Compound Lifting: Which Muscle Groups to Workout Together

In the world of health and fitness, there aren’t many shortcuts. You’ve got to put in the work to get the results you want, but there are a few ways to maximise the value of your sessions and get more from your routine.

Compound lifts

One of the main ways is to use exercises that combine muscle groups, engaging multiple muscles at a time. Not only is this a more efficient way to fatigue your muscles and push them into the repair and regrowth stage, but recruiting more muscle groups in a single exercise comes with a few different benefits. 

Bodybuilder ‘splits’

There’s also the more bodybuilder-centric approach of picking muscle groups to focus on each day. For example, you might choose to work out your chest and triceps in one session, legs in the next and then abs and biceps for the final workout of the week. This method means you can focus on achieving maximum muscle atrophy on your target muscle groups, then rest them for the remainder of the week as you target other areas of your body.

You can best create splits by organising days around muscle groups that don’t interact much with each other. This lets you rest those muscles on your other days. For example, chest and tris on a monday then legs on a wednesday means you’ll be able to rest your chest and triceps properly before the next session.

But let’s focus on compounds…

In our mind, however, compounds offer the most efficient way to get your workouts done, build strength and gain muscle. Considering our business is built on providing protein bars and snacks that conveniently pack in protein, is it any surprise we love exercises that pack in muscle-building in a convenient routine?

Let’s take a look at what muscle groups to workout together via compound lifts and why they’re so effective.

What are compound lifts?

A compound lift is any movement that stresses multiple muscle groups at the same time. The movement must be multi-joint, which means it recruits your muscle tissues to manipulate multiple joints so that they move, flex or extend in unison. Compared to an isolation lift, which focuses on a single muscle group (such as a bicep curl), compounds demand the attention of many muscle groups at once.

Typical compound lifts recruit 2-3 muscle groups at once. This has the benefit of cutting down your overall workout times, boosting strength and even unlocking the power of testosterone. Recruiting multiple muscle groups means you’re employing maximum muscle mass in your workout and therefore making it more efficient.

Compound lifts also burn more calories than isolations due to increased muscle mass working in the exercise. This makes them useful for building cardio whilst building muscle and for those looking to slim down as they tone up. So it’s no surprise that popular exercise programmes build compound lifts into their routines.

What muscle groups should I work out together?

Based on the effectiveness of compound lifts, we’d suggest grouping your muscles based on the exercises you’re going to choose. The following are the most popular compounds and which muscle groups they involve:

Squats

 The squat is one of the world’s most effective exercises. By recruiting virtually all of the muscles in your legs and even some in your upper body, weighted back squats are amazing for building muscle, strengthening your core and generating power. 

Muscle groups targeted: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, calves, hip flexors.

Bench press

The bench press might be that exercise everyone thinks about when they picture a gym, but the reputation comes from strong reasoning. It is the single best upper body exercise in terms of muscle recruitment – with good form reps targeting everything from your chest and arms to your core.

Variations of bench press such as incline and decline can change this up to target more specific groups at a time.

Muscle groups targeted: pectorals, shoulders, arms.

Deadlifts

As long as you have someone to teach you the correct form and take adequate safety measures, deadlifts are one of the best exercises in the world. They can lead to injury if done badly, so avoid them if you’re not confident. If you are, you can enjoy a lift that recruits lots of muscles and helps build power in a way few other lifts can compete with.

Muscle groups targeted: hamstrings, glutes, back, hips, core, traps, spinal erectors.

Pull-ups

You don’t need weights to do pull-ups, but adding a dipping belt can increase your results even more. Pull-ups are amazing for building your back and chest, working to recruit multiple muscle groups and increasing grip strength.

Muscle groups targeted: lats, biceps, deltoids, traps.

Dips

Just like pull-ups, these use your own body weight and can be supplemented with a weighted belt once you master them. Tricep dips are a great way to target your triceps and chest, building muscle and strength with an exercise you can do virtually anywhere.

Muscle groups targeted: triceps, pectorals, traps and serratus

Simple compound lifting plan

From these exercises, you can derive a plan that focuses on specific muscle groups by mixing compounds and isolations. An example of this would look something like this:

Monday – lower body (targeting all main muscle groups in your legs such as quads, hamstrings, calves etc.)

  • 3 x 10 squats
  • 3 x 20 calf raises
  • 3 x 10 weighted lunges

Wednesday – upper body (targeting most of your chest, arms and shoulders)

  • 3 x 10 bench press
  • 3 x 10 incline bench
  • 3 x 10 pull ups

Friday – mixed set (targeting any other muscles and those that have now had time to rest)

  • 3 x 10 tricep dips
  • 3 x 10 deadlifts
  • 3 x 10 front squats

Obviously, there’s more to working out than which muscle groups you target. The level of effort you put in and the actual weight lifted to body weight ratio matters too. But by following the tips above and understanding how muscle groups work, and recover, together, you can maximise your muscle gains and cut down on time in the gym.

Just remember, refuelling your body means eating quality protein. If you don’t have time to get more protein into your diet, our protein snack range and hype bar can help.

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