Compound strength movements result in compound benefits. That's good news, but there's more: You can do these movements in the comfort of your own home using hand weights or simply your body weight. And you will be training your body with so many creative movements that it will almost feel like fun, or at the very least, enjoyable. So, just what is the difference between weight-training exercises that use compound movements and isolation exercises? Compound exercises are multijoint movements that engage more than one muscle group at a time, while isolation exercises target only one joint and one main muscle group. Biceps curls are an example of an isolation movement, as you are involving only the elbow joint and the biceps muscle group. When you add a squat or a lunge with the biceps curls, you create a compound movement. You are now working the biceps and some lower body muscles, such as the quadriceps (front of thighs), hamstrings (back of thighs), glutes, lower back and calves. Isolation exercises do have their place, however, particularly during physical therapy to correct a specific muscle imbalance or weakness after injury or surgery.
Why compound movements?
They're more functional: These exercises simulate real-life movements. Most daily activities, including many sports, involve moving several joints at one time. Squats and lunges are two examples of multiple muscle groups that, when strengthened, make it easier for you to get in and out of a chair, or to bend your knees while picking something up.
They burn more calories: Combining lower-body movements with upper-body movements will increase your heart rate, which means you will be adding a dash of cardio to your strength workout, increasing calorie burn.
They add intensity: Involving more muscle groups at the same time will allow you to lift heavier weights and build more strength.
They shorten workout time: You can select eight to 10 movements that will activate those major muscles, cutting the average workout time in half.
They build core strength: Core-strengthening exercises are most effective when using multijoint movements that include abdominals, middle and lower back, shoulders and chest. A strong core helps to protect your back and improve posture, balance and coordination.
They reduce your risk of injury: Because you will be training your body as a whole, you avoid muscular imbalances, lessening your chances of being hurt, whether you are playing sports, exercising or just performing everyday activities.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.