The Compound Exercises That Build Muscle Faster

STACK Expert Connor Doherty explains how athletes can use compound exercises to dramatically improve muscle strength and size.

Compound Exercise

There's a great deal of information about the best new ways to build muscle. But there's no magic bullet. Tried and true methods of strength training with compounds exercises always yield the best results.

Isolation vs. Compound Exercises

Compound exercises, such as the Bench Press and Squat, involve movements that engage multiple muscle groups and joints. On the other hand, isolation exercises—like Curls and Leg Extensions—involve the movement of a single joint and focus on one muscle group.

When you go into the weight room, most people are probably performing isolation exercises in hopes of building a specific muscle group. The problem with this strategy lies in the definition of isolation exercises: they only improve one muscle group at a time. If you want to build muscle throughout your entire body without spending an inordinate amount of time in the weight room, compound exercises are the way to go. Plus, working multiple large muscle groups releases elevated amounts of human growth hormone, which is essential for muscle growth.

Lower-Body Compound Exercises

If you're serious about building muscle, lower-body compound exercises should be the feature of your program. Specifically, you should focus on the Squat, Deadlift and their variations. These two exercises engage nearly the entire lower body, including the quads, hamstrings and glutes. They even increase core and back strength.

Single-leg exercises are the next best type of compound movements for building muscle. By strengthening one leg at a time, you build muscle equally on both sides of the body, which is essential for athletes. The two best single-leg exercises are the Bulgarian Squat (Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat) and the Lunge.

Upper-Body Compound Exercises

Upper-body exercises are grouped into two categories: pushing and pulling. Pushing exercises—like Push-Ups, Bench Press and Shoulder Press—focus on the front side of the body, delts and triceps. Pulling exercises, like Pull-Ups and Rows, focus on the traps, lats, biceps and other back muscles.

Since no single exercise targets both sides of the body, you must make a concerted effort to include both pushing and pulling exercises in your workout. The strength you gain from each of them directly impacts the other. For example, if you have a weak back, you will not be able to challenge yourself on the Bench Press without risking injury.

In summary, if you're looking to build muscle in an efficient way, compound exercises should be at the heart of your strength training program. Isolation exercises can still be a part of your workouts, but not the main focus. The beauty of compound exercises is that they can get you bigger and stronger faster, ultimately saving you time in the gym.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock