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Compound exercises best for overall fitness

If your goal is improving overall fitness level, compound exercises that feature multi-joint movements involving more than a single muscle group can be extremely effective for improving cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility.

What are the benefits of compound exercises?

  1. Compound exercises burn more calories. Exercises that involve more muscle tissue require more oxygen, which helps the body increase its energy expenditure.
  2. Compound exercises improve inter-muscular co-ordination. This is the function and timing of multiple muscles around a joint. Compound exercises such as squats, lunges or steps that move the hips in all three planes can improve how all of the muscles work together to produce and control force.
  3. Compound exercises keep heart rate up, producing a cardiovascular benefit. The purpose of cardiovascular exercise is to improve the ability of the heart to function as a pump. This can be accomplished through activities such as running and cycling, or by doing exercises that involve a significant amount of muscle tissue. Squats to shoulder presses, medicine ball chops or burpees are all examples of compound exercises that involve large amounts of muscle tissue, which challenges the heart to pump blood to keep the muscles fuelled and active.
  4. Compound exercises are a form of dynamic flexibility. Any exercise that involves an active range of motion can be considered a form of dynamic stretching, which involves moving a joint through a range of motion to lengthen the surrounding tissue.

Some compound exercises to try:-


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold one dumbbell in each hand so the dumbbells are in front of each shoulder with the palms facing each other. Sink into the hips to perform a squat; at the bottom, press both feet into the ground to move to a standing position while pressing both arms overhead. Coordinate the moves so that the weight is lowered while sinking into the squat and the weights are pressed overhead during the stand. 10-12 repetitions.


Start in a press-up position with the hands resting on dumbbells that are lined up parallel to each other, and feet apart. Perform a press-up. At the top of the press-up, press both feet into the ground to create stability while pulling the right dumbbell up to the chest in a rowing move (the elbow brushes against the rib cage). Place the right hand down and perform a rowing move with the left hand. Once a row has been completed on each side, perform another press-up. Complete as many as possible with good form.


Stand with feet hip-width apart while holding one dumbbell in each hand. Step backward with the right foot and lower the hips. Push the left foot into the ground and bring the right foot forward to return to standing. At the top, stay balanced on the left leg (don’t let the right foot touch the ground) and perform a biceps curl with both arms. Complete 8-10 reps on one leg before switching to the other side.


Stand holding dumbbells, feet hip width apart. Step back with your left leg and cross it over to the right, so that you are performing a low curtsy, but with upper body upright, and hips facing front. As you bring left leg forward to start point, raise dumbbells forward to shoulder height or out to side in a lateral raise. 8-10 reps each leg.

Other great energy expensive exercise examples are Dead lift with biceps curl and shoulder press, Static Lunge with Band Row, Step ups with medicine ball / dumbbell rotation over knee, Single leg squat with Triceps kickback. Compound exercises simply are when you use more than one muscle group, (a simple press up or squat counts), but if you can use a lower body movement with an upper body move, or just use as much of your body in one exercise as you can, you will reap the most reward.

Go for it! Get sweating!