To a newcomer to weightlifting, Compound lifts are perhaps the most intimidating of all the exercises you can perform at the gym. Generally consisting of a barbell loaded with heavy weight and involving lots of effort, compounds scare some people off before they ever try them.
Which is a shame, because they’re also the best lifts for boosting your testosterone, burning calories and most importantly of all, building strength and power. A ‘compound’ is any lift that incorporates multiple muscle groups in one movement. Here’s our run-down of the most important lifts that you should have in every routine.
The deadlift is the king of all exercises. It’s also the most simple as a concept. You put the weight at your feet, pick it up and then put it down. However, deadlifts require good form and commitment otherwise you injure yourself. Ensure your feet are positioned shoulder width apart and that you keep your back straight as you lift. It’s worth asking someone to watch your form. Start off light and work up.
Once you get the hang of them, deadlifts are fantastic muscle-builders that train your entire posterior chain and your grip. Perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps for optimum power gains.
The squat is another key movement that focuses on the lower body but also trains your back and core as you have to control a loaded weight when squatting down. The movement builds your quadriceps, hamstrings, calfs, glutes and even your abs. You can switch to front squats to build variety in to a squatting regime but you can’t afford to leave them out. Some famous strength buildings routines, like Stronglifts 5 x 5 – recommend squatting every workout. Opt for a similar rep and set range as deadlifts. 3 x 6 at around 80% of your max will build raw strength.
The bench press is arguably the lift most non-gym goers are familiar with. It’s instantly recognisable and a good wake-up call to test your strength when you’re first in the gym. The popularity is justified, as flat barbell benching is one of the best strength building exercises in the world. Stick to 3 x 6 or a low number and focus on keeping your chest tight, feet to the floor and controlling the arch in your back. If you’re going heavy, make sure you’ve got a spotter or safety bars.
Clean and Press
The clean and press is the most complicated lift on the list but also one of the best in terms of muscle-recruitment. It builds your strength and speed and also a huge variety of muscles. As you bend down and rip the bar like a deadlift, you’re engaging the muscles in your leg and lower back. Once you clear the bar and press it overhead in the ‘press’ stage, you’re building your shoulders and back. Ensure that you don’t round your back when performing these. Unlike the other lifts, C&P demands strict form over more weight. 3 x 6 of 60% of your max.
These lifts will stand you in good stead to build a great base of strength and also to pack mass on to your body. The ‘big four’ promote the endocrine system to produce hormones which are beneficial to mass and strength. However, you will also need to supplement your diet to help your muscles repair.