It’s time to discover the best compound exercises for beginners!
Compound exercises are the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to working out, so I’m super excited you want to learn more about them!
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Also, if you’re in a hurry, we’ve compiled all our strength and weight training content into one handy guide called (appropriately): Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know.
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Let’s compare “compound exercises” to “isolation exercises”:
Front squats would be an example of a compound exercise, because it engages your entire lower body and core, and quite a bit of your upper body too, as you perform the movement:
As opposed to biceps curls, which more or less just trains your biceps:
Because in everyday life, you don’t use your muscles in isolation!
When you’re placing luggage in the overhead bin, hoisting a bag of dog food from the floor, or hauling your kid to bed, you’re using your muscle groups together.
Just like you would with a compound exercise.
In other words, why do three different exercises when you can just do one?
The push-up is the best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your bodyweight for “push muscles.”
Muscles trained with the push-up:
Here’s our video on how to do a proper push-up:
Easier Variation: Knee Push-up
Tougher Variation: Decline Push-up
The squat exercise serves a dual purpose – it is the foundation for building strength AND helps build proper mobility. If you are going to ever do barbell squats, you need to work on hitting proper depth with a bodyweight squat first!
Muscles trained with the squat:
Easier Variation: Assisted Bodyweight Squat
Tougher Variation: Goblet Squat
Here’s how to do a HEAVY goblet squat (should you want to try it):
Until you can get your first pull-up or chin-up, bodyweight rows are GREAT to start building your pull-muscle strength.
Muscles trained with the inverted row:
Easier Variation: Incline Inverted Row
Tougher Variation: Elevated Feet Inverted Row
Muscles trained with the pull-up:
Here’s how to perform a proper pull-up:
Easier Variation: Negative Pull-ups
Tougher Variation: Weighted Pull-ups
As you start to get stronger with push-ups and need to find a way to increase the challenge, consider doing dips.
Warning: these are very advanced, but are incredible strength-building exercises.
Muscles trained with the dips:
Easier Variation: Assisted Dips
Tougher Variation: Weighted Dips
These 5 compound exercises will propel you into the world of bodyweight training.
Now, it’s barbell time!
After getting comfortable moving your own bodyweight around, it’s time to start training with barbells!
To up the difficulty with these compound exercises, simply add more weight.
The fun thing about barbells: you can almost always add more weight (disclaimer: provided you do it safely).
Here are The Best Barbell Compound Exercises:
A weighted squat is probably the best compound exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your whole body.
Show me somebody who squats heavy and I’ll show you a great physique. This is a MUST.
Here’s how to perform the barbell back squat:
Muscles trained with the barbell squat:
Ah, the deadlift…maybe the best exercise of all time.
It’s certainly the most primal: “pick the weight up off the ground. Done.”
Here’s how to perform the deadlift:
Muscles trained with the barbell deadlift:
Think of the Romania version as the top half of a conventional deadlift (imagine you’re a “drinking bird” bending over at the waist):
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the Romanian deadlift:
Muscles trained with the Romanian deadlift:
This exercise is simple: press a barbell above your head.
Muscles trained with the overhead press:
All the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms are engaged in order for you to lift the weight over your head. As a bonus, you need to really flex and brace your core, which gets those muscles working too.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the overhead press:
To do a bench press, just lie on a bench and lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Pause, and then press it back up towards the sky.
Repeat! And get strong.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the bench press:
Muscles trained with the benchpress:
To do a bent-over row, bend your torso over and hoist a barbell up.
Muscles trained with the bent-over row:
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the bent-over row:
To do a weighted lunge, have the bar across your upper back and step out with your right leg. Lower your hips until your back leg’s knee almost touches the ground. Explode up and back by pushing off with your front leg. Repeat on your other side.
Muscles trained with the barbell lunge:
We all start somewhere!
Speaking of starting out…
Have you yet to do ANY of these compound exercises?
Always start out with bodyweight moves and make sure your form is correct!
If it’s a barbell movement, use a broomstick (or PVC Pipe).
You can pretend you’re Harry Potter after:
If you’re struggling with certain elements of a movement, don’t get frustrated! Just understand that you’ll have areas in which you can improve.
When I started, I really liked practicing all of the movements at home because I could watch a video online at the same time as I was watching myself do it in a mirror.
No matter what path you take, the most important thing you can do: START NOW!
Don’t overthink it. Just pick a compound exercise and learn how to do it. We can add more exercises to your routine down the road.
Want a little help getting going? The perfect next step to start your strength training journey!
You got it.
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#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.
Sign-up below and receive our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It includes step-by-step instructions for the Best Compound Exercises covered in today’s guide.
Alright, enough from me. Your turn:
Do you agree with my list of best compound exercises?
Am I missing any?
Any tips or tricks for a newbie just getting started?
Let me know in the comments!