A Complete List Of Compound Exercises To Spice Up Your Training

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One of the challenges of designing your own workout plan is deciding what exercises to do.

Even if you’ve been working out for a while, you might feel that your workouts get fairly monotonous, and you fall into a rut of doing the same 10-12 exercises every time.

Not only can a lack of variety in your routine lead to boredom, but performing the same exercises week after week can limit your progress, cause muscle imbalances, and neglect certain muscles.

When you feel like your workout routine is getting stale, it helps to take a look at a list of compound exercises and select a few to pepper into your plan.

In this guide, we’ve compiled a complete list of compound exercises for you to use in your training plan. 

Although we can’t cover every possible modification and variation, this comprehensive compound exercises list should provide you with all the building blocks you need to design well-balanced, challenging, varied workouts.

We will cover: 

  • What Are Compound Exercises?
  • 10 Benefits of Compound Exercises 
  • Complete List Of Compound Exercises

Let’s jump in!

A person doing bicycle crunches on a beach.

What Are Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are movements that utilize two or more muscle groups working in tandem to perform the movement.

Compound exercises are also usually multi-joint exercises, which means that performing these exercises requires movement in more than one joint.

An example of a compound exercise is a push-up because it works the pectoral muscles in the chest, the triceps in the arms, the deltoids in the shoulders, the core muscles, and the upper back. Both the shoulders and elbows are involved in executing the movement pattern.

Compound exercises are distinguished from isolation exercises, which essentially target just one specific muscle group at a time.

An example of an isolation exercise is a bicep curl because it primarily targets the biceps only and requires just flexion and extension of the elbow joint.

A reverse fly.

10 Benefits of Compound Exercises 

There are quite a few benefits of performing compound exercises, including the following:

  • Compound exercises are more efficient from a time standpoint relative to performing only isolation exercises because you work multiple muscle groups at once.
  • Compound exercises are functional movements that better prepare your everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, getting in and out of a chair or car, carrying groceries, or reaching things up on the shelf.
  • Compound exercises allow you to lift more weight, so there’s a greater stimulus for adaptations in strength and size.
  • Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups, which elevate your heart rate more than isolation exercises. This gives a cardiovascular workout while strengthening your muscles.
  • Compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, so they require more energy to execute and burn more calories than isolation exercises.
  • Compound exercises can improve your coordination, balance, and core control.
A person grabbing a barbell.

Complete List Of Compound Exercises

Due to the sheer number of ways you can modify compound exercises to create different variations, it would be an impossible undertaking to create a definitive, complete list of every compound exercise.

However, the following should serve as a functional list of compound exercises that they hit the major types of compound movements and some of the most common variations.

From there, the sky’s the limit; you are only confined by the bounds of your imagination in terms of creating additional compound exercises to try.

You can use different forms of resistance or equipment to change up the exercises.

For example, you can do sumo squats with a barbell, holding dumbbells, gripping kettlebells, or even sandbags.

You can do a huge range of push-ups by changing up your grip pattern, elevating your feet, adding weight to your back, etc.

Two people doing push-ups in a gym, one of the moves from our list of compound exercises.

Use these compound exercises lists as a starting place—jumping off blocks from which you can get some ideas and inspiration to try new things in the gym or at home with your strength training workouts.

Our complete list of compound exercises is separated into different sections based on the primary muscles or areas of the body targeted by the move.

We deliberately organized it this way rather than making one continuous, random list of compound exercises so that it would be user-friendly for designing your own workouts.

You can now more easily identify and select exercises for different muscle groups, ensuring you have a well-rounded workout if you’re striving for total-body workouts or a honed-in workout if you’re looking to isolate body parts.

Of course, due to the very nature of compound exercises involving multiple muscle groups, there’s inherent overlap between some of the categories.

Therefore, we tried our best to pick the most relevant body region or movement pattern for each exercise.

A person doing a tricep dip.

Compound Exercises for Pushing Muscles (Chest, Triceps, Shoulders)

These compound exercises target the muscles involved in the pushing motion, which are primarily the pectoral muscles in the chest, the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles in the shoulders, and the triceps along the back of the upper arms.

It’s good to pair the volume of training with pushing exercises with that of pulling exercises to prevent muscle imbalances.

  1. Push-Ups
  2. Decline Push-Ups
  3. Bench Press
  4. Incline Bench Press
  5. Decline Bench Press
  6. Dumbbell Chest Press
  7. Dumbbell Incline Chest Press
  8. Dumbbell Decline Chest Press
  9. Overhead Press
  10. Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Overhead Press
  11. Military Press
  12. Arnold Shoulder Press
  13. Shrugs
  14. Dips
  15. Chest Fly
  16. Lateral Raises
  17. Forward Raises
  18. Handstand Push-Ups
A person doing a pull up.

