My Top Picks of Compound Exercises for Strength and Muscle

Compound Exercises

When it comes to keeping fit and getting stronger, compound exercises are top for me. They work your whole body and help you reach your best athletic shape. Let me tell you about the amazing benefits you get from doing these kinds of exercises.

A while back, I met Emma, who was starting to work on her fitness. She really wanted to change her body and get fitter. At first, she did exercises that focused on just one muscle at a time.

But, Emma soon got stuck in a rut. She wasn’t improving as much as she wanted to. Her drive was fading. That’s when I told her about compound exercises.

We began with basic moves like squats, bench press, and pullups. At first, Emma was unsure they would push her enough. Yet, after a few weeks of doing these exercises, she started to change a lot.

Her power and staying power shot up, making her feel more lively every day. Her muscles got more defined, and she looked leaner and stronger overall. She was stunned at how these exercises worked so many muscle groups at once.

And it wasn’t just her looks that improved. Everyday tasks like carrying groceries or climbing stairs were much easier. This showed the practical strength she got from doing compound exercises.

Emma’s story really shows how well compound exercises work. No matter if you’re into bulking up, strength training, or just wanting a fit body, these exercises are vital.

Next, I’ll list my top compound exercises. They hit different muscles, giving you a complete workout plan. Prepare to see big changes and step up your workout game!

Key Takeaways:

  • Compound exercises are must-dos for boosting your total body strength and power.
  • They work lots of muscles, letting you lift heavier weights and move like you do every day.
  • Adding these exercises to your routine can bulk up your muscles, boost how well you play sports, and make you better at your work in the gym.
  • My favourites are dips, barbell squats, military press, bench step-ups, barbell bentover rows, and pullups.
  • By doing these, you can see amazing changes and reach your fitness dreams.


Dips are a top-notch exercise working out many muscles. They add great value to your fitness routine. Done right, dips work the chest, front shoulders, and arms. This boosts your upper body strength.

When doing dips, stand between two bars or on a dip station. Keep your arms straight and feet off the floor. Lower yourself by bending your arms. Then, push back up.

Leaning forward in dips targets your chest more. This way, you get a mighty chest workout. But, staying straight works your triceps harder, focusing on them.

To benefit most from dips, keep your form solid and avoid injuries. Here’s how:

  • Keep your chest up and shoulders back throughout the entire movement.
  • Engage your core by bracing your abdominal muscles.
  • Control the descent and ascent, avoiding any sudden or jerky movements.
  • Breathe steadily throughout the exercise, exhaling on the way up and inhaling on the way down.

Benefits of Dips

Muscle Activation: Dips work the chest, front shoulders, and arms together, giving your upper body a great session.

Functional Strength: They mimic real actions, like pushing and lifting. This enhances your real-world strength.

Increased Range of Motion: These exercises need a wide motion range. So, they help your upper body flexibility and mobility.

Progressive Overload: You can make dips harder by adding weight or changing your body’s position. This keeps your muscles growing.

Versatility: Dips need very little gear, so you can do them almost anywhere for a good workout.

Muscles TargetedMainSecondary
Anterior Deltoids

Barbell Squat

The barbell squat targets many key muscle groups including your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and lower back. It’s a great exercise for overall lower body strength. You bend at the knees and stand back up.

It’s vital to keep the right form when doing a barbell squat. Begin by standing with your feet apart, with the barbell on your upper back. Lower yourself into the squat, keeping knees in line with your toes. Also, avoid letting your knees turn in. Remember to keep your head up and your lower back slightly curved.

Barbell squats are great for making your quads, which are at the front of your thighs, stronger. They also work your hamstrings, glutes, hips, and lower back.

Adding barbell squats to your workout routine brings lots of perks. It boosts lower body strength, defines your muscles, improves how you move, and helps in everyday tasks.

Muscle GroupPrimary ActivationSecondary Activation
Lower BackLowMedium


In the barbell squat, your quads work the hardest. They help you extend your knee and are vital for walking, running, and jumping.


Your hamstrings have a supporting role in the barbell squat. These muscles at the back of your thigh help bend your knee and extend your hip.


During a barbell squat, your glutes work to a medium level. They’re key for hip extension, abduction, and rotation.


In the barbell squat, your hips help keep you steady. They’re crucial for balance and proper form while squatting.

Lower Back:

Your lower back helps stabilise your spine in the barbell squat. It maintains your posture and stops you from leaning too far forward or back.

Barbell Squat

Military Press

The military press is great for your upper body. It helps with your shoulders, chest, and arms. You can do it sitting or standing up, it’s up to you.

To do a military press right, hold the bar with your hands apart at shoulder width. Lift it up to your shoulders with your palms forward. This is called the starting position.

Then, push the bar straight up above your head. Keep your body strong and straight. Look in front of you and don’t arch your back too much.

Bring the barbell back down slowly to your shoulders. Do this without rushing. Don’t forget to breathe. Out as you push up, in as you lower it.

This exercise is tough but really good for you. It boosts your shoulder strength and makes your upper body more stable. Plus, it can help you stand up straight and keep your shoulders healthy.

