Compound Exercises for Every Body Part

The collective power of compound exercises.

Chris Lund


Similarly, overhead presses of various types focus on the front and medial deltoids but also involve the triceps, especially at the tops of reps. Upright rows with a shoulder-width or wider grip target the medial deltoids but also hit traps and biceps. Wide-grip rows hit rear delts along with upper back and biceps.


Narrow-grip upright rows work traps with assistance from medial delts and biceps. You can also focus deadlifts on your traps by doing only the top of the movement with the bar in a power rack and the supports set just above your knees. Power cleans are a compound and ballistic exercise that you should feel more in your traps than any of the many other muscles worked. 


Planks stress the abs along with much of the body. The same is true of such core exercises as the barbell rollout and the press situp.


A compound triceps routine will look similar to one for chest: presses and dips. To focus on the triceps, use a narrow grip on presses. Whether with a machine or parallel bars, stay upright when doing dips and locate the movement in your elbow joints. You can also do bench dips with your feet in front of you and hands behind your back.


Now we come to perhaps the most difficult body part to hit with an all- compound workout. All those curls you do are isolators. Perhaps the best compound biceps exercise is the chinup (underhand pullup). Do them rigidly strict to target the biceps more and back less. You can also do strict pulldowns with an underhand grip, focusing on the top half of the movement (when the elbows are coming down and not back). A third possibility is the cheat barbell curl, which involves the legs and lower back to swing a heavy weight up.


Reverse curls and hammer curls work the lower arms with the brachialis and biceps. Old-school grip exercises, like the farmer’s walk, target the hands and forearms along with other muscles.


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