Compounding exercises

Hello, hope you guys are having a wonderful day. Today we are going to look at compound exercises. When I started going to the gym, I was drawn to the idea of having full body exercises. At the time I had no idea what the difference was between compound exercises vs isolation exercises, but I was dead set on not doing isolated exercises. Why you ask? because of Johnny Bravo. I was scared of having a big chest & small legs. Compound exercises offered me the right balance when developing my muscles. Deadlifts are my personal favourite; I can’t explain why but it’s my first love in terms of exercises. Next is the military press which I do while standing, but you can also do the military press while seated. The other 2 exercise that round up my compound exercises are bench press & Squats. Remember, before you start any workout always stretch.


Deadlifts are good lower back exercises. Along with your lower back getting a workout, thighs, calves, traps, glutes, core & traps are other parts of your body that a workout when doing the deadlift. Proper form is key for you to advance to lifting heavy weight. Always lift with your legs & keep your back straight; this will help you avoid getting a back injury. When I started going to the gym, I had my roommate with me to show me the ropes. Proper form was part of learning the ropes. If it’s your first time, having someone evaluate your form will be a big help for you.

To deadlift, start with your feet under the barbell. Your feet should be hip width. Bend over the bar & grab it with shoulder width grip. Bend your knees & make sure your back is straight & proceed to lift with your legs; breathe in & hold as you start lifting. To bring the bar down, release your hips first followed by your knees. As you bring the bar down, be sure to keep your back straight & breathe out. Back injury is a common injury associated with deadlift.

For beginners, start with light weight. I made the mistake of staring with heavy weights just because I had the form down. The best way to know your starting weight? The weight that doesn’t break your form. When do you know when to increase weights? You will feel it. From my experience, I used to feel the weight I was deadlifting was light, but it was just me getting stronger, so I increased the weight & stuck to that weight until it became lighter again. Using chalk or lifting straps will allow you to perform heavy deadlift sets.

Military Press

You can do the military press while sitting or standing, I prefer to do it while standing at the squat rack. The bar is usually around shoulder height when performing this exercise. I have tried this exercise with the bar lower than shoulder height & it was not pretty at all. Your feet should be shoulder width apart & your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width. To get the weight of the rack, I usually take a step forward to unrack the weight then take a step back after unracking. Starting position will be the bar in the collar bone area, take deep breathe & push upwards. As the bar is moving up & down, you will have to move your head out of the way when lifting or bringing down the bar. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt, especially doing this exercise so make sure you do not put on more weight than you can handle on the barbell. Military press exercise is good for Shoulders, chest, traps & chest. I usually like pairing the deadlift exercises with military press.


Squats used to be one of my favourite leg work outs before my knee injury. I made the mistake of rushing back into squats which made my knee injury worse. Squats are good exercises for glutes, thighs, abs & upper back(traps). To perform the squat, start with the barbell at shoulder height or just below shoulder height but not too low. Starting position for squats will be with the bar on your upper back(traps). Make sure to use your arms to support the bar bell as you lift it off the squat rack. Take a step back and stand with your feet shoulder width. To perform the squat, descend as if you are going to take a seat with a straight back (use your hips) & your head facing forward. Once you get to a comfortable depth with you squat, drive back up to a standing position; using your heels & chest muscles will be very helpful. Sequence of breathing is very important. Breathe in before going down, hold it as you perform the squat & breathe out after you finish the squat/ stand up.

Bench press

Bench pressing is the all-time favourite for most people to exercise their chests (pecs). Other areas of your body that get exercise are shoulders, traps & triceps. To begin, lie on a bench & place the bar in position you can easily reach. Benches usually have hooks to place the barbell at different heights. When gripping the bar use a mid-grip which is what I usually use, but you can use a wide grip too. Tighten your grip on the bar & push to lift the bar bell off the hooks. Hold steady, then bring the bar down to just below your chest then push it back up. Use a spotter when doing heavy bench press, common sense dictates it’s important to be safe while lifting heavy otherwise you are a goner.


Deadlifts, military press, squats & bench press are very good compound exercises that I would recommend to anyone. Form is very important to doing all these exercises. You can also use dumbbells to do these exercises, I just prefer the bar bell. I haven’t mentioned anything about sets & reps but you can decide that for yourself once you get started. I usually do 6-7 reps of 5 sets each. To see the best results, I recommend performing the exercises 4-5 days at home or in the gym. Starting off, take it easy; start with light weights, & make sure to stretch before & after exercising. Let me know which compound exercise you enjoy the most, leave a comment below.

12 thoughts on “Compounding exercises”

  1. C says:

    Thank you for this great article! I really enjoy doing compound exercises, and I do them all every week. I agree with you about doing the overhead presses standing up from the squat rack. I like doing that way better than seated. Your tips on all these exercises are very good, and the graphics are very helpful to. You did a great job of putting this guide together, and I hope that people are able to find it and gain some clarity on these very important exercises. Have a great day!

    1. Ray Rooney says:

      Hey C, glad you enjoyed the article.

  2. Scott Hinkle says:

    Thank you for this informative post.

    I have to say, I agree with your compound exercise rationale.  I don’t want the big-chest/small legs body either.

    Thank you for these exercise suggestions.  I’ll try them out and see how to best integrate them into my workout program.

    I think the dead lift will end up being my favorite.

    Thanks again,


    1. Ray Rooney says:

      Hey Scott, glad you enjoyed the article. You will definitely enjoy deadlifts. Goodluck!

  3. Sandy says:

    Hi Ray,

    An amazing amount of information! 

    Very clear on the different types of exercise and the core areas supported by different styles.

    Also very clear and straight forward explanations which make understanding each type of lift much easier.

    Very constructive information for those who will search and look for a solid site to structure and/or understand a program too! Well done. Sandy 🙂

    1. Ray Rooney says:

      Hey sandy, glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Gomer says:

    I’m pretty new to all these as I’ve just started with my personal fitness program to build the muscles in my torso including my arms. So, these terminologies like isolation exercises and compound exercises are very new to me, it is only through this article that I heard about them. I’d like to ask, what is the difference between a compound exercise and an isolation exercise? Am I right to think that isolation exercises are selective exercises where a person only focuses on one area of the body and not including the other areas? 

    1. Ray Rooney says:

      Hey Gomer. Yes, Isolation exercises are exercise that focus on one area of your body only. For example you will hear people say to day is leg day. What this means is they will be focusing on leg exercises only; squats, leg press, lateral walks, single leg deadlift with kettle bells etc. Compound exercises like ones mentioned in my article focus more on full body work outs, which I prefer. 

  5. Jake says:

    Thanks for this useful article. 

    Deadlifts are a good lower back exercise but getting the technique down can be a little tricky. Make sure you start with light weight and maintain the proper form.

    Squats are an exercise that I only use the machine with the safety switch. (hope that makes sense). I really prefer that to using a bar. Bench press is a great one for chest and trcieps. I enjoy benching. .

    Form is very important to doing all these exercises . Start with light weight and do not rush it. An injury is a body builders worst nightmare.

    Stretching is something that people do not do enough of. Not to mention warm up sets. I like to start with lots of stretching and a good warm up set of 20-50 reps with a nice light weight. Thanks for this great advice.

    1. Ray Rooney says:

      Hey Jake, glad you enjoyed the article. 

  6. Robert says:

    I started doing compound exercises almost 20 years ago but I had to stop some of them for many years after I had a back injury of my lower spine. I am looking to get back into ALL of the ones you have listed above but are still a little bit afraid of re-injuring my lower back especially doing deadlifts. Do you have any advice like perhaps a type of back brace or belt to support my back during a lift?

    1. Ray Rooney says:

      Hey Robert, I hear you about being scared about re-injury. I would suggest a Back Support Belt Posture Corrector Back Brace that Improves Posture. you can find one of this on amazon. Thanks for the comment. 

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