The race for the squat rack is on. There is a reason why so many gym-goers are jostling for position to use the squat rack or get their hands on the barbell.
These pieces of gym equipment are some of the most commonly used to perform compound exercises.
Here you can learn what compound lifts are, their benefits and the considerations before adding them to your fitness routine.
What Are Compound Lifts?
When we lift weights, we complete either isolation exercises or compound exercises.
An isolation exercise is when the exercise only works one muscle. In theory, this is not possible because any exercise requires stabilising muscles to be engaged – often around the core and spine – or other muscles are worked to a lesser extent. Nevertheless, there are lots of exercises that primarily only target one muscle, such as a standing bicep curl.
Compound lifts are the opposite of isolation lifts. These muscles work two or more muscles significantly. If the exercise requires movement at two or more different joints, it will automatically be a compound exercise. Some common examples of compound exercises include squats and dumbbell deadlifts.
Benefits of Compound Lifts
Compound exercises are better than isolation exercises at developing overall strength and fitness. They are also the preferred choice for both weightlifting experts and beginners as they are multi functional and able to engage in multiple muscle groups. Anyone wanting to gain strength and experience muscular hypertrophy (increased muscle size) should add compound exercises to their workouts.
There are also a number of other benefits to compound lifts, including:
- They burn more calories and increase your heart rate. This is why compound exercises are also used to help individuals lose weight.
- They are also a more effective use of gym time and are recommended to those with busy schedules. Shorter gym sessions comprised of compound lifts can be more advantageous than much longer gym sessions without them.
- They improve intermuscular coordination which transfers to everyday tasks (this often makes them a part of functional fitness training).
- Many compound exercises also release tension from the joint and enhance dynamic flexibility.
Adding Compound Lifts to Your Exercise Routine
Gym newcomers and long-term exercisers can all benefit from adding compound lifts to their routines. However, it should also be noted that compound exercises are more likely to cause injuries because they require the performer to follow complex movement patterns and engage multiple joints. For this reason, it is best to seek guidance from an exercise professional to ensure the technique of any compound exercise is correctly executed.
Adding compound lifts to your workouts also ensures the exercises target muscles throughout the body rather than overdeveloping certain muscles. Imbalanced muscular strength can also lead to injury and isolation exercises can be an effective way of helping create a more balanced workout routine.
When introducing compound lifts into your routine, it is best to include them at the start of your workout – after your warm-up – because these exercises can be the most tiring and use much more energy than isolation type exercises.
Compound lifts are more complex and executing them after isolation exercises is not recommended because muscles fatigue may compromise on technique and lead to injury.