The Need For Compound Exercises

Andres Paniagua
2 min readApr 15, 2017

When you start to make a sculpture out of a big block of granite, do you start with the details or take off big chunks to get the basic shape? I’d say that taking chunks out of the block of granite would be the first step and gets the most work done. Trying to sculpt a statue with a small chisel would be a waste of time. The debate between compound and isolation exercises is the same thing. You will get more sculpting done with the squat than you will using the leg extension machine.

Compound exercises like the squat and military press give you the most bang for your buck. They use multiple muscles when executed and should be the base of any program. When someone first starts in the gym, their first instinct is to do front raises and triceps kickbacks. This is backwards. Your first program should be almost exclusively compound exercises. When you first start working out, you’ll make more progress using a barbell than you will using machines. You should take full advantage of the beginning stages in the gym because gains will not come as easy ever again.

Even when you’ve graduated from the beginner stage (I’ll share my thoughts on staying a beginner in another post), compound exercises should make up 80% of your workout. You’ll stimulate more muscles in less time using compound movements. You’ll have to do 3 times as many sets to get the same stimulus using isolation exercises. Below is a link to information on the muscles worked using compound movements.

Compound exercises and the muscles they work.

If you’re going to build a house, you first have to start with a strong foundation. If you build your house on sand, than you’re in for some big trouble. Compound exercises will help you build the strong foundation needed to build your house…save the other stuff for when you’re ready to pretty it up.

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