“The military press is a must for working your upper body. It focuses on your shoulders, chest, and arms, making them strong and balanced.” – Simon Gomm

Benefits of the Military Press
Targets the anterior deltoids, upper pectorals and triceps
Improves upper-body strength and stability
Contributes to better posture and shoulder health
Enhances overall upper-body muscle development

Bench Step Up

Bench step-ups are great for making you stronger, more coordinated, and balanced. They work many muscles together, which is good for all parts of your lower body. This makes them perfect for anyone wanting a complete workout.

Bench Step Up

To get the most out of bench step-ups, how you do them is key. When stepping up, focus on the right foot placement. Use the front foot to step up, but push only through the heel. This helps in using the main leg muscles better.

The benefits of bench step-ups go beyond just muscles. They make you better at keeping your balance and moving well in real life. Adding them to your routine can help with many goals, like getting stronger, being better at sports, or just being more fit.

Tips for Effective Bench Step-Ups:

  1. Choose a bench height where your knee and hip align when your foot is up.
  2. Keep your upper body straight and your chest up as you step up.
  3. Use your core to stay steady while lifting onto the bench.
  4. Control how you come down, doing it slowly and carefully.
  5. Do the same number of steps with each leg for a balanced workout.

Adding bench step-ups to your exercise plan will make your lower body stronger. To get the best out of this move, remember to do it right. This is useful for everyone, from those starting out to fitness pros.

Barbell Bent-over Row

The barbell bent-over row is a key way to work your back muscles. It mainly focuses on your lats, traps, rhomboids, and lower back. This helps improve your strength and posture.

To do the exercise, stand with feet apart and knees bent. Bend forward at the hips until your body is almost flat. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip, slightly wider than your shoulders.

Pull the bar to your stomach without curving your back. Tighten your back as you lift, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold at the top and lower the bar slowly.

Maintaining the right form is crucial. Keep your core tight, lift your chest, and relax your shoulders. Avoid any sudden moves or swinging the weight.

Including this exercise in your routine can make your back stronger. It’s great for the lats, traps, rhomboids, and lower back. They’re key for posture and daily activities.

Barbell Bentover Row

Tips for a Successful Barbell Bent-over Row

  • Start with a weight you can lift with good form.
  • Keep your core tight to protect your spine.
  • Focus on pulling to your stomach to work the lats best.
  • Always keep your back straight and spine neutral.
  • Control the weight up and down for the best effect.
  • As you get more comfortable, you can increase the weight.
Muscles WorkedPrimarySecondary
Lower Back


Pull-ups are a key exercise for your back and arms. They are simple yet powerful. Using just a bar and your body weight, you can get strong back and arm muscles.

Pull-ups allow you to target various back muscles by changing your grip. This includes muscles like the lats, traps, and rhomboids. Changing how high you pull up can work these muscles even more.

If you want to focus on your biceps, use an underhand grip. This changes the pull-up significantly, making your biceps work harder. It’s a great way to strengthen your arms and back. So, make sure pull-ups are a regular part of your workout routine!


Why are compound exercises important for building strength and power?

Compound exercises use many muscles and copy movements we do daily. This helps grow muscles, boost sports performance, and increase our ability to work. It’s not just about looking good; it improves our daily lives too.

What are the benefits of compound exercises compared to isolation movements?

Compound exercises ask for more balance and skill. They also let you lift heavier weights. They work many muscles at once, which is great for getting strong and big all over.

How can I target specific muscles with compound exercises?

To hit certain muscles with compound moves, change how you stand or hold the bar. For instance, tilting forward in dips works your chest more. Staying straight makes your triceps work harder.

What muscle groups do dips primarily target?

Dips work mainly your chest, front shoulders, and triceps.

Which major muscle groups are involved in the barbell squat?

The barbell squat works the front and back of your upper legs, your bottom, hips, and lower back.

What is the proper form for a barbell squat?

To squat right, keep your head up and back slightly arched. This helps you get the most from the exercise.

What muscles does the military press target?

The military press works your front shoulders, top chest, and triceps the most.

How can I maximise the effectiveness of the military press?

To make military presses work best, stay straight and don’t lean back too much.

What muscles are targeted during bench step-ups?

Step-ups mainly hit your upper and back thighs, plus your bottom.

How can I engage the working leg effectively during bench step-ups?

Where you place your foot is key for targeting the right leg during step-ups. Don’t push with your back leg. This helps make the exercise more effective.

Which muscles does the barbell bent-over row focus on?

Bent-over rows work your upper back, shoulders, and the lower part of your back.

What is the correct form for a barbell bent-over row?

For barbell bent-over rows, slightly bend your knees and keep your body in the right position. Pull the bar to your belly to work your upper back better.

What muscles are worked during a pull-up?

Pull-ups use lots of back and arm muscles, like the lats, upper back, and biceps.

How can I vary the focus during pull-ups?

Changing how you grip and pull during pull-ups can work different parts of your back. Trying a palms-toward-you grip also hits the biceps hard.

Source Links

Share Me:


Click “Sign Me Up!” And Start Your Fitness Transformation!