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Compound Movements

We're all wanting to maximise our time spent working out or in the gym, compound movements are a great way to do so!

Compound movements are any exercise that work multiple muscle groups at once. They are fantastic for building all round strength and giving maximum bang for your training buck!


What do these magical movements look like? Here we go through a few common compound movements and the muscle groups they work.

1. The Deadlift

Along with all it's variations - looking at you RDL!

The deadlift is an awesome exercise to work almost your entire body in one powerful movement. The concept is simple - lift a heavy object off the ground, then repeat. Anyone who regularly does these can tell you that the deadlift is anything but simple!

The main muscles worked during a deadlift are those of your posterior chain (the back side of your body), think hamstrings, back and glutes. But your core, shoulders arms and legs are working super hard too!

2. The Squat

Whether you're using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebell or your bodyweight, the squat is another movement that is using a range of muscles.

Your entire leg (predominantly quads), glutes, hips and core are all working hard as you perform any squat. Different variations will target different muscles - for example, a sumo squat will work your inner thigh more so than a regular squat, as well as different areas of your glutes.

A few points to remember when performing a squat are to keep your weight through your heels, your head up, core engaged and torso straight. Push your hips back and down to perform your squat, beware of bending forward.

3. The Push Up

A full body exercise in one movement!

The push up is a moving plank - your core, glutes, back and legs are all engaged while your chest and arms are working hard lowering and pushing your body back up. If you are new to push ups, try starting on your knees and build up from there. Ensure you are bracing your core and using your chest and arms to perform the movement, not 'snaking' your back. Once you've mastered push ups on your knees, start practicing a few on your toes! You'll be surprised at how quickly you make progress if you challenge yourself!

4. Burpees!

Those of you that have done a class with me will be able to confirm my love of the burpee!

Don't fear the burpee...There are many variations which make this movement accessible to most!

The combination of a plank, optional push up, tuck, squat and jump make this an exercise that works the entire body - while getting your heart rate up. Your shoulders, arms, core, back, glutes and entire leg are all involved during a burpee, making them a great movement to add into a quick HIIT session or workout finisher. Take them at your own pace, step back into the plank position and remove the jump from the top if need be - make burpees your own!

5. Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell, such a versatile piece of workout equipment! Grab a kettlebell and you have the potential for a full and varied workout right there!

The basic swing is an awesome way of working many muscle groups in one movement.

The movement comes from your hips and glutes, but your core, legs, shoulders, back and arms are working hard here too - not to mention getting your heart pumping! When performing your kettlebell swing, beware of not taking the work into your arms and shoulders. Think of the kettlebell as being an extension of your arms, with the momentum from your hips being the thing that forces it into the air.


There you have a few great movements to help you make the most of your workout time! A fun and efficient workout is what we're all aiming for and focusing on these multi-muscle targeting moves is one way of achieving that.

There are of course many more exercises that are considered compound movements, now that you know what they are, how many do you recognise that you are already using?

If you are new to the gym, need some motivation or are keen to start doing something different, why not book in for a re-programme or a session with one of our Personal Trainers? A set of eyes making sure you are performing exercises with the correct technique is invaluable in preventing injury and aiding in progression in strength and fitness. Get in touch with one of our team today!

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