Compound Exercises for Pulling Muscles (Back and Biceps)

These compound exercises mainly target the muscles involved in pulling movements, which include the biceps in the arms and the muscles in the back, such as the lats, traps, rhomboids, erector spinae, and levator scapulae.

Incorporating pulling exercises is critical to prevent imbalances between the muscles involved in pushing motions (which often receive more training attention) and those for pulling.

  1. Pull-Ups
  2. Chin-Ups
  3. Upright Barbell Rows
  4. Bent-Over Rows
  5. Dumbbell Rows
  6. Underhand EZ Bar Rows
  7. Renegade Rows
  8. Inverted Rows
  9. Standing T-Bar Rows
  10. Power Cleans
  11. Lat Pulldowns
  12. Wide-Grip Pulldowns
  13. Narrow-Grip Pulldowns
  14. Seated Cable Rows
  15. Face Pulls
  16. Chest Supported Rows
  17. Reverse Fly
  18. Bent-Over Reverse Fly
  19. Dumbbell I, Y, and T Raises
A person doing a back squat.

Compound Exercises for the Legs

Lower-body compound exercises are some of the most metabolically-demanding exercises because they recruit a large percentage of your total muscle mass. 

The leg muscles, such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, and calves, are very large, powerful muscles, so lower-body compound exercises allow you to lift heavy loads and generate a lot of force and power.

As with upper-body compound exercises, wherein it’s important to split your training volume between opposing muscle groups and movements, you should balance your workouts with lower-body compound exercises that target the main opposing leg muscles.

For this reason, we’ve separated the compound exercises for the legs into two broad groups of antagonist muscles.

Pick exercises from both categories (the quads and adductors group and the hamstrings, glutes, and calves group) to train opposing muscle groups and prevent functional deficits.

A person doing a side lunge.

Compound Exercises for Quads and Adductors

This list of compound exercises includes moves that primarily target the quads on the front of the thigh and the adductors on the inner thighs.

  1. Back Squats
  2. Front Squats
  3. Goblet Squats
  4. Box Squats
  5. Sumo Squats
  6. Pause Squats
  7. Hack Squats
  8. Leg Press
  9. Bulgarian Split Squats
  10. Barbell or Dumbbell Split Squats
  11. Front Rack Reverse Lunges
  12. Lateral Lunges
  13. Reverse Lunges
  14. Curtsy Lunges
  15. Decline Lunges
  16. Step-Ups
  17. Pistol Squats
  18. Thrusters
  19. Wall Sits
  20. Standing Calf Raises
  21. Leg Press Calf Raises
A person doing a glute bridge.

Compound Exercises for Glutes, Hamstrings, and Calves

This list of compound exercises includes moves that primarily target the posterior chain muscles, which are those that run along the back of the legs (glutes, hamstrings, and calves).

  1. Conventional Barbell Deadlifts
  2. Trap Bar Deadlift
  3. Sumo Deadlifts
  4. Romanian Deadlifts
  5. Single-Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
  6. Suitcase Deadlifts
  7. Good Mornings
  8. Glute-Ham Raises
  9. Cable Pull Throughs
  10. Kettlebell Swings
  11. Barbell Hip Thrusts
  12. Glute Bridges
  13. Push Jerks
A person doing a battle rope wave.

Total-Body Compound Exercises

Here is a list of compound exercises for your entire body that involves the upper- and lower body working in tandem.

  1. Farmer’s Carries
  2. Landmines
  3. Medicine Ball Slams
  4. Burpees
  5. Barbell Jammers
  6. Battle Rope Waves
  7. Dumbbell Deadlift to Upright Row
  8. Dumbbell Punches
  9. Dumbbell Running Arm Swings
A person doing Russian twists.

Compound Exercises for the Core

This final list of compound exercises includes those that target the abs and lower back.

  1. Hanging Leg Raises
  2. Leg Lifts
  3. Pallof Presses
  4. V-Ups
  5. Medicine Ball Chops
  6. Ab Wheel Rollouts
  7. Bicycle Crunches
  8. Russian Twists
  9. Reverse Crunches
  10. Captain’s Chair Leg Raises
  11. Cable Crunches
  12. Planks
  13. T-Spine Rotation Planks
  14. Stability Ball Tucks and Jackknives 
  15. Bird Dogs
  16. Dead Bugs
  17. Superman

At just shy of 100 compound exercises, hopefully, this full list of compound exercises will give you some good ideas for different exercises to add to your workout routine.

Remember to keep things varied and balanced.

Enjoy your workout!

Looking for some workout routines already put together? Check out our upper body workout, bodyweight workout, and resistance band workout.

A person doing an ab roll out.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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