The 12 Finest Compound Workouts For Rookies (How To Practice Effectively)

It's time to discover the best compound exercises for beginners!

Compound exercises are bang for your buck when it comes to training. I am so happy that you want to learn more about her!

In our 1-to-1 online coach program, we prioritize compound exercises when creating training routines for our clients. We're going to explain why today.

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We will cover the following:

If you're in a hurry, we've rounded up all of our strength and strength training content in one handy guide called (appropriately): Strength Training 101: Everything You Need To Know.

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  • Everything you need to know to get strong.
  • Exercise routines for body weight AND strength training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly all in one.

Okay, cue the music. Let us do this.

What are compound exercises?

Let's compare "compound exercises" with "isolation exercises":

  • Compound exercises require more than one muscle group to work together to complete the movement. This corresponds to the natural movement of your body.
  • Isolation exercises train more or less a certain muscle group. For example, the leg extension machine focuses on your quads so that it "isolates" the training of that muscle.

The front squats are an example of a compound exercise because they involve your entire lower body and core, as well as much of your upper body, in performing the movement:

In contrast to bicep curls, which more or less only work your biceps:

As we explain in ours Functional Fitness GuideWhenever possible, you want to focus on compound exercises.


Because in everyday life you don't use your muscles in isolation!

When you throw luggage in the trash, pick a bag of dog food off the floor, or put your child to bed, you're using your muscle groups together.

Just like a compound exercise.

Because you use several muscle groups at the same time, you put more strain on your body when you exercise. This can allow for more efficient use of your time in the gym.

In other words, why do three different exercises when you can only do one?

With that out of the way, we can start training.

The 5 best compound exercises (body weight)

1) The push-up: The best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your body weight to "push muscles".

Muscles trained with the push-up:

  • chest
  • Triceps
  • Deltoid muscles
  • Section

Here is our video on how to do a proper push-up::

Easier variant: knee push-up

Harder variation: decline push-ups

2) The squat in body weight: This exercise serves a dual purpose – it is the foundation for building strength AND it helps in building adequate mobility. If you ever want to do a barbell squat, you need to work on getting the right depth with a bodyweight squat first!

Muscles trained with the squat:

Easier variation: Assisted Bodyweight Squat

Harder variation: cup squat

3) The inverted body weight series: Until you get your first pull-up or chin-up, these exercises are great for building your pull muscle strength.

Muscles trained with the reverse row:

  • All of your back muscles (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapeze)
  • biceps
  • Forearm muscles (dorsal, ventral)
  • Your grip

Easier variation: Tilt the inverted line

Harder variation: inverted row with raised feet

4) pull-ups and pull-ups: As soon as you can bear the weight of your body over the bar, the world becomes your playground. No strength training should be without pull-ups or pull-ups! (Can't you do a pull-up yet? We have you.)

Muscles trained with the pull-up:

  • All of your back muscles (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapeze)
  • biceps
  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Trapezius (falling)
  • Section
  • Your grip

Here's how to do a correct pull-up::

Easier variation: negative pull-ups

Harder variation: weighted pull-ups

5) The Bodyweight Dip: If you're getting stronger with pushups and need to find a way to increase the challenge, consider dips.

warning: These are very advanced but incredible strength building exercises.

Muscles trained with the dips:

  • chest
  • Triceps
  • Deltoid muscles
  • Rhomboid (back muscles)
  • Section

Easier variation: assisted dips

Harder variation: Weighted dips

These 5 compound exercises take you into the world of body weight training.

For more ideas on how to work out without the gym, see The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises (Workout Anywhere).

It's dumbbell time now! (1)

The 7 best compound exercises (barbell)

After you are comfortable with moving your own body weight, it's time to start exercising with barbells!

To increase the difficulty with these compound exercises, simply add more weight.

The funny thing about barbells: they can almost always add more weight (disclaimer: provided you do it safely).

Here are the best barbell compound exercises:

6) The Barbell Squat: Probably the best compound exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your body.

Show me someone who squats hard and I'll show you a great physique. It is a must-have.

Here's how to do the barbell squat::

Muscles trained with the barbell squat:

7) the barbell deadlift: Perhaps the best exercise ever.

It is certainly the most primal: “Lift the weight off the floor. Done."

Here's how to do the deadlift::

Muscles Exercised with the Barbell Deadlift:

  • Glutes
  • Erectors (back muscles)
  • Hamstrings
  • Pretty much every muscle in your body

9) the Romanian barbell deadlift: Think of this as the top half of a traditional deadlift (imagine you are a "drinking bird" who bends over at the waist):

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the Romanian deadlift::

Muscles trained with the Romanian deadlift:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Erectors (back muscles)
  • Rhomboid (back muscles)

10) The Barbell Overhead Press: Press a barbell over your head.

Muscles trained with the overhead press:

  • chest
  • Triceps
  • Deltoid muscles
  • Rhomboid (back muscles)
  • Section

All of the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms are used to help you lift the weight above your head. As a bonus, you really need to flex and support your core in order for these muscles to work too.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the overhead press::

11) The Barbell Bench Press: Lie on a bench and lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Stop and then push it towards the sky again.

To repeat! And get strong.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do the bench press::

Muscles trained with the bench press:

  • chest
  • Triceps
  • Deltoid muscles
  • Rhomboid (back muscles)
  • Section
  • Pretty much every muscle in your upper body

12) The bent barbell row: Bend your torso and pick up a barbell.

Muscles exercised with the flexed row:

  • All of your back muscles (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapeze)
  • biceps
  • Forearm muscles (dorsal, ventral)
  • Your grip

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do the curved row::

Note: The above can be tricky with the gyms closed around you. If so, here's how to build a gym at home (using home appliances).

Start Performing Best Compound Exercises (Next Steps)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: make a commitment to try ONE of these compound movements for the next week. Use 20 seconds of courage, recruit a friend who has trained or have trained before and do your best.

We all start somewhere!

Speaking of starting …

Have you NOT done any of these compound exercises yet?

Always start with bodyweight movements and make sure your form is correct!

If it's a barbell move, use a broomstick (or PVC pipe).

When it comes to movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench presses, etc., your form is crucial. Develop good lighter-weight habits and you'll save yourself months of frustration later and protect you from injury.

When dealing with certain elements of a movement, don't get frustrated! Just understand that you have areas in which you can improve.

When I started, I really enjoyed practicing all the movements at home because I could watch a video online while looking at it for myself in the mirror.

Film yourself and compare it to our videos or post it in the form review section of the Nerd Fitness Forum.

Still uncomfortable with the movements after that? Check out some local strength and conditioning training centers and see if you can hire a trainer (how to find a good trainer) for a session or two to discuss the basic movements (or work with an online trainer).

Whichever route you choose, the most important thing you can do: START NOW!

Don't overthink it. Just choose a compound exercise and learn how to do it. We can add more exercises to your routine later.

Do you want a little help getting started? The perfect next step to start your strength training journey!

You have it.

Option 1) If you want a coach in your pocket who can do video form reviews, provide feedback, and tailor your workout as you progress, check out our 1-on-1 online coaching program!

I've had an online coach since 2015 and that changed my life. You can learn more by clicking the box below:

Our coaching program changes your life. Learn how!

Option 2) If asked to do compound exercises at home on a daily basis, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app will help you exercise more, eat healthier, and (literally) improve your life.

Plus you can build a great superhero in the process!

Try your free trial here:

Option 3) join the rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up below and receive our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need To Know. It provides step-by-step instructions for the Best compound exercises covered in today's guide.

Download our comprehensive guide

  • Everything you need to know to get strong.
  • Exercise routines for body weight AND strength training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly all in one.

Okay, enough about me. It's your turn:

Do you agree with my list of the best compound exercises?

Do I miss any?

Any tips or tricks for a newbie who is just starting out?

Let me know in the comments!


PS: Make sure you check out the rest of ours Strength training 101 Series:


GIF Source: Weighted Dips, Biceps Curl, Will Ferrell,

Photo source: lightfieldstudios ©, training, LEGO bench press, Lance Cpl. Tayler P. Schwamb, 101, 102, 103

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