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.
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!
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.
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 cause a more significant increase in testosterone and growth hormone because a higher percentage of muscle mass is utilized, eliciting a greater hormonal response.
- Compound exercises are more effective at increasing muscular strength and aerobic capacity (VO2 max) compared to isolation exercises.
- Compound exercises prepare you for other athletic endeavors like running, jumping, and playing sports.
- 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 enhance fat loss while simultaneously increasing muscle gains (hypertrophy), leading to improvements in body composition.
- Compound exercises can improve your coordination, balance, and core control.
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.
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.
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.
- Decline Push-Ups
- Bench Press
- Incline Bench Press
- Decline Bench Press
- Dumbbell Chest Press
- Dumbbell Incline Chest Press
- Dumbbell Decline Chest Press
- Overhead Press
- Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Overhead Press
- Military Press
- Arnold Shoulder Press
- Chest Fly
- Lateral Raises
- Forward Raises
- Handstand Push-Ups
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.
- Upright Barbell Rows
- Bent-Over Rows
- Dumbbell Rows
- Underhand EZ Bar Rows
- Renegade Rows
- Inverted Rows
- Standing T-Bar Rows
- Power Cleans
- Lat Pulldowns
- Wide-Grip Pulldowns
- Narrow-Grip Pulldowns
- Seated Cable Rows
- Face Pulls
- Chest Supported Rows
- Reverse Fly
- Bent-Over Reverse Fly
- Dumbbell I, Y, and T Raises
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.
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.
- Back Squats
- Front Squats
- Goblet Squats
- Box Squats
- Sumo Squats
- Pause Squats
- Hack Squats
- Leg Press
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Barbell or Dumbbell Split Squats
- Front Rack Reverse Lunges
- Lateral Lunges
- Reverse Lunges
- Curtsy Lunges
- Decline Lunges
- Pistol Squats
- Wall Sits
- Standing Calf Raises
- Leg Press Calf Raises
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).
- Conventional Barbell Deadlifts
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlifts
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Single-Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
- Suitcase Deadlifts
- Good Mornings
- Glute-Ham Raises
- Cable Pull Throughs
- Kettlebell Swings
- Barbell Hip Thrusts
- Glute Bridges
- Push Jerks
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.
- Farmer’s Carries
- Medicine Ball Slams
- Barbell Jammers
- Battle Rope Waves
- Dumbbell Deadlift to Upright Row
- Dumbbell Punches
- Dumbbell Running Arm Swings
Compound Exercises for the Core
This final list of compound exercises includes those that target the abs and lower back.
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Leg Lifts
- Pallof Presses
- Medicine Ball Chops
- Ab Wheel Rollouts
- Bicycle Crunches
- Russian Twists
- Reverse Crunches
- Captain’s Chair Leg Raises
- Cable Crunches
- T-Spine Rotation Planks
- Stability Ball Tucks and Jackknives
- Bird Dogs
- Dead Bugs
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!