Compound exercises are all exercises that involve more than one major muscle group and more than one joint at a time. A compound exercise routine is probably the fastest way to progress in the gym. Many young bodybuilders are not aware of this, but compound exercises are the quickest route to building muscle mass. Not only that, but they increase strength the fastest. And why is this ?
Unlike isolation exercises where only one joint is activated (think preacher curls, leg extensions, dumbbell fly), compound exercises utilize multiple joints and major muscle groups with free weights. In other words, this means they recruit more muscle, they activate the nervous system way more than isolation exercises, and provide higher stimulus for growth.
Exercises such as the bench press, squat, deadlift allow you to move way more weight than isolation exercises do. Heavy weight taxes the muscles harder. This process makes the muscles stronger and bigger over time so they can handle the heavier loads.
On the other hand bigger muscles equal more fat burned, as bigger muscle mass require more calories to sustain itself.
Below you can find a sample split and a 3 day compound exercise routine. There are isolation exercises included in the routine, but the core of it are big compound movements which engage a large number of muscle fibers. The purpose of the isolation exercises is to “add the finishing touch” or pump some more blood into the muscle while providing nutrients and oxygen needed for recovery.
3 day compound exercise routine – The training split
Monday – Chest and triceps
Tuesday – light cardio or rest *
Wednesday – Back and biceps
Thursday – rest or light cardio *
Friday – Legs and shoulders
Saturday – rest or light cardio *
Sunday – rest
* Depending on your recovery ability you can do a light 30-40 min cardio session or you can take a day off from training.
The 3 day compound exercise routine
Day 1 – Chest and triceps
Incline dumbbell bench press – 3 x 10,8,6 (after the warm up, pyramid your way up to 5 reps to failure)
Barbell bench press – 3 x 10,8,6
Pec-deck fly or dumbbell fly – 3 x 15 (pick a weight that you can easily do 12-15 reps with)
Triceps dips – 3 x 6-8 reps
Triceps extension – 2 x 12-15 ( light weight )
Day 2 – Back and biceps
Deadlifts – 4 x 5 (after the warm up, do 4 sets of 5 reps with 80% of your 1RM)
Chin ups or pull ups – 4 x 8-10 reps
One arm dumbbell row or a chest supported row – 3 x 12 reps
Standing barbell curl – 3 x 8
concentrated curl – 2 x 10
Day 3 – Legs and shoulders
Squats – 3 x 8-10 reps (after the warm up, do 4 work sets as the last set should be to absolute failure – be sure to have a spotter)
Lunges – 3 x 10 reps
Leg press – 3 x 10-12 reps
Leg curl – 4 x 10 reps
Barbell or dumbbell shoulder press – 3 x 8-10
Seated lateral raises – 3 x 10-12
Bent over lateral raises or reverse pec-deck – 3 x 10
That’s it. Be sure to take a good rest between the weight lifting days, because the amount of volume you do on some days is a bit high for natural trainees. Also, make sure you get at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight.