By incorporating more than one body part in a team effort with compound exercises, you can push more weight than when you isolate a single muscle. Generally, the more complex a body part, the easier it is to work with compound lifts. On the other hand, simpler body parts, like calves and biceps, are stressed best with isolation exercises. Here, we offer you a guide to making every body-part routine a team effort.


  • A compound exercise engages more than one body part. For example, an overhead press works the deltoids and triceps.
  • A primary body part is engaged. Secondary body parts assist and are worked less, sometimes only during part of the movement.
  • Compound exercises allow you to utilize the heaviest weights, better overloading the targeted muscles. But they also make it more difficult to hit those targets. 


  • More complex body parts, such as the back, can be easily trained with only compound exercises.
  • Single-joint body parts, like biceps, are difficult to work with compound exercises.
  • Cheating can turn some isolation lifts into compounds. For example, adding leg and back motion to barbell curls distributes much of the work to secondary muscles. Usually not recommended, this can be effective if done sparingly.


  • Machine Dip | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12
  • Close-Grip Bench Press | SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Bench Dip | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-12
  • Chinup | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-12
  • Cheat Barbell Curl | SETS: 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Underhand Pulldown | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-12