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January 16, 2013

Compound The Benefit: Perform Compound Exercises

compound exercisesWhat are Compound Exercises?

To get the most from your exercise program perform compound exercises. Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that activate more than one muscle group at a time. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, involve the movement of just one joint or one muscle. Compound exercises are more functional as they more readily replicate movements involved in daily activities.

Examples of compound exercises include squats and lunges (muscles of the knees, hips, ankles, and core are activated), pull-ups (muscle of the shoulders, upper back, and elbows are activated), and deadlifts ( core, hamstrings, and calf muscles are activated). Virtually all body weight exercises are compound exercises (at least I can’t think of one that is not). Examples of isolation exercises include the biceps curl, tricep extension, and knee extension exercises. Many exercises performed on weight machines are isolation exercises.

Benefits of Compound Exercises

Compound exercises have many important benefits. These benefits relate to the fact that more than one joint and muscle group are involved in the exercise, and the fact that compound exercises are more functional. Compared to isolation exercises compound exercises enable you to:

  • burn more calories.
  • complete a total body workout in less time.
  • improve your balance and cooordination.
  • reduce your risk of injury.
  • obtain some cardiovascular benefit from your resistance training.
  • ultimately develop more strength.
  • exercise without the need for equipment (body weight exercises).
  • better enjoy your workouts by providing a variety of exercises to choose from.
Compound exercises burn more calories than isolation exercise since more muscle groups are activated during an exercise. This is the main reason why you can get a total body workout in less time using compound exercises rather than isolation exercises. Activation of more muscle fibers facilitates release of growth hormone which stimulate muscle growth and burns body fat. Activation of several muscle groups at once provides some cardiovascular benefit as well as heart rate increases.

Many compound exercises activate the core muscles either directly or indirectly which improves balance and body control. Plus, many compound exercises are done with the feet planted on the floor (rather than dangling from an exercise machine) and this helps to improve balance and coordination as one tries to control the body through a range of motion.

Isolation exercises have benefits when re-training injured muscles as the focus can be on exercising the injured or involved muscle. That may be the really only benefit to isolation exercises.

Compound the benefit from your resistance training program and focus on compound exercise.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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