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How Compound Exercises Help Burn More Calories

We’re all interested in making the most of our diet and training program. But, one of the major hurdles for many individuals is lack of time.


Many individuals are under the misconception that in order to get the kind of results they want during their transformation challenge, they will have to spend too many hours and hours in the gym.


But, that’s simply not the case...if you know how to organize your training smartly.


So, if you’re looking to maximize your results while minimizing how much time you spend in the gym each week, read on to see how compound exercises help you burn more calories.


First, let’s discuss what compound exercises are.


What Are Compound Exercises?


A compound exercise is any movement that places force across two (or more) joints and involves multiple muscle groups.


Prime examples of compound exercises are squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses, push ups, pull ups, dips, and rows.


Lunges, for instance, involve the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Your core, abs, calves, and lower back are also involved to a certain extent, too!


While compound exercises stress multiple muscle groups, isolation exercises involve a single joint and stimulate one muscle group. Quintessential isolation exercises are curls, kickbacks, lateral raises, leg extensions, and flyes.


Isolation exercises can be a great way to add volume if you’re trying to bring up a “stubborn” muscle group. They can also help you learn to better recruit a muscle and establish a stronger mind-muscle connection as you only have to focus on using a single muscle to move the weight.


Which is Better Compound or Isolation Exercises?


This is a common question for many individuals beginning their fitness journey. And, truth be told, it’s not a binary equation.


Both compound and isolation exercises have a place in any well-designed training program.

Compound exercises allow you to lift the most amount of weight, place significant demands on the muscles, and have the greatest range for overload. However, compound exercises are also the most stressful to the nervous system and take a bigger toll on the body’s recovery abilities.


Isolation exercises bring about less systemic fatigue yet allow you to really focus on a muscle and burn it out after the heavy lifting is done.


So, using a combination of the two allows you to get the best of both worlds. Hit your heavy compounds when you’re fresh mentally and physically, then as you get deeper into your workout and fatigue begins to set in, knock out some isolation exercises to finish off the muscles, burn some extra calories, and get a great pump!


But, what if you’re pressed for time and looking to maximize your results?


Then, you would want to prioritize your compound exercises as they provide the greatest “bang” for your exercise “buck.”


Benefits of Compound Exercises


More Efficient


The biggest benefit of compound exercises, especially for those with minimal time to train, is that compound exercises help maximize your training time. The reason for this is that compound movements work multiple muscle groups compared to isolation exercises which only work a single muscle group at a time.


For instance, the bench press works the chest, shoulders, and triceps, while the cable flye or pec dec only really hits the chest.


By focusing on compound movements, you’re able to work more muscle groups in less time, helping you get in and out of the gym quickly, without sacrificing your results.


Greater Strength


Compound exercises have a greater capacity for overload compared to isolation exercises. The reason for this is that more muscle groups are involved in compound exercises.


For example consider the bent over row vs the bicep curl. Both involve the biceps. However, over the course of your training career you might only be able to add 20-30 pounds to your bicep curl, whereas you could progress from rowing just the bar (45 lbs) up to several hundred pounds!


The more strength you gain, the more lean muscle you will build, which brings us to the next benefit of compound exercises…


Burns More Calories


Compound exercises burn more calories per rep than isolation exercises. The reason for this is three-fold:


First, more muscle groups are involved in compound exercises than isolation exercises. The more muscles that are worked, the more calories you burn.


Second, compound exercises put your muscles through a greater range of motion than isolation lifts typically do (think overhead press vs lateral raise). The greater distance over which your muscles have to move a weight, the more work they have to do, which results in greater calorie burning.


Third, compound exercises place greater overall tension on the body, and in order to recover from the stress of training, the body has to expend more resources (i.e. calories) to repair the damage and build new muscle tissue.


Greater Athleticism


If you’re a competitive or recreational athlete, one of the best ways to improve overall athleticism as well as your performance on the field or court is to get stronger on the compound exercises.


These have tremendous carryover to sports as they build strength, stability, balance, and coordination -- all traits essential to success as an athlete.


Carryover to Everyday Life


Compound movements -- push ups, presses, rows, deadlifts, squats, etc. -- mimic movements you do in everyday life. Gaining proficiency and strength in compound exercises will help you to navigate the challenges of daily life with greater ease and less risk of injury from simple things, such as bending down to pick up a heavy box or moving groceries from the car to the kitchen.




There is often a debate as to which is “better” -- compound exercises or isolation exercises. The truth is that they both have a place in a well-designed training program.


However, for those that are pressed for time and looking to maximize their results, compound exercises should be prioritized. This is due to the fact that compound exercises stimulate a lot of muscle tissue, help burn more calories, and maximize training efficiency.


They also have greater carryover to athletics as well as everyday life.


Some of our favorite compound exercises (as well as the ones we include in our customized training programs available for FREE in the 1UP Fitness app!) are:

  • Push ups
  • Chin ups / pull ups
  • Dips
  • Bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Rows
  • Lunges


These movements should form the foundation of your training, and as you gain strength in these movements, you’ll also notice improvements in your body composition.


Now, if you’re someone who’s used to doing predominantly machine and/or isolation-focused training, you’ll find that compound exercises are considerably more fatiguing, both mentally and physically.


To help you get energized for your training sessions as well as help keep you focused and performing at a high level during your workout, we’ve created a trifecta of premium pre workout supplements in 1UP Pre Men and 1UP Pre Women as well as our brand-new non-stimulant pump pre workout 1UP Stim-Free Pre.


Take one serving before your training session and witness our a real pre workout supplement can help you train harder and maximize your time spent in the gym!


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