Compound Exercises - The All-Important Movements For Effective And Safe Strength Training

Compound exercises use multiple joints and muscle groups. These are the major common compound exercises.



There are many variations of presses, typically and mainly using either barbells or dumbbells.  They can be done on the flat, or in many incline or decline angles.  They principally use the chest muscles (pectorals) but also use shoulder and triceps muscles.


Overhead Press, or Military Press

A different type of press, performed without depending on a support, such as a bench(just a seat) it makes the shoulder complex work together.  Done standing, it also involves the core and back muscles.


The squat has many variations (front squat, back squat, lunges, split squats) that varying leg action and depend on where the weight or resistance is placed relative to the feet. It uses a huge number of muscles.  Primary targets are the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

Leg Press

The Leg Press is a mechanised squat and is less complex in muscle and limb involvement because it avoids gravitational forces.  Easier to perform effectively, quads, glutes and hamstrings are heavily engaged.


Dips powerfully engage all chest muscles. Upright, they engage the triceps, primarily with chest and shoulders assisting; with a forward lean, the chest takes the biggest load.


Or deadlift, sometimes referred to as the king of lifts, involves every joint and major muscle group.  The main ones used are your back, glutes and hamstrings, sometimes called the posterior chain.

Pull-Ups and Chin Ups

These are an all-inclusive last for the upper body (and lower body if you can incorporate leg lifts and twists!) A lot of people find them difficult to accomplish properly. Great work,and results, if you can. The back is the key muscle group, with forearms, hands(grip) and biceps assisting.

Cable Pulldown

The back, especially the lats, (latissimus dorsi) do the job with biceps and forearms assisting.  Very similar to the pull up.


These are done bent-over with barbell or dumbbells, or by using a cable device,or with heels-high (close to horizontal with chest), as a pull-up to a bar, (such as a safety on a rack) often referred to as an inverted row.  The back – lats- do the job, with biceps and forearms helping.

FandL Posted by FandL