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Wouldn’t it be fab if there were a strengthening total body workout so simple you could memorize it in five minutes?
Let me introduce you to compound movements! Compound movements are exercises that utilize two or more joints and work more than one muscle group. If you work out regularly, I bet you’ve done tons of compound movements and didn’t even know. Squats are compound movements because you’re moving your ankle, knee, and hip joints. Lunges are compound movements for the same reason. Burpees are definitely compound movements and include the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints!
Today, I’ll show you 3 simple compound movement exercises that will hit every major muscle group in your whole body. From beginner to expert, this workout is perfect for any time you’re out of ideas or just want to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. Give this routine a shot and I promise you’ll be feeling it the next day.
Please read over the instructions and then watch the video at the end of the article to get a good idea of the proper form to use with each exercise. Practice the exercises without weights first so you can get comfortable with the movements without any risk of injury. Once you feel like you’re in the groove, try grabbing some light dumbbells and then work your way up to a more challenging weight.
If you ever feel any pain or unintentional discomfort during these or any exercise, please stop immediately and have a fitness professional look over your form. Safety first!
Exercise 1: Squarms
Squat, Biceps curl, Shoulder Press, Triceps Overhead Extension
- Major Muscle Groups Worked: Core, quads, glutes, hamstrings, biceps, anterior and lateral delts (front and side of shoulders), and triceps.
Grab two dumbbells that are safe for you to use when you perform a triceps overhead extension. Once you’re ready to challenge yourself, you’ll want to go as heavy as you can here without sacrificing safety because our biceps and shoulders are typically stronger than our triceps and can handle more weight.
Start this compound movement by standing with your feet hip width apart and holding the dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Engage your core and bend your knees to lower your body into a full squat. Squat as low as you can without your heels leaving the floor or your knees moving out past your toes. At the bottom of the squat press through your heels and squeeze your glutes to come back to a standing position.
Rotate the dumbells so that your palms are facing out and curl them up towards your shoulders, squeezing through your biceps to perform the biceps curl. Then press the dumbbells straight up, completely straightening your arms until the dumbells are directly overhead. Rotate the dumbbells while performing the shoulder press so that your palms are facing each other. Once overhead, press the dumbbells together and bend your elbows to lower your forearms until you have brought the dumbbells all the way behind your head, performing the first move of the triceps extension.
Continue to squeeze the dumbbells together tightly. Keep your elbows in as close to your ears as possible and try not to move your upper arms or shoulder joints at all-only the forearms move. Once you’ve lowered the dumbbells as far behind your head as you can (you should feel a wonderful stretch in your triceps here), squeeze your triceps and raise the dumbbells back up over your head. Pull the dumbbells apart so they are right over your shoulders again and lower them back down to shoulder height. While lowering them, rotate the dumbbells so that your palms are facing your face. Now lower them towards your hips them by flexing your elbows and squeezing through your biceps. Rotate the dumbbells so that your palms are facing towards the outsides of your thighs. The dumbbells should be hanging at your sides again. That is one rep. Once you are in the starting position, drop back into the squat immediately. Try to make this all one fluid movement.
Exercise 2: Flying Burpees
Burpee, Gecko Push-ups, Rear Delt Fly
- Major Muscle Groups Worked: Core, obliques (sides of belly), quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, biceps, rear delts (back of your shoulders), triceps, and back.
Start in a standing position holding two dumbbells (you’ll want to go somewhat light with this weight, try 2-5 lbs. dumbbells to start with). Begin the burpee by rapidly squatting down and placing both dumbbells on the floor. Bracing your weight on the dumbbell handles, jump both feet back until you’re in a push-up or plank position. Bend your elbows to lower your body into a push-up. At the same time squeeze through your right oblique and bring your right knee up to meet your right elbow for the gecko push-up. Your knee should come out to the side, so you look like a lizard climbing a wall. Straighten your arms and at the same time straighten your right leg and bring your right toes to rest on the floor again. You should be in a plank position again. Lower into a second push up while repeating the lizard movement with your left leg.
MODIFICATION: Gecko push-ups are really challenging. If these are too difficult for you, try doing the push-up first (on your knees or toes) and then pulling your knee in towards your elbow-make it two separate movements.
Once you are in plank position again, jump your feet back up to the dumbbells. Re-engage your core and press through your heels to safely straighten your knees. Do not jerk the weights up while your back is bent or use your back to lift. The momentum to stand should come from your legs and glutes. Keep your body flexed at the hips and straighten your back until it is completely flat. Start the rear felt fly by holding the dumbbells so that they are hanging down from your torso with your palms facing in towards each other. Elbows should be slightly bent like you are hugging a beach ball. Re-engage your core to protect your back and, keeping your back perfectly flat, lift your arms out to the sides, squeezing through your upper back and rear delts. Imagine that you are pinching your shoulder blades together. As you lower them back to starting position, imagine that you are pushing them through quicksand to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible and build strength. That is one rep. Place the dumbbells on the floor again and jump back into the burpee to begin again.
Exercise 3: Polite Fanny-Lifter
Curtsey Lunge, Side Lunge, Lateral Shoulder Raise
- Major Muscle Groups Worked: Core, back, quads, glutes, hamstrings, abductors and adductors (inner and outer thighs), and lateral delts (sides of shoulders).
Start in a standing position with your dumbbells hanging at your sides. You will want a somewhat light weight here, as well. Try 2-5 lbs. dumbbells to start with and work your way up. Start the curtsey line by engaging your core and preparing your right foot to move. Keeping your hip bones pointed straight ahead, move your right foot behind and past your left foot until it is as far behind and to the left of your body as it can go without pulling your hips out of line. Resting your bodyweight on the ball of your right foot, bend your knees to lower your body into a lunge with your legs in the curtsey position. Then move your right leg back to starting position as you lift yourself out of the lunge and without resting your right foot on the floor, move it away from your body laterally to the right side. When your right foot hits the floor, bend your right knee to come down into a deep right side lunge.
The dumbbells will hang in front of your body. Your left leg will be completely straight and extended. Keep your core engaged to protect your back. Pushing through your right heel and squeezing your right glute, straighten your right knee, bring your right foot in, and bring your body back to standing position with both feet flat on the floor. Start the lateral shoulder rise by re-engaging your core and lifting both arms directly out at the sides with only a micro-bend in the elbows. Only raise your arms to shoulder height and lower the weights slowly, imagining you are pushing the dumbbells through quicksand. Prepare the left foot to move and repeat the sequence on the left side. That is one rep.
For a total body workout, try doing 20 reps of each exercise with little to no rest in between. Then take a one minute break and towel off and grab some water. Try completing two more rounds of 20 reps of each exercise, resting one minute, or until you feel you’ve adequately recovered, in between every round.
Remember to always train smart! Warm up before exercising and always cool down and stretch after. As I said above, when you’re working with weights, exercise caution by using light dumbbells to begin with and concentrating on proper form. Stay hydrated and use a mirror to check your form.
Did you like this total body workout? Do you have a favorite compound movement? Let us know! We’d love to hear what you think.
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