Compound exercises rev up your workout



Bill Victor, Vancouver fitness consultant.

Usually the word “compound” suggests increasing the difficulty or complexity of a situation. Training the body for maximal calorie loss in many ways is similar to this explanation and yet in many ways is quite different.

While “core training” and “functional fitness” have become the vogue terms in modern day exercise, their meaning can become diluted as a result of varied translations and incorrect application. In most instances, however, compound exercises and movements are closely aligned with “functional fitness,” because they mimic usage of multiple joints and the key stabilization of your midsection to perform many everyday activities.

Ultimately, a compound exercise is one in which two or more joints are involved in moving or resisting against a given workload.

One example of a compound movement in daily activities would be lifting a heavy box off the ground.

• As you squat down, you would be flexing your knees, ankles and hips, while also bending over at the low back (spinal flexion) and bending through the elbows (elbow flexion) as you put your hands underneath the box.

• As you came to a stand, you would reverse these movements, driving pressure through both legs and increasing the angles of the knees, ankles, hips and back to elevate the box, hinging through the low back to stand upright and stabilizing the load to your chest by flexing your biceps.

While there would be other more subtle joint movements and muscles at play, these would be the most significant.

The transfer of these movements into your gym-based resistance training could include performance of the dead-lift, back-squat, front-squat or a host of multiple different movement combinations that utilized several different joints to perform a given movement.

The point is, the more joints we can employ in any movement, the harder the body must work as it engages simultaneous use of many muscles to work against a given resistance. Sitting to standing would be one of the more elementary yet highly functional compound movements even the fitness “newbie” could harness to put multiple joints to work.

Adding more “gas to the flame” for a sit-to-stand movement might also include pressing dumbbells over your head as your body achieves a full upright position. I would equate this to a car “firing on all cylinders,” as these kinds of movements get almost every part of the body involved in performing even one repetition.

The application of compound movements will also play the greatest role in revving up your metabolism and calories expended as the more muscles involved in any one resistance cycle will have the body working that much harder and utilizing available energy stores at an increased rate.

The average Thanksgiving Day food plate will be comprised of over 3,500 calories. The time to start thinking about making the most out of your fitness and resistance-training sessions is now! Bringing compound movements into your fitness life will make the fitness demands of your lifestyle easier, and help lose pounds proactively before the holidays.

Bill Victor can be reached at and online at and