Who doesn’t want to get more with less? In the context of this discussion we are talking about more mass while spending less time. How can you accomplish this?
By using compound exercises!
Basically any exercise that incorporates 2 or more muscle groups (1 primary and 1+ secondary) is considered a compound exercise. The reason you use them is because you typically can move a lot of weight around which puts stress on multiple parts of your body at once. This type of work tends to make the overall body stronger and larger as it compensates to the workload.
Isolation exercises, on the other hand, specifically target a single muscle or particular part of a muscle. The triceps, for example, has three muscle sections and you can use specific isolation exercises that will target one section more than another.
A great thing about using compound exercises as the backbone of a workout routine is that they end up providing the highest amount of muscle stimulation in the shortest amount of time. Also they tend to make you grow more proportionally than using isolation exercises because many people will work less diligently on their less favorite body parts.
For example the pull-up works your forearms (grip), biceps, rear shoulders, side shoulders, upper back, and middle back. That is an excellent compound exercise! Conversely an exercise like a concentration curl for the biceps focuses only on the bicep muscle with at best minor work on the forearm.
Because you are using multiple muscles and typically more than one joint, your body has a mechanical advantage in lifting. This translates to heavier weights being used which stress both the primary and secondary muscles. In most cases the secondary muscles are worked to failure first which then makes them grow to catch up in size and strength. This helps adjust your proportional strength to be more even.
The Ultimate Compound Workout
You can do this gut busting workout twice a week taking two or three days of rest in between each lifting session. For sets and reps you will use 2 to 4 sets so that the last set is at the maximum weight you can handle for 6 to 8 reps. For example, because of the weight being used you will probably do 4 sets of squats to ensure you are already warmed up for the heaviest 4th set. But following with lunges you will only need 2 to 3 to get to the maximum weight you can handle.
- Squats – The granddaddy of all mass building compound exercises means that you must squat if you want to see some serious size. This exercise should be done carefully and form is crucial. If your gym has one, use a cage for squatting for safety. This exercise primarily works the quadriceps and buttocks with secondary muscles including calves, hamstrings, lower back, abdominals, and stabilizers.
- Dumbbell Lunges – This is one of the best all around leg blasters that targets every muscle in each leg.
- Deadlifts – Deadlifts take a while to master but are another key compound mass builder. They are great for lower back with secondary muscles worked being biceps, forearms, upper back, abdominals, and hamstrings.
- Chin-Ups – This should be done with weight if needed or you can work higher reps to exhaustion. Chins are another classic upper body builder that focuses primarily on the middle and upper back along with the biceps and forearms with a little rear shoulder thrown in.
- Barbell Rows – Barbell rows provide a different angle than chin-ups but basically work the same groups of muscles. More focus is on the middle back and lower back (due to position) muscles.
- Bench Press – A great chest mass builder that also targets the shoulders, triceps, and rotator cuffs. Make sure to warm up carefully to prevent injury and use a spotter when weights get heavy.
- Military Press – This exercise works all three heads of the deltoids as well as the trapezius and triceps. You can also use your lower body a little to help cheat on those last few reps when you cannot complete them normally.
- Dips – This exercise is great for the lower chest, triceps, and front deltoids. Plus it really helps stretch all three muscles.
- Bicycle Crunches – The perfect finishing move for the routine that blasts all of the abdominals. Lying on the floor you bicycle your legs while crunching up. The goal is to your elbow to the opposite knee that is cycling closest.