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Compound Exercises: The Ultimate (Bro) Guide to Compound Exercises

Bro believe it or not there’s more to the alpha-life than bicep curls. And until you’ve felt the power of a raw deadlift you simply haven’t lived. That’s why SpotMeBro are bringing you this ultimate guide to compound exercises to shake you out of that skinny boy split, bro. It’s time to make you a multi-muscle man.


Article brodown:

  • What are compound exercises?
  • Pros of compound exercises
  • 5 Essential compound exercises every bro should know
  • Conclusion – The final rep on compound exercises


What are compound exercises?

Compound exercises are movements that recruit multiple joints or muscle groups. So, rather than targeting one area such as a bicep curl just hitting the guns, compounds strike many.

Take the most obvious, common, and manly compound there is – the deadlift. The deadlift works almost every single major muscle group in the body, but specifically the posterior chain. Rather than a single muscle group get the bar from A to B, all the muscles on the backside of your body do the bulk of the work, whilst the rest support the movement.

Consequently, because compound exercises call upon multiple muscles they’re high stress exercises. The additional muscle activation challenges the central nervous system like nothing else, creating more stimulus for muscle growth.

Studies have shown compound exercises to be better for building overall muscle and strength quickly. [1] So, whilst it’s cool to use isolation exercises to snipe out certain areas, crushing compound lifts could be your answer to getting bigger and stronger, faster. [2] Throw a compound workout together to nail the whole body in minimal time.


barbell snatch pressed overhead as compound exercise


Pros of compound exercises

You guessed it bro, we’re mad for multi-joint movements. We understand the importance of including them in our strength and hypertrophy workouts, meaning we know a thing or two about the benefits. Here are just a few of the pros from hitting compound exercises:

  • Overall heavier lifts – because of the synergistic effort of multiple muscle groups, lifters can handle heavier weights. For example, think about how much more you can bench press than bicep curl due to the amount of muscle used
  • Get strong quickly – multi-joint and multi-muscle movements create an overall greater stimulus for muscular adaptations than isolation exercises. In short, you’ll be using more muscles and a heavier weight, forcing quick gains across your entire body
  • Time efficiency – as compound lifting hits multiple muscle groups in one move you’ll save time compared to using isolation moves. If you’re a bro with no seconds to spare, smash compounds and blast your body in minimal time
  • Functional strength and balance – hitting compound movements hard will give you synergistic strength well suited to real life. You’ll be able to lift, press, squat, and twist safer with a powerful physique that’s ready for anything
  • Boost testosterone – high intensity compound movements are awesome for triggering testosterone production. Because your body knows it needs to adapt to this level of stressful training and build more muscle, testosterone production will be ramped up [3]
  • Build muscle fast – as compound exercises promote testosterone production they also help build muscle quickly. Studies have shown testosterone to be a trigger for powerful muscle growth and strength adaptations in resistance training males [4]

Related article: Top 8 Secrets to Boost Your Testosterone Levels Naturally & Fast


5 Essential compound exercises every bro should know

Crushing compound lifts can set you up for huge gains in both strength and hypertrophy. So, you’re gonna need to know how to unleash them properly.

Any bro who considers himself a beast under the barbell needs to have the following five down. Master these multi-joint movements and you’ll be able to nail all the major muscle groups in the body, building a lean powerful physique in no time.

Here goes, bro…


athlete performing deadlift as compound exercise



SpotMeBro loves a barbell-bending, earth-shattering deadlift. Why? Because besides using every single major muscle group in the body they solidify our alpha-male status. So much so, that in ancient history Viking warriors had to prove their right to board warships by deadlifting hulking Icelandic stones.

Today we have barbells, bumper plates, and sheer brute strength at hand. But trust us bro, that’s all we’re gonna need!

By putting these three things together to perform powerful deadlifts, we primarily hit the posterior chain. As these are the major muscles running up the back of our body they’re fundamental to our overarching levels of strength.

