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Compound exercises: Why they burn more fat that isolated

Updated on March 27, 2007

We are all trying to get the most of our workouts, and the selection of the right exercise program will help you reach your goals, while the wrong selection can leave you disappointed and lacking motivation. There are so many different exercise programs out there and so much different advice it is hard to sort through it all to make the right choices. We know we want to burn fat and build muscles, but we just aren't sure how to get there.

In an effort to build muscles many of us try to exercise each of our muscles by isolating the muscle and than working it at every angle imaginable, and this theory of nee to "isolating a muscle" to work it properly is fueled my television commercial promising better results with machines that "isolate the muscle". But the truth is you can accomplish a lot more by completing compound exercises. Isolated exercises are great for minor tweaking once you have already established your goals, however for those looking to make significant muscle gains or lose body fat, they are not ideal. The following are five reasons why compound exercises will help you burn more fat, gain more muscle, and finally get the results you are looking for:

1 .Compound exercise stimulates more muscles fibers.

Since isolated exercises target only one muscle or part of one muscle they do not stimulate that many muscle fibers, however, compound exercises work several groups of muscles, stimulating many more muscles fibers. Take a bench press verses a tricep kickback. The bench press is going to work your pectoral muscles, your triceps, and your deltoids, with your biceps acting as a dynamic stabilizer. The kickback will only target your triceps. Since the bench press is working more muscles it is stimulating more muscles fibers, therefore burning more fat and building more muscle. By choosing compound exercises to make up the majority of your routine, you will be sure you are getting the most intense workout possible.

2. Compound exercise give you better results in less time.

Another reason why compound exercises are superior is because you are hitting more muscle fibers with each lift and therefore required to spend less time in the gym. Compound exercises will give you better results in less time. By using compound exercises, you can perform 3-5 total exercises per session, stress your system enough to encourage muscular destruction and then get out and allow your body time to recoup.

3. Compound exercise give a larger release of hormones.

Not only will compound exercises target the greatest portion of muscle fibers, they will also cause the greatest release of hormones in the body. The two prime examples are testosterone and growth hormone. The more taxing the exercise on the system, the greater the release. These hormones will help burn fat and build muscle.

4. Compound exercises reduce the risk of over-training.

One of the biggest reasons people do not see results is because they are overtraining. Single body part programs are notorious for encouraging overtraining. For example, if you are do a chest workout one day and then do a bi and tri workout the next, you ended up working your triceps both days because you also used them in your chest workout, and chances are they aren't going to be completely recovered in time for your day two workout. By using compound exercises you can construct either a 4 day upper/lower split or a 3 day full body split and ensure you have a maximum recovery period built into your week.

5. Compound exercises give you more time to focus on other areas of your fitness and overall health.

By spending less time in the weight room you will grant yourself more time to pay attention to other aspects of your fitness such as cardio and flexibility. Stretching is often the most forgotten about factor in fitness which is actually very vital to proper performance. The wisest people will take the time they are saving on weights and dedicate it to improving their flexibility. By doing this not only are you reducing your risk of injuries, but you are also increasing the range of motion in which you can perform your exercises through. On a side note, always be sure to perform your stretching at the end of your workouts, when your muscles are warm and supple.

Classic Compound Exercises

The following are some tried and true compound exercises that are sure to kick your workout up to the next level and help you reach your goals!

  • Flat bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press
  • Barbell rows
  • Standing Military Press
  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pullups
  • Split Squats
  • Reverse Lunges

When trying to determine whether or not an exercise is isolated or compound, take a good look and try to figure out how many different muscles you are targeting. If it's 2 or more, then it's going to be a compound movement. Another good idea is to try using your leg muscles and arm muscles together, such as squats with dumbbells, or lunges with dumbbells.

Next time you are putting together a new training program for yourself or someone who has come to you for advice, make sure that compound exercises make up the base of the workout. If you do that, you can ensure you are making the most out of your valuable gym time. Once you have reach your goals with the compound exercises than you can start to incorporate some isolate exercises to get the look and tone you are going for- but whatever you do don't forget about cardio and stretching!


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