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9 Reasons Why Compound Exercises Should Be a Staple in Your Fitness Program

Updated: May 17

Woman doing a back squat compound exercise
9 Reasons Why Compound Exercises Should Be a Staple in Your Fitness Program

Looking for a way to improve your workout routine?

Incorporating compound exercises could be the answer. These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, making them more efficient and effective.




Before I started CrossFit, I used to follow the traditional gym routine of splitting my workouts into back and biceps, chest and triceps, and legs (maybe).

However, despite spending years in and out of the gym(because it also felt repetitious), I never really built any noticeable muscle. I thought it was just my genetics and that I was stuck with what I had.

But at the age of 30, I discovered CrossFit and everything changed.

Despite my declining testosterone levels due to the fact that I'm over 30, I started building muscle quickly.

And the secret? Compound exercises.

In this article, I want to share with you why compound exercises are so important for building muscle, burning fat, and achieving your fitness goals.

I'll cover 9 reasons why they should be a staple in your fitness regimen, as well as give you some practical tips on how to incorporate them into your workouts.

So, whether you're a seasoned athlete or just starting out, keep reading to learn why compound exercises are the way to go.

Definition of Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are movements that work multiple muscle groups at the same time, usually targeting a larger muscle group and engaging smaller ones for stabilization and support.

These exercises are often performed with free weights or bodyweight and require coordination and control to execute correctly.

Some examples of compound exercises include:


a woman doing a squat on a bench next to the beach

Squats engage a multitude of major muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. By performing squats, you activate and challenge these essential muscle groups simultaneously.

This compound movement is highly effective in developing lower body strength, power, and endurance, while also promoting functional mobility and stability.


Crossfit member going max out on deadlifts
Deadlifts at Freakin Awesome Crossfit

Deadlifts not only activate the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and core, but also your back, biceps and grip strength.

This exercise is highly effective in building total body strength, improving posture, and enhancing overall athleticism.


a crossfit member doing pushups
push ups at Freakin Awesome Crossfit

Push-ups activate and challenge muscles such as the chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and even the glutes and legs to maintain a stable plank position.

This versatile exercise not only builds upper body strength and definition, but also improves muscular endurance, promotes stability, and enhances overall functional fitness.


coach demonstrating a pull up
Pull ups at Freakin Awesome Crossfit

Pull-ups are an exceptional compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the back, specifically the latissimus dorsi, but also engage the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and core.

This challenging exercise is renowned for building upper body strength, developing a V-shaped back, improving grip strength, and enhancing overall functional fitness.

In contrast, isolation exercises work only one muscle or muscle group at a time and often involve machines or free weights that isolate a particular muscle. For example, a bicep curl is an isolation exercise that only works the bicep muscle.

While isolation exercises can be useful for targeting specific muscles, compound exercises are more efficient and effective for building overall strength, muscle mass, and endurance.

Because compound exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, they allow you to lift heavier weights and engage more muscles, resulting in greater gains in strength and overall fitness.

Additionally, compound exercises also mimic real-life movements and can improve your functional fitness, making them a great addition to any fitness regimen.

9 Reasons Why Compound Exercises Should Be a Staple in Your Fitness Program

1. Compound exercises are efficient

Because they work multiple muscle groups at the same time, compound exercises allow you to get more done in less time. This can be especially helpful for people with busy schedules who want to get in a full-body workout in a short amount of time.

2. Compound exercises burn more calories

Because compound exercises involve more muscle mass, they require more energy to perform, resulting in more calories burned during and after the workout.

3. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups

Compound exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them a great way to build overall strength and muscle mass.

4. Compound exercises improve balance and coordination

Many compound exercises require balance and coordination, which can improve your overall body awareness and help prevent injuries.

5. Compound exercises increase strength and power

By engaging multiple muscle groups, compound exercises can help you build overall strength and power, making everyday activities easier and reducing the risk of injury.

6. Compound exercises improve joint stability

Because they work multiple muscle groups, compound exercises can help improve joint stability and reduce the risk of injury.

7. Compound exercises improve athletic performance

By improving strength, power, and coordination, compound exercises can help improve overall athletic performance, making you better at sports and other physical activities.

8. Compound exercises can be modified for all fitness levels

Compound exercises can be modified to suit different fitness levels and abilities, making them a great choice for beginners and advanced athletes alike.

9. Compound exercises can be done with or without equipment

Compound exercises can be done with free weights, machines, or bodyweight, making them a versatile choice for any fitness regimen.

By incorporating compound exercises into your fitness routine, you can experience these benefits and more, making them a must-have for any well-rounded workout program.

How to Incorporate Compound Exercises into Your Fitness Routine

Here are some examples of compound exercises and how to perform them, along with some tips for incorporating them into your fitness routine:

1. Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly outward. Lower your body by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight and your chest up. Pause when your thighs are parallel to the ground, then push through your heels to return to a standing position. To increase the difficulty, you can hold weights or do a single-leg squat.

2. Deadlifts

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing straight ahead. Bend your knees and hips to lower your body and grab a weight with an overhand grip. Keep your back straight and chest up as you lift the weight by pushing through your heels. Pause when you're standing upright, then lower the weight back down. To increase the difficulty, you can use heavier weights or perform a single-leg deadlift.

3. Push-ups

Get into a plank position with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet together or slightly apart. Lower your chest towards the floor while keeping your body in a straight line, then push yourself back up to the starting position.

Push-ups can be modified to suit your fitness level by performing them on your knees or elevating your hands on an elevated surface. To increase the challenge, you can experiment with different hand positions, such as deficit push-ups or one-arm push-ups

4. Pull-ups

Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart. Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar, then lower yourself back down. To increase the difficulty, you can use a weighted vest or perform a muscle-up.

To incorporate compound exercises into your workout routine, try doing them at the beginning of your workout when you have the most energy.

Aim to do at least one compound exercise for each major muscle group (legs, back, chest, shoulders, and arms) in each workout. You can also mix and match different exercises to create a full-body workout (like we do) .

For example, you could do squats, push ups, and pull-ups on one day, and then do deadlifts, overhead press, and dips on another day. If you're short on time, you can also try doing AMRAPS, TABATA or EMOM's (or supersets or circuits your in a gym), where you perform two or more exercises back-to-back with little or no rest in between.

Remember to start with lighter weights and focus on proper form to prevent injury and maximize the benefits of compound exercises.


In conclusion, compound exercises are an efficient and effective way to improve your overall fitness. They burn more calories, work multiple muscle groups, and improve balance and coordination. Additionally, compound exercises increase strength, power, joint stability, and athletic performance. They can be modified for all fitness levels and done with or without equipment.

Incorporating compound exercises into your fitness regimen can help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health and wellness.

So, if you haven't already, try adding compound exercises to your next workout and see the difference they can make!

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