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Top 3 Compound Exercises to Build Up Muscle

Updated on February 25, 2014

If you want to build up muscle on your body then compound exercises are your best bet.

When you add the following three exercises to your workouts you will build muscle a lot quicker and your workouts will be shorter.

By the end of this article you will be ready to start packing on some lean muscle.

Mountain Climber Push Ups

Before I get into telling you about this exercise, you might be wondering why I recommend compound exercises over isolation exercises. The truth is, people don’t want to wait for results so you need to get the most out of your training. Your workouts will take a lot of time if they’re filled with isolation exercises and your body works better when you allow it to work as a whole unit.

Your goal is to activate more muscle in a shorter amount of time and that’s exactly what compound exercises will do for you. You’ll use your body in a more natural way, work more muscles and get out of the gym quicker, but let’s get into the first exercise.

A mountain climber push up is going to allow you to work a variety of different muscles without any weights or expensive machinery. So this is something you can do in your home if you’d like, which will save you even more time. You’re going to work your chest, triceps, shoulders and your core muscles with this exercise. To start, all you need to do is get into the push up position.

Do a pushup and then when you come back up into the top position you’ll want to bend your right knee and bring it up to your right elbow while still holding the rest of your body in that top position. Return your leg to its normal position, do another push up and repeat with your left leg. Bend your knee and bring your left knee to your left elbow. You’ve now done one “rep”! Now who says a body weight exercise can’t be challenging? Let’s move onto your next exercise.

Curling Squats

Squats are a great compound exercise on their own but let’s amp things up a bit and add in your arms! Squats work your quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings and even your lower back so you’re definitely calling on a lot of muscles for your workout but you’re not done yet. By adding curls into it you are bringing your biceps into play AND your abs! Your abs? Yes, because of the position you’ll be holding the weight in you will need to really flex and tighten up your abs or you’ll fail at this exercise.

You can do these with dumbbells, a barbell, kettlebells or even resistance bands if you want. The more variety you have in your workouts the better! Always keep your body guessing and you’ll continue to improve.

So what you’ll want to do is hold your weight as if you were getting ready to do some standing bicep curls. Instead of curling the weight you’ll want to go down into a squat and make sure that you don’t lean forward or rest your elbows against your body. As you go down you’ll want to keep your back straight and you’ll start to feel how much this position challenges you as you go down deeper. Stand back up out of your squat and immediately do a curl. That’s one rep! If you’re not too tired already, let’s move onto the last exercise.


The first two exercises were more combination compound exercise but I wanted to include deadlifts because they are a very important exercise. The deadlift movement is a movement that most of us do almost every single day, so it’s a natural feeling exercise. With deadlifts you’ll work your lower back, calves, forearms, glutes, hamstrings, lats, middle back, quads and even your traps! Do you see why I included this exercise? If I could do only one exercise for the rest of my life, I’d pick deadlifts to ensure that I got a full body workout.

You can do deadlifts with dumbbells, a barbell, kettlebells or resistance bands too. But you can add even more variety by switching up your grip or not bending your knees. When you do stiff-legged deadlifts you will focus a lot more of the work on your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. But if you bend your knees during your deadlifts you use your quads a lot more to help you “lock out” and stand up fully.

What you’ll want to do is stand with your weight in front of you and bend down to pick it up. Keep your back as straight as possible and get a good grip on the weight, I usually use an alternated grip. Start pushing with your legs while simultaneously straightening out your torso as you stand up. To fully lock out you want to stick your chest out and contract your back by bringing your shoulder blades back. Then reverse the motion and set the weight back on the floor. That’s one rep. You want to make sure you set the weight on the ground for each rep to be a true “dead”lift. Add one or all of these exercises to your workouts and enjoy your new muscle growth!

Compound exercises are proven to help you build up muscle quicker than a handful of isolation exercises ever could. When you use exercises like this you’ll soon realize how weak your old workouts really were. You can now build muscle at ease!

What Compound Exercises Do YOU Like to Do to Build Up Muscle?

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    • conqueranycourse profile image


      6 years ago from New York City

      Cool hub...Thanks for this..:)

    • sammysmyth1 profile image


      6 years ago

      lots of info, something i need to burn fat and gain muscle, so want a toned body again, thanks for the details and videos.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Thanks, TurtleDog... these are some really intense exerices... helps you work your whole body in a really short time! Hope you get a chance to do them all.

    • TurtleDog profile image


      8 years ago

      Cool post! Thanks. I just tried the first one. Man, that is tough once I get the reps going. Thanks!

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Yep, bojanglesk8... they're not what you'd see most people doing, aside from the deadlifts, but they save time and are really effective! Two more exercises I like to do are front squat push presses and squatting cable rows.

    • bojanglesk8 profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting exercises.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Thanks, Hello, hello,!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Great hub with comprehensive advice.


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