What Is a Compound Exercise?

A compound exercise is an exercise that involves more than one muscle group at the same time to action a movement. It’s the opposite of an isolation exercise where the target is one muscle or muscle group. Compound exercises are multi-joint exercises and isolation exercises are single-joint.

A good example of a compound movement is the squat, the squat involves three joints, the ankles, knees, and hips. A good example of an isolation exercise is the biceps curl, the biceps curl involves one joint, the elbow.

Another example is a deadlift with the conventional hip hinge, using two joints, the knees and hips. Taking out the knees would turn it into a stiff-legged hip hinge deadlift and would isolate the working muscles more, Isolating the muscles means putting the focus on them, they will need to do more work. When using three joints to move the same weight, the load is shared, and therefore easier. More weight can be moved with a multi-jointed exercise.

The benefits of compound movements are that they recruit more muscle, elevates the heart rate quicker, and therefore burns more calories. They allow for lifting more weight and therefore improve overall strength.

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