Time is a very special commodity. It’s something you can waste easily and will never get back. That’s why it’s important to base your routines on the best compound exercises around. It doesn’t really matter if you like to workout with weights, or are a fan of using your own bodyweight as resistance.
Hitting more than one muscle group with an exercise is a great way to ensure you’re building functional strength while saving yourself from exercising your social life away.
I often switch between weight training and bodyweight training, so I’ll highlight my favorite exercises in both of these categories.
The Top Five Weight Training Exercises
Here are my favorite exercises to use in my lifting routines. These are great if you’re really gunning to add muscle to your physique. These will typically start off my sessions. But every now and then I like to make them the finishers when I’m just about spent.
Bent-Over Row: This first exercise does more than target the upper and lower back. You’re also stimulating the biceps, posterior deltoids and the rectus abdominis. That’s some good stuff.
Clean-and-Press: This is two exercises in one, and is one of the best compound exercises for getting in a good workout. With a loaded barbell you’re going to lift the weight over your head in a two-step process.
The muscles targeting are the: biceps, calves, deltoids, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, abs and triceps.
Deadlift: There’s a bit of a similarity between this exercise and the squats. But you’re looking at more attention to the abs, glutes, lower back, quads and the trapezius.
Incline Bench Press: These workout the not just the pecs (specifically the clavicular region) but also the deltoids and the triceps. It helps to give the right kind of definition to the chest without creating the “saggy” look to the muscles.
Squat: These are one of the all time lower-body exercises. These will hit the many adductor muscles, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, quadriceps and those six-pack muscles.
[Note: My word of advice is to beware that even though this is one of the best compound exercises, continued use can lead to beefed up quads. I'm so much against having super-bulky legs, it's just I know I look and feel better when my legs are proportionate to my waistline.]
You can find some other examples of compound exercises by checking out Shaun Sinclair’s site, Fit Bug. These would be good to use in your weight lifting program.
The Top 5 Bodyweight Training Exercises
One of the great things about using your own bodyweight as resistance is you can practically workout out any where and any time.
It’s actually quite hard to name a bodyweight exercise that isn’t one of the best compound exercise around. So I’m going to list the ones I like to use, and consider great starting points for those interested in putting them into practice.
Burpees: This is a full body exercise. Hell’s yeah! I’m not going to list every muscle that gets stimulated from beginning to end of this exercise because it would be a super long list. But while they are a few variations that can change up the flow, the general ones will be the quads along with the abs.
Dips: There are two ways to emphasis this exercise, one if with the chest in mind, and the other is to spotlight the triceps. What separates these two is with the chest dip you’re doing each rep while leaning forward. For the tricep dip, there’s no lean. Your body is as straight as can be.
A Chest Dip will factor in on the chest muscles (duh), shoulders and triceps. But you’ll see some activation in these muscles as well: Anterior Deltoid, Latissimus Dorsi, Levator Scapulae, Rhomboids and Teres Major.
A Tricep Dip is also is good at hitting the same muscles, yet it just have a different slant on things.
Pullups: This is the king of working the back. But what do you know, you’re also targeting the:
- Levator Scapulae
- Pectoralis Major (sternal)
- Pectoralis Minor
- Posterior Deltoid
- Teres Major
- Trapezius (lower and middle regions)
Pushups: I remember this was one of the ways they tested for strength in gym class once. Boy did those tests suck. But this exercise doesn’t suck at all. It’s going to be a pretty good workout for the deltoids, pecs, triceps and help along your serratus anterior exercises once you add it in.
In the video below, Scooby (and if you don’t know Scooby here’s a link to his site) mentions that the wrist gets undue strain from push ups if you’re planting them flat handed. I actually have trouble doing them this way now, and prefer the fist method, but only if you’re on a mat or gym towel. Otherwise you’ll kill your knuckles.
Squats: Yes, I’m calling on this exercise twice because while people often think of this as a weighted move, it’s also a pretty solid bodyweight exercise.
Focusing on the best compound exercises that help to replicate everyday, functional muscle will save you from spending hours on end working on the body of their dreams. Unless that’s what you’re into, of course.