However, everything from our chest to iron-like core adds assistance during the deadlift. So, it’s a whole-body effort to complete this test of raw power.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart in front of and facing a barbell. Ensure that your shins are touching the bar
  2. Bend over and grab the bar with hands around shoulder-width apart
  3. Break at the hips and drop down until your upper body is at 45 degrees. Your back and arms should be straight before beginning the lift
  4. Pull tightly on the bar until you feel tension throughout your entire body. Once all the slack is taken out of your muscles and the bar you’re ready to lift
  5. Keeping the core engaged and abs pulled in, drive through the heels to straighten the knees. All in one motion hinge at the hips whilst pulling the bar up the top of your legs. Throughout this entire process your back and neck should be kept in alignment
  6. Once you reach the summit pull the shoulders back and proudly project your chest. Lock out the hips and squeeze the glutes without hyperextending your lower back
  7. Reverse steps 5-6 to touch the bar back down to the floor

Tip: Maintain tension throughout the whole set by only lightly touching the plates on the ground

Related article: The Deadlift – Proper Weightlifting Form



athlete performing squat as compound exercise



Second up, we’ve got squats. Just like the deadlift they’re considered one of the three big lifts and are one of only three exercises used in powerlifting competition.

Again, the squat is another absolute test of raw strength. There are many variations to target different muscles, but the most commonly used type is the barbell back squat.

Barbell back squats primarily hit the quadriceps and glutes. Yet, the entire posterior chain, core, and remaining back must work overtime to keep the spine in alignment. This is especially true when the plates start stacking and the bar begins bowing.

Plus, because of the high-levels of eccentric activity that takes place in descent, the back squat is awesome for achieving hypertrophy. So, don’t be a b*tch and show up ‘til you throw up. DOMS are something you can worry about once leg day is over.

How to do it:

  1. Strap a loaded barbell across your shoulders and traps. To do this set up a bar in the squat rack first and then step under it. Grab the bar with hands and feet both around shoulder-width
  2. Un-rack the bar and take a small step backwards. Alternatively, if you’re working inside the rack step into it. Maintain the natural arch in your lumbar region and keep looking straight ahead
  3. Sit backward by bending at the knees and breaking at the hip. Your glutes should now be moving downwards as if you were sitting back into a low chair. Keep your weight through your heels, knees tracked outwards, and core engaged
  4. Descend until your hamstrings are level with or past parallel to the floor
  5. Once you hit the bottom of your squat drive through the heels and reverse the movement
  6. Squeeze the hamstrings and glutes at the summit for maximum muscle damage

Tip: If you find your knees tracking inwards grab a miniband and push against it with your thighs

Related article: The Squat – Proper Weightlifting Form



athlete performing bench press as compound exercise

Bench Press

What you benchin’ bro? Because no one gives a sh*t what you’re bicep curling, calf raising, or how many spin classes you’ve spun this week.

Nobody cares if you’re the king of cardio if you bench press like a beta-snowflake b*tch with chicken wings worse than our great grandma. You’ve got to master this man-move if you want to be taken seriously in the iron house.

Fundamentally the bench press will work your chest and triceps. However, as you’d expect there’s a ton of support coming from other muscle groups; including the core, shoulders, and even legs.

How to do it:

  1. Lay on your back on a flat bench with your eyes directly underneath the bar
  2. Plant your feet firmly flat on the floor and reach up to grab the bar just outside shoulder-
  3. Un-rack the bar in a controlled motion and slowly lower it to your chest. Ensure your wrists are kept in perfect alignment with the forearms, and point the elbows slightly outward
  4. Once you feel the bar touch your chest it’s your cue to go! Push the bar back up until your elbows almost reach full extension –
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until you complete the entire set!

Tip: Grip choice can ultimately determine the amount of muscle activation experienced in different areas. Check out this bench press grip guide for more info

Related article: The Bench Press – Proper Weightlifting Form



strong athlete performing power clean complex exercise

Power Clean

Learning how to power clean is a right of passage for a bro. Being able to rip a bar from the floor to a front rack position instantly amplifies our alpha status. It says ‘this dude knows what the f*ck’ he’s doing’ to every other guy and girl in the room.

Plus, you’ll be able to enter the power-building realm of Olympic lifting. To explosively pull the bar all the way from the ground to your delts you’ll have to move at maximum velocity. In turn this will allow power adaptations to take place, improving your explosivity.

After a rep or two you’ll feel the fire in your glutes and the pull will pump up your arms and traps. Your core will have to suck it up to keep that spine safe too, meaning serious ab and back gains.

