Compound movements involve 2 or more joints and multiple muscle groups. That’s a fairly straight forward and simple definition.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and write a post detailing how everyone should be doing compound movements if they want to get serious about their training. I’m not going to say that isolation movements are worthless as screen doors on a submarine either. I believe each has a place at the table of health and fitness.
We’re Not Robots
Every serious athlete has a strength and conditioning program that is based on compound movements. There is very little, if any isolation exercises. Wondering why? The body just doesn’t move that way. Robots move single joints at a time, but we don’t.
Our bodies must become efficient at movement. Our nervous system has to connect the dots and fire all the right signals in order to complete a movement or task. The more times it encounters a movement, the more efficient it becomes at it. This is why we practice.
Compound Movements Simulate The Real World
Compound movements could also be called functional movements. They mimic everyday activities of the body. For example, sitting and standing is no different than a squat, and picking something up from the ground is a deadlift. How about unloading a shopping cart? That usually involves some sort of rotational lifting and possibly even some shouldering of an object. I could go on and mention that just carrying an item is a farmers walk and that dragging or pulling something is a form of standing bent over row. I’m sure you get the point by now.
The only time I see isolation moves being relevant is if there is some sort of muscular imbalance, physical therapy, or bodybuilding in that the athlete is trying to sculpt the perfect body.
At 42 I’m not trying to sculpt, I’m trying to move better. I want my movements to be more efficient and easier. Compound movements are the only way to achieve that. Bicep curls won’t do a thing for me other than help me raise a glass or fork to my mouth. And leg extensions will only help me kick someone in the ass if I’m sitting down.
Compound Movements Are More Efficient
Because CM’s work more muscle groups at the same time you don’t need to spend an hour in the gym or garage. Here’s an example – today is back and bi’s training, instead of doing them both separately perform a few sets of chin-ups and a few sets of rope climbs and you’re done. You may not be completely “smoked” as some would say, but a few tweaks here and there and you could easily be completely taxed for the day.
Additional Benefits of Compound Movements
- Burns a helluva lot more calories than isolation moves
- Improves coordination, balance, and speed
- Improves joint stability and muscle connectivity across the joint
- Can lift heavier loads
- Increases overall athleticism