When it comes to training efficiency and developing whole-body muscle mass and strength, compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, etc.) need no introduction.
The fact is, while isolation exercises do play a role in training and offer some great benefits, compound lifts should be the core of your training.
Today, we’ll take a look at exactly why that is.
Train Multiple Muscle Groups At The Same Time
This is perhaps the most significant and most apparent benefit. You see, compound exercises are amazing mass-builders because you train multiple muscle groups at the same time and can lift heavier weights when compared to isolation movements.
Take, for example, the bench press. It’s no secret that you can eventually work up to hundreds of pounds. This will undoubtedly develop your chest a lot more than simply doing chest flys with 20-pound dumbbells.
This is because, when multiple muscles work together, they can safely lift a lot more weight and receive a much higher stimulus.
Become Stronger and More Coordinated
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear strength? Is it someone deadlifting or squatting a dozen plates? Or is it someone doing lateral raises with 30-pound dumbbells?
The fact is, if you want to get stronger, you need to practice compound exercises. You don’t necessarily need to go down the traditional powerlifting routine, but you need to include pressing, rowing, hip-hinge, and a squat exercise.
That way, you’ll not only force multiple muscle groups to work at the same time and make you much stronger, but you’ll also become more coordinated and learn how to use your musculature for other activities.
Multiple Ways of Tracking Progress
If you’ve ever tried to gauge your progress on isolation exercises, you understand the struggle all too well. Because these movements only work a single muscle around a single joint, you’re forced to use a much lighter weight, to begin with, and new progress also comes much more slowly. Sometimes, you can’t even notice unless you’re very mindful and pay attention.
Compound lifts, however, are the polar opposite. Because you work multiple muscles at the same time, progress comes much more linearly, and it’s much more pronounced. Even if you don’t improve from week to week, you can still take a look at your training log and go, “Hey, I’ve put 20 pounds on my bench in the last couple of months.”
Say, like most, you’re almost always pressed for time and can’t spend more than one hour at the gym.
If you primarily do isolation exercises, you would have to do quite a few of them to train several muscle groups. But if you instead did two or three compound exercises and only finished off with some isolation work, you’d be able to have a very effective hour-long workout.
Take, for example, the deadlift. This single exercise trains your entire posterior chain, core, arms, and grip strength. With just a few challenging sets, you can train over seven muscle groups. Add one row, a couple of sets of pull-ups, and three sets of bicep curls and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent workout in under one hour.