The Compound Exercise

The only four exercises you will ever need to become the best version of you.

You're a busy individual, and you want to get a better physique -- be it more toned, less chubby, more ripped, less lethargic -- whatever the adjective is that describes the best version of you, you want that. You want to be that best version of you, but you only have so much time to exercise. You have to make the most of your gym time, so you have to make a choice: You could do a bicep curl, lifting your forearm up and down to burn the fat on your arm and build your bicep muscle. Or, you could do an assisted chin up, engaging your arms, your shoulders, your back, your abs -- the entirety of your body in actuality -- to burn fat and build muscle all over in one fell swoop. If the latter exercise sounds more appealing to you, then I have good news: you've just entered the world of compound exercise.

What is a compound exercise? A compound exercise is any exercise that uses more than one muscle group in a single movement. Think of it this way, you do one exercise for the stomach, one for the legs, one for the back -- you've worked out your whole body in about an hour using solely isolated exercises, exercises that focus on an isolated muscle group. Compound exercise, however, combines all these exercises at once in just a fraction of the time! For example, if you did just the dead lift (the king of all exercises) you would get a total body workout -- your stomach, your legs, your back -- in one exercise. Compound exercises are the secret to weight-loss and a beautifully proportioned physique.

By calling on the maximum number of muscle fibers as possible in one fluid motion, compound exercises force your body to work very hard for a short period of time. Because so many muscle groups are being activated at once, your body is burning more calories than it would if you were just working out a single muscle group. So while you would be at the gym longer doing individual isolation exercises for your stomach, your legs, and your back, you're actually burning less calories overall, because you're only activating one isolated muscle group at a time. The fifteen minutes spent focusing on just compound exercises is going to give you a better workout than going through each isolation exercise. This shorter compound workout is a better workout because you're combining the calorie burn from all of the isolated exercises in one move! As an added bonus, because you're making your body work harder, you're upping your metabolism, causing your body to continue to burn fat for hours after the compound exercise is over. The end result is that you're burning fat and building muscle at an incredible rate.

When it comes to burning fat, many professionals feel that compound exercise is better than stationary cardio exercise, because compound exercise burns a higher amount of calories. The compound exercise, combined with HIIT (high intensity interval training), is the quickest and most efficient way to lose weight and gain a tailored physique. Sessions with compound exercise take only approximately fifteen minutes, and you only need a few sessions at that before you begin seeing the results of this workout. Because you're seeing results in a few short sessions, you're not going to get frustrated, but you're going to be motivated to continue.

The exact opposite of compound exercise is isolation exercise. As you may have surmised, an isolation exercise targets only one muscle group in one movement. Typically, isolation exercises focus on the "glamour muscles": biceps, triceps, calfs and abs. Most newcomers to the gym tend to focus on the isolation exercises, wanting bigger arms or a six pack of abs, but neglecting the compound movement.

Most exercise routines will have a combination of both isolation and compound exercises, however the really good routines will place the emphasis on the latter. Good trainers tend to focus on compound exercises in their routines, starting with compound exercises, and ending with isolation exercises. Compound exercises are used for a total body workout, while the isolation exercises narrow in on a particular muscle group. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for the isolated exercise in a workout routine; isolated exercises are typically used by professional body builders to achieve a particular look by focusing on a specific muscle group. In layman's terms, a compound exercise based workout routine will give you a body like Captain America, while an isolation exercise based workout routine will give you a body like Pop-Eye the Sailor Man.

As if it couldn't get any better, compound exercises can easily be done at home. Here is the equipment you will need:

1. Dumbbells: the bread and butter of your compound exercises, dumbbells are the bare minimum that you need to work out at home. I recommend using a set with 30lbs of adjustable weight per side. Don't start with 30lbs, but start at a weight that feels comfortable for you, be it 20lbs, 10lbs, 5lbs, or 2.5lbs.

2. A simple small bench with an adjustable back.

3. Bar.

Here are the four compound exercises you'll ever need to workout at home, using either dumbbells or the bar to perform them. A good rate to start at is three sets of ten reps, performed every other day.

1. Bench Press.

2. Military Press.

3. Dead Lift.

4. Front Squat.

Here are the four compound exercises you'll ever need to workout at the gym. A good rate to start at is three sets of ten reps, performed every other day.

1. Assisted Chin-Up.

2. The Dip.

3. Dead Lift.

4. Front Squat

These lists only have four items each, because these are the only four exercises you really need. Each exercise works out at least half of your body, helps you maintain a better form, and can be done with dumbbells, a bar, or a bar machine at the gym.

The compound exercise is the foundation for building a ripped body and losing weight. Add HIIT cardiovascular training like the treadmill, jumping rope, or interval walking to your workout, and you will have the best workout possible.