent over row

Pull up

Seated cable row

Shoulder exercises

Overhead press

Reverse fly

Barbell push press

Bicep exercises

Underhand pull ups

Underhand pull down

Triceps exercises

Skull crushers

Close grip bench press (any variation)

The first thing worth noting from this list is that biceps and triceps can be thin on the ground for compound exercises.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work hard with what you have.  Also keep in mind that you can pair isolation exercises and turn them into a compound move as explained above.

Beyond biceps and triceps, there are plenty of leg, chest, back and shoulder compound exercises that you can use. 

Keep in mind that the above is by no means an extensive list.  There are plenty of other exercises for you to choose from.  Ultimately, which ones you do will boil down to your own personal goals.  So decide which muscles you want to target and then choose your exercises.

Finally, and above all else; remember that the primary purpose of a compound exercise is to achieve maximum muscle recruitment with minimum movement.  

Of course; you should always combine your compound exercises with isolation exercises and vice versa for good balance.  As awesome as they are, one cannot live on compound exercises alone.


To summarise; compound exercises are by far your most efficient muscle builders. 

However with that said, isolation exercises play a huge part in your overall results, particularly if you are training for aesthetic reasons.  Any muscle group you want to draw particular attention to should be isolated as well as worked in as part of your compound moves.