The Importance of Compound Lifts
A compound lift is any exercise that recruits several muscle groups. Some common compound lifts include bench presses, squats, pull-ups, and overhead presses.
Bodybuilding is an aesthetic pursuit. Compound lifts build a solid platform for which your physique can develop. Top bodybuilders focus on compound lifts as a priority.
If you’re training focuses on isolation movements you’ll be leaving gains on the table.
Muscle Group Activation
Compound exercises activate several muscle groups in one movement. The back squat strengthens your quads, hamstrings, core, and posterior chain. Compared to a leg press which only trains quads and hamstrings.
Compound lifts are especially important if you’re new to weightlifting. Compound lifts offer more bang for your buck and will see you progress much faster. Beginners should focus on compound lifts to build a strong foundation. Once you have a strong base, you can incorporate more isolation movements.
Stronger Muscles Over Bigger Muscles
The impact of strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth) is often misunderstood. Compound lifts give added benefits to both.
Compound lifts are often used at lower rep ranges with a heavier weight. A common approach is 5 sets of 5 reps. This approach helps the muscle grow in strength, but not necessarily size.
A stronger muscle can handle more weight. When you incorporate hypertrophy training this will allow you to lift more. More volume in the hypertrophy stage will result in more muscle growth.
A big muscle isn’t always a strong muscle, but a strong muscle can become a big muscle. Build the foundation first.
Calorie Burn & Testosterone
Compound exercises burn more calories than isolation movements. They recruit several muscle groups which require more energy expenditure. Compound lifts tax the central nervous system more due to the heavier weight.
Studies have shown a strong correlation between compound lifts and increased testosterone. Training legs increases overall muscular development for this reason. Heavy squats have the biggest impact.
All forms of strength training have shown an increase in testosterone. The effect is stronger with compound lifts.
Improved Flexibility & Coordination
Compound lifts have a tremendous impact on coordination and mobility. This is because the movements involve several muscle groups working in sync.
The squat is a perfect example. The quads and hamstrings are the main driving force in the squat. If you don’t engage your core and posterior chain, you’ll collapse.
The other added benefit is mobility. As you increase the load, compound movements require good mobility. Without proper mobility, you won’t reach full range of motion as you increase the weight. Slow progression will allow your mobility to improve with your strength.
Focus your workout on compound lifts and save isolation movements for the end. This is especially important if you’re in the early stages of lifting.