The best compound movements for mass – Why are they essential?

A compound lift is a lift that puts two or more muscle groups under stress at the same time. The main three and most important three compound lifts are the squat, the deadlift and the bench press. These lifts should be a cornerstone to your weightlifting program. This is because they allow you to lift heavier/ more challenging weights to overload the muscles. This in turn improves coordination and stimulates muscle growth. Importantly for most busy people compound lifts generally burn more calories and help you get a full body workout in less time.

Before planning my workouts, I’d start simply with the area I needed to target the most, and use the best compound exercise for that muscle. I had a weak back, so I decided to very gradually add weight to my squats and deadlifts before focusing too much on isolation exercises. This helped me to use my muscles together better for running etc.

Don’t get me wrong, using lighter weights during isolation exercises will build muscle effectively too. However, from my experience being a slim guy, progressive overload using compound movements has been more effective for me in gaining size and the right shape at that size.

Here’s the best compound movements for mass.

The squat

You might not want to hear it but the squat must be the backbone of your leg training. The squat strengthens the hips, thighs and buttocks. It hits the quadriceps and hamstrings well which in turn helps leg movement. By this I mean that strong glutes and hamstrings will help runners transfer more power for example. It is the best overall exercise to add mass to your legs fast. However, Its important to start at a lightweight and not get carried away. This reduces your risk of back injury and will help you to perfect form and build muscle mass safely and properly.

If you want muscle mass as opposed to strength, your rep ranges are important. You need to do more than 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Your form at this rep range will be better whilst putting your muscles under a full range of motion and tension. Furthermore, your muscles time under tension will be longer because you’re doing more reps. This training method has been scientifically proven to boost the testosterone hormone which assists muscle growth.

The deadlift

Similarly to the squat, the deadlift requires correct form to prevent a back injury, to do this, when performing the deadlift do not arch your back, if you are, then try a lighter weight and get used to that first. The deadlift uses the finger flexors and lower back to keep the bar in hand and the stop the back from arching. Furthermore, the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings extend the hip joint and the quadriceps extend the knee joint. Therefore, this exercises puts a significant part of the body under tension.

The deadlift is on the list because when done at high rep and set ranges like I mentioned with the squat, it can build a lot of size in the back, and help give you that muscular physique you’re looking for. You also look pretty badass doing it!

The bench press

Want a big chest like that guy in the gym? Start bench pressing! The foundation of any chest workout should be the bench press. A bench press packs mass and strength on the chest the fastest and also strengthens the front deltoids and triceps, whilst using the lats as stabilizers. As a skinny guy doing bench press I basically revolutionized my chest, and this is because I could load up the bar and lift a lot more than I could with dumbbells for example, so it helped me gain size quicker. Like the other exercises, the bench press stresses the muscles, leading to progressive overload.

Push press

This exercise is on the list because it will allow you to lift a significantly heavier weight than a strict shoulder press. Therefore, you can overload your leg muscles and upper body which leads to more muscle mass. The muscles worked are the shoulders, triceps, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings as well as the abdominals and back for stabilization. This is arguably the best exercise for shoulders on the list, so try to incorporate it into your routine.

Pull ups

Now I know that bar may be intimidating, but don’t avoid it. Pull ups are central to most effective training programs.

Lifting your whole body weight during a pull up uses the lats, the shoulders and pretty much all the muscles in the upper body when done correctly. Pull ups are a great way to increase your upper body strength and mass quickly because they engage so many muscle groups. They also require the least equipment so you should easily to be able to incorporate these into your training program.

To start with you may not be able to do an unassisted pull up, but that’s fine! You may have an assisted pull up machine at your gym. If that isn’t an option either, still, don’t panic! You can find pull up bars and pull up programs across the internet to help you improve your pull ups at home or in the gym, wherever you choose.

No pain no gain

Most people worry about the weight they lift with these exercises which makes these exercises seem like the toughest both physically and mentally. However, after this read you shouldn’t be so worried because it can actually be more effective for muscle mass if you lift a lighter weight for more reps. So pick up the bar and start lifting.

If you’re a skinny guy and you’re looking to put on lean muscle mass then ensure you base your training around most of these lifts and more. You can do all the bicep curls you want but you’re going to gain far more mass everywhere if you do these exercises at some point.

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