GET LEANER, STRONGER, AND FLEXIBLE FASTER. HOW COMPOUND MOVEMENTS CAN BENEFIT YOU.
What if I told you that I could cut your workout time in half while burning fat, building muscle, and improving joint and bone health with just a handful of exercises? Compound movements are those that involve more than one large muscle group. Deadlifts are known as the king of all exercises for a reason...hitting your glutes, quads, hamstrings, back, and core all in one punch. Compare this to the near endless amount of isolated joint exercises on a machine, such as a hamstring curl or leg extension, which primarily work one muscle group at a time and provide a fraction of the training effect. Compound movements not only help your body to perform basic activities better (ie. sitting down, standing, and picking up), but also provide the greatest stimulus for muscle growth and fat loss in the shortest amount of time. Here are the top 5 ways reasons why you should to start incorporating these exercises into your training program...
1. They train your major muscle groups to work in unison - Most of our daily activities already consist of compound movements, not isolated ones. Sitting down, standing, and picking up all recruit various muscle fiber types simultaneously. Compound exercises enhance these capabilities even further and stimulate neural changes that help utilize motor units more effectively. In simpler terms, when picking up something from the ground you'll not only learn to move your hips and knees at the same rate, but your brain will be signaling your large muscle groups to recruit more fibers. Learning structural movements such as these will lead to better mechanics for all activities.
2. They burn more calories - While steady state cardio (ie. running, walking) is a staple for many gym goers, it does very little for muscle growth. Why should you care about muscle growth, especially when it comes to fat loss? As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the more muscle you have, the leaner you look and the more calories your body burns while at rest (aka Basal Metabolic Rate). This means that even when you're not at the gym, you're still getting slim. Compound movements have the added benefit of developing muscle tone proportionately over several areas of your body at once, not just one isolated part.
3. They trigger the release of beneficial natural hormones - In addition to playing a multitude of important regulatory functions in your body, anabolic (or growth inducing) hormones all influence the development of muscle, bone, organs, and connective tissue. The rate of growth hormone secretion declines with age, subsequently leading to decreases in lean mass and increases in fat mass. Compound movements can halt this vicious cycle by helping you to naturally keep your hormone levels in check. No doctor visits or pills required. If you're looking for score some bonus points for an even larger hormone surge, try keeping your rest periods short and progressively increasing the amount of weight you lift.
4. They simulate basic daily activities - Compound exercises aren't just for gym rats. Ever thrown out your back while helping a friend move or picking up a heavy object from the floor? Ever strained your neck or shoulder while pushing something overhead? Ever get pain in your knees or lower back while going from a sitting to standing position? Compound movements are all 'practice' for the daily rigors of life. Every task you can think of has an exercise counterpart. Here's just a few examples....Pushing (Bench Press, Pushups), Pulling (Bent Over Rows, Pullups), Sitting (Barbell Squat, Bodyweight Squat), Picking up (Barbell Deadlifts, Dumbbell Deadlifts), Stepping (Lunges, Step Ups), and Pressing (Barbell Shoulder Press, Dumbbell Shoulder Press).
5. They prevent injury - Because compound movements help build muscle, bone and connective tissue (along with enhancing joint mobility), they provide your body with a solid structural foundation. Numerous studies have shown that muscle, joint, and bone health are all linked to activity levels....the more sedentary you are, the more rapidly these decline with age. Exercises that stimulate muscle growth have the opposite effect. I spoke a little bit about joint mobility here, but just to reiterate...stiff musculature leads to limited range of motion. Limited range of motion can lead to poor mechanics. Poor mechanics are a catalyst for injury. Compound movements help to alleviate muscle stiffness by training your body to work through a complete range of motion under load.
The key principle to keep in mind while practicing these movements is form. There are no less than a thousand videos on YouTube that will give you some pointers on how to execute these movements properly. I would encourage you to start there, especially if you're intimidated by the freeweight section of your gym. Make sure repetitions are slow and controlled. This is not about speed of movement. Go for high repetitions (10-20) and light weight (unloaded barbell, light dumbells, or bodyweight). Always take a rest if your form is breaking down.