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Should You Perform Compound Exercises As A Beginner?

Do you want to get the fastest results while trying to build muscle? And are compound exercises the best for a beginner? Or should you focus more on isolation exercises?

Some people say that you should only perform compound exercises as a beginner because they give the most bang for the buck when it comes to training your muscles.

And some others will tell you that you only need isolation exercises to target the right muscles and make them grow.

I used to be really confused with what exercises I should perform as a beginner and would end up trying a lot of them. I must admit I used to do a lot more isolation exercises because honestly, I found compound exercises a bit taxing. And it was completely my own fault because my workouts were planned incorrectly.

So let us look at compound and isolation exercises and what can be beneficial to you as a beginner trying to build some muscle.

What are compound exercises?

Compound exercises are those that make use of multiple joints and multiple muscle groups.

So, an exercise like squat can be considered a compound exercise because it involves multiple joints such as the knees, ankles, and hip joint. It also impacts the major muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

On the other hand, an exercise like the bicep curl is not a compound exercise because it involves just the elbow joint and impacts the bicep muscle.

What are some of the best compound exercises you can use?

There are some compound exercises that form the staple of several of the good beginner workout programs and some of the basic ones are shown below.


The squat is considered the king of exercises. It is a full-body compound exercise that works out the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

It also works out the lower back and core as you will work to stabilize the weight on your back.

Here is a video that shows how to perform the basic squat correctly.

Bench press

The bench press is another good compound exercise that targets the upper body.

It works out the chest, triceps, and shoulders. It also works a bit of the core and biceps.

Here is a video that shows how to perform the bench press with proper form.


The deadlift is the queen of exercises. It works out your posterior chain of muscles.

This means it works out your quads, hamstrings, calves, and adductors.

This is an exercise that works out a lot of muscles in your body and you will make the most gains in size and strength with it.

You need to be careful to perform the deadlift with proper form so that you do not injure your back.

Here is a video that shows how to perform the deadlift correctly.

Overhead press

The overhead press is a full-body workout that works out the chest, shoulder, traps, and triceps.

It also works out your core, legs, and back as you try to stabilize the weight over your head.

Here is a video on how to perform the overhead press correctly.

Barbell row

The barbell row is a full-body exercise that will work out your upper back, lats, traps, and biceps.

It will also work out your lower back, core, and legs as you will need them to hold the weight in place.

Check out the video on how to perform the barbell row correctly.

Pull ups

Pull ups are a compound exercise that targets your back muscles such as the upper back and lats.

Here is a video on how you can start performing pull ups as a beginner.

Pull downs

If you find that pