We all have our reasons for working out. Your goals may range from health motivated to just having a beach-ready body for summer. However, what remains true for everyone is that, at times, working out can be very frustrating– especially when you hit that plateau phase. In this article, we tell you why you need a compound workout routine and how best to safely pull it off.
What Are Compound Exercises?
In fact, some studies indicate that compound exercises are the fastest avenues of building muscle mass and gaining muscle strength (2). Isolation exercises usually involve the activation of only one joint at a time.
Now compound exercises, on the other hand, utilize several joints in addition to major muscle groups with free weights. The effect? They end up recruiting more muscles which translates into more activation of the nervous system while providing a higher stimulus for growth.
The benefits of compound exercises, however, don’t stop at just increasing muscle mass and muscle strength. There are five other reasons why you should add compound exercises to your workout routine.
Benefits Of Compound Exercises
Starting a compound workout routine can be good for your health in more ways than you think.
Improving Intermuscular Coordination
Intermuscular coordination is the function and timing of several muscles around your joint or joints. For instance, your gluteal complex (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus), is responsible for controlling your hip’s motion.
Compound exercises like lunges, squats, or steps that move your hips in all three planes can significantly improve how your muscles work together. This in turn leads to the production of better controlling force (1).
This is probably one of the biggest benefits yet of compound exercises. It’s simple really, adding compound exercises to your workout routine means you get more done in less time.
So yes, if you have a packed schedule, this may just be what you need to achieve your fitness goals.
Provide Cardiovascular Training Benefits
Cardiovascular exercises are meant to increase the efficiency of your heart functioning as a pump. Now, activities like cycling and running alongside others that engage significant muscle tissues are the “traditional” way of achieving this.
However, sitting in a leg-extension machine while doing knee extensions or bicep curls only engage a few muscle tissues. As a result, these exercises are more suitable for focusing on isolated strength (1).
On the other hand, moves like medicine ball chops, burpees, and squats to shoulder presses are compound exercises that involve large amounts of muscle tissue. This, in turn, exerts some extra challenge on your heart to pump the blood for fueling and activating your muscles (1).
Provides Dynamic Flexibility
Whenever flexibility is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is static stretching.
Indeed, holding muscles in a lengthened position is usually effective in reducing muscle tension (think of yoga poses). The downside, however, is that your neurological activity will also be reduced, which is not recommended before dynamic activities (1).
Workouts that involve an active range of motion are considered to be a form of dynamic stretching. This means that they move your muscles through a certain range, thus lengthening the surrounding tissue.
When muscles on one side of your joint contract, the ones on the opposite side lengthen to facilitate this contraction. As you progress through more reps, the contractions and muscular activity elevate temperatures while inhibiting activity. This reduces tension and improves length (1).
Improves Movement Efficiency
Have you ever noticed that you seemingly have robotic motion bodybuilders? This is because when you train only one muscle group at a time, multiple muscle groups aren’t taught how to coordinate their contractions and firing rates.
Compound exercises involving large muscle groups train your muscles how to coordinate the firing of their motor units. As a result, the timing of muscle contractions becomes more efficient (1).
Adding compound exercises to your workout routine can go a long way in improving your movement skills and dynamic balance. This will then lead to an increase in your overall quality of life.
Burns More Calories
Your body will use up about five calories of energy when consuming a liter of oxygen. This means that exercises that engage more muscle tissues will need more oxygen, ultimately increasing your net energy expenditure (1).
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What Is The Best Compound Workout Routine?
The answer to this question really depends on several factors. For instance, what is your fitness level? Are you planning or working out at home or in the gym? In this section, we look at various 3-day compound workout routines to help you pick what best works for you.
Before getting to the good stuff, there are some important safety precautions you should take to avoid unnecessary injuries, such as:
Mastering The Right Technique
Always keep in mind that you’re engaging multiple muscles simultaneously. It is, therefore, crucial that you master the right form and technique to avoid straining any of the muscles being worked on.
Starting Slow And Listening To Your Body
Rushing through the whole process can prove to be both inefficient and counterproductive. You may also end up overtraining without making much progress while increasing your risk of injury.
Finally, always pay attention to your body. If you feel fatigued or increasingly becoming uncomfortable, stop and take a break.
Remembering To Warm Up And Cool Down
Take about 5 to 10 minutes before and after every workout session to warm up and cool down. Light cardio activities, like walking, get your muscles ready and even reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
Best 3-Day Compound Workout Routine
If your goal is to build your muscle strength and mass, then you’re in the right place. This 3-day compound has been crafted to work on both your upper and lower body each time you work out.
Here’s what your week will look like when following a 3-day compound workout routine for mass and strength gains:
- Monday: Chest, triceps, and back
- Tuesday: Rest and recovery or light cardio
- Wednesday: Chest, back, and biceps
- Thursday: Rest and recovery or light cardio
- Friday: Legs and shoulders
- Saturday: Rest and recovery or light cardio
- Sunday: Rest
It’s important to note that you should only engage in light 30 to 40 minutes cardio depending on your recovery ability. Also, allow yourself to recover for about 1 to 3 minutes between each set.
Day 1: Chest, Triceps, And Back Muscles
- Pull-ups: 4 sets of 5, 7, 9, and 5 reps
- Barbell bench press: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
- Standing barbell overhead press: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
- Face pulls: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
- Triceps dips: 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps each
Day 2: Chest, Back, And Biceps
- Deadlifts: 4 sets of 5 reps
- Parallel dips: 5 sets of 11, 9, 7, and 5 reps
- Incline DB bench press: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
- Dumbbell row: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
- Plank: Hold the plank position for about 60 seconds
- Barbell Deadlift: 4 sets of 4, 6, 4, and 2 reps
Day 3: Legs And Shoulders
- Standing barbell curl: 3 sets of 8 reps each
- Lunges: 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each
- Squats: 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps each
- Seated lateral raises: 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each
- Barbell drag curl: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
- Decline bench press: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
Read More: Moringa Weight Loss: Does It Work?
Foods To Eat During A 3-Day Compound Workout Routine
In order to get the best results out of this workout routine, you need to be just as careful about what you eat. This is especially because the food you eat can either hinder or supplement your fitness goals.
For starters, always ensure that your meal contains enough proteins. Proteins help in tissue repair after strenuous workout sessions and also contain amino acids necessary for muscle growth (4).
Next on the list is carbs. They are the body’s primary source of fuel for workouts and muscle building. They also provide essential micronutrients like zinc, iron, and magnesium that assist in cell growth and development (7).
Fiber is also just as important in the grand scheme of things. It is satiating and takes longer to digest meaning it will make you stay full for longer periods. This then means you’re unlikely to snack on junk food that can end up undoing every gain you’ve made (3).
Finally, veggies and fruits are just as important. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like potassium and magnesium that help regulate contractions during heavy lifting (5).
Here is a 7-day meal plan you could try out:
- Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs, 3 rashers of grilled lean smoked bacon, 1 slice of lightly buttered wholemeal toast, and a large handful of spinach
- Snack: 1 small banana and a protein shake with 30 g whey protein powder
- Lunch: 3 salt and vinegar rice cakes, tuna mayonnaise sandwich, and an orange
- Snack: 25 g brazil nuts
- Dinner: Grilled paprika chicken and vegetables alongside 200 g lightly buttered new potatoes.
- Snack: 30 g of whey protein powder mixed with 100 g low-fat Greek yogurt alongside a small sliced frozen banana
Calories: 2510 Protein: 242 g Carbs: 197 g Fat: 86 g
- Breakfast: Cheese, mushroom, and onion omelet alongside a slice of lightly buttered wholemeal toast
- Snack: 30 g peanut butter and an apple
- Lunch: BLT sandwich made with 3 rashers of lean smoked bacon, placed between 2 slices of wholemeal bread with sliced tomatoes alongside an orange
- Snack: 50 g beef jerky
- Dinner: Grilled salmon and vegetables
- Snack: 30 g of whey protein powder mixed with 150 g of low-fat Greek yogurt with 100 g of frozen berries
Calories: 2345 Protein: 167 g Carbs: 187 g Fat: 103 g
- Breakfast: Cheese and ham omelet served with a large handful of spinach, tomatoes, and a slice of lightly buttered toast
- Snack: Protein shake containing 30 g whey powder and 200 ml skimmed milk, served with a small banana
- Lunch: Salmon and avocado salad
- Snack: 25 g almonds
- Dinner: A serving of honey and mustard chicken
- Snack: 30 g of whey protein powder combined with 150 g of low-fat Greek yogurt and a handful of frozen grapes
Calories: 2515 Protein: 223 g Carbs: 194 g Fat: 92 g
- Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs served with 70 g smoked salmon and a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced red pepper, a large handful of spinach, and 25 g brazil nuts
- Snack: Protein shake with 30 g whey protein powder and 200 ml semi-skimmed milk served with 1 small banana
- Lunch: 200 g chicken, tomato, and avocado sandwich on wholemeal bread served with 3 salt and vinegar rice cakes
- Snack: 50 g beef jerky
- Dinner: Large turkey burgers
- Snack: 30 g whey protein powder combined with 100 g low-fat Greek yogurt served with 1 small sliced frozen banana
Calories: 2482 Protein: 238 g Carbs: 142 g Fat: 109 g
- Breakfast: 3 soft-boiled eggs served with lightly buttered wholemeal toast and a small handful of nuts
- Snack: 30 g peanut butter alongside 1 apple
- Lunch: Tuna Nicoise salad
- Snack: 25 g cashew nuts
- Dinner: Power prawn curry
- Snack: 50 g dark chocolate
Calories: 2364 Protein: 181 g Carbs: 203 g Fat: 92 g
- Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs served with ½ an avocado mashed and spread over wholemeal toast alongside a handful of cherry tomatoes
- Snack: Smoothie made up of 1 blended apple, 1 large handful of spinach, 100 g frozen berries, 10 g clear honey, 1 carrot, ½ teaspoon ginger, and 100 ml water
- Lunch: Tuna melt on 2 slices of wholemeal bread
- Snack: 30 g whey protein powder combined with 150 g low-fat Greek yogurt served with 1 handful of frozen grapes
- Dinner: A pot of pork stew served with 100 g of potatoes and broccoli
- Snack: 1 small bag of salted popcorn
Calories: 2454 Protein: 230 g Carbs: 161 g Fat: 99 g
- Breakfast: Chia seed power pot served with 25 g brazil nuts
- Snack: 30 g peanut butter and 1 apple
- Lunch: 250 g roasted beef, carrots, green beans, 200 g roast potatoes, broccoli served with some gravy
- Snack: 20 g cheddar cheese served with a handful of grapes
- Dinner: Roast beef sandwich
- Snack: 30 g of whey protein powder combined with 150 g low-fat Greek yogurt and 10 g frozen berries
Calories: 2394 Protein: 197 g Carbs: 172 g Fat: 103 g
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3-Day Compound Workout Routine Beginners Tips
Maybe this is your first time trying out this type of workout program and you’re probably wondering how you’ll pull it through. Well, worry not! Below are four essential tips that will make your journey easier.
Pick The Right Amount Of Weight
For you to make any progress, you need to pick weights that will challenge your muscles.
However, avoid going for either too heavy or too light. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you can power through all the sets with the right form and some gas left, then it’s probably the right weight.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is particularly important when it comes to working out and gaining muscle.
Ensure that you get about 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep time to help your body maximize protein synthesis that will help in muscle growth (6).
If you’re struggling to get quality sleep time, you can try:
- Incorporating relaxation exercises like yoga into your routine;
- Changing your sleep environment. You can try a cooler, warmer, or darker setting based on your preference;
- Avoiding training close to bedtime;
- Limiting your screen time in the evening;
- Avoiding eating before bedtime.
Do Not Overtrain
Training too much can be counterproductive and can end up undoing all the progress you’ve made. Additionally, you’ll also be increasing your risk of injury since you’ll be fatigued and won’t be able to focus on the right form.
That being said, ensure you prioritize the most important exercise in your workout to get the most out of the program.
Choose The Right Exercises
Choosing the right exercises is just as important as picking the right weights.
While our 3-day split compound workout routine has been carefully crafted, at the end of the day, you need to go for what best works for you.
You see, compound exercises that incorporate the use of weights are good for you. However, that doesn’t mean that isolation exercises are not good or are inefficient. In fact, they are the best if you’re feeling less energetic and just want to focus on one muscle group.
So, do you need both compound and isolation workout 3-day routines? Well, that ultimately depends on your goals and fitness levels.
The Bottom Line
Compound exercises are probably one of the most efficient workouts out there when it comes to gaining muscle mass and strength. So a 3-day structured compound workout routine is likely to result in a balanced physique and increased strength and muscle mass for most people.
However, if that doesn’t work for you, try including a variety of compound exercises until you find what you’re most comfortable with. Finally, remember the basics: lift progressively, eat plenty of healthy food, and get enough sleep.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Benefits of Compound Exercises (2016, acefitness.org)
- A Study of Effect of the Compound Physical Activity Therapy on Muscular Strength in Obese Women (2013, nih.gov)
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit (2019, nih.gov)
- Effect of increased fruit and vegetable consumption on physical function and muscle strength in older adults (2013, nih.gov)
- How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? (2021, sleepfoundation.org)
- Whole Grains (n.d., harvard.edu)