So, not only does the power clean look impressively badass, it’s functional as f*ck too. Clean up your act and learn this sucker fast.

How to do it:

  1. Stand in front of a barbell with feet hip-width apart. Unlike the deadlift, your shins shouldn’t be touching the bar – aim for 2-3cm distance
  2. Reach down and grab the bar with hands shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Next, break at the hip and knees until you’re in a slight squat with your back at 45 degrees. At this point your hamstrings and glutes should be a little higher than parallel to the floor
  3. Take the slack out of the bar by pulling upwards until you feel tension through your entire body
  4. Engage your core and tense the torso
  5. Lift off! Explode through the heels and straighten the knees along with the hips to bring the bar to hip height
  6. Use a high-pull to make the most of that momentum and elevate the bar to shoulder height and squat under it whilst simultaneously catching it in the front rack position Tip: Look to land the bar on your delts and raise your elbows high to point in front of you. This will take stress away from the weaker wrist joints
  7. Finish standing upright with a natural curve in the lower back and knees slightly bent. At this point your chest and front delts should be taking the weight of the bar
  8. Reverse steps 6-3 to return the bar back to the ground

Tip: Explosively power through this movement to experience the full effect. After all, it’s a power clean we’re hitting, so don’t hold back bro

Related article: Olympic Lifting Benefits: Build Total Strength, Speed and Acceleration



athlete performing pull up as compound exercise


Pull Up

Get jailhouse jacked with the most iconic bodyweight compound exercise. Used by the U.S. Marine Core as part of their selection for new recruits, the pull up is a test of strength, grit, and determination.

Whilst it’s not as impressive looking as the deadlift or power clean, you need it in your arsenal. Master the pull up and you can work out any place at any time, bro. There’s a reason prison inmates and soldiers throw these into their workouts.

Primarily a back exercise, most guys go for pull ups on back day.

Plus, if you can’t lift your own bodyweight what the f*ck can you do, bro? Are you even strong if you’re beaten by your own bulk? We think not, and deep down you know we’re right.

How to do it:

  1. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip at 1.5-2x shoulder-width
  2. Starting from a dead hang with elbows fully extended, use your powerful upper body to pull your chest towards the bar
  3. Keep going until you clear your chin over the bar and touch it with your chest
  4. Once at the top squeeze your entire upper body for maximum metabolic damage
  5. Return to a dead hang under control

Tip: Engage the core and squeeze the glutes throughout the entire movement. Not only will this help you stay stable and move more efficiently, it’ll recruit more muscle fibers too. By doing this you’ll maximize muscle tearing and get the most gainz from every rep

Related article: Pull Ups vs. Chin Ups – Know the Difference!


kettlebell swing being performed as a complex exercise by muscular athlete
Conclusion: The final rep on compound exercises

Compound exercises are multi-joint/multi-muscle movements which work many parts of the body. By recruiting greater amounts of muscles than isolation exercises, they also make lifting heavier weights possible. Chasing those gorilla-like strength gainz? Compound it up, bro!

There’s also a ton of other benefits that come with compound exercises. This includes the likes of optimizing testosterone, which helps muscle growth and strength gainz. Guys who’re looking to amplify their alpha-maleness need to look no further.

Plus, because compound exercises work many muscle groups at the same time they’re extremely time efficient. If you’re short for time but still need to hit a hard workout compound exercises are the way to go. It’s easy to fix up a fast, full body routine using compound lifts alone.

Finally, to take results from compound exercises to the next level work them alongside accessory moves. These should be isolation exercises that focus specifically on certain muscle groups like the hammer curl. By doing this you’ll create an all-around powerful physique with no chinks in your muscular armor.



  1. Gentil, P., Soares, S. and Bottaro, M. (2015). Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, 6(1).
  2. Paoli, A., Gentil, P., Moro, T., Marcolin, G. and Bianco, A. (2017). Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.
  3. Raastad, T., Bjøro, T. and Hallén, J. (2000). Hormonal responses to high- and moderate-intensity strength exercise.European Journal of Applied Physiology, 82(1-2), pp.121-128.
  4. Vingren, J., Kraemer, W., Ratamess, N., Anderson, J., Volek, J. and Maresh, C. (2010). Testosterone Physiology in Resistance Exercise and Training.Sports Medicine, 40(12), pp.1037-1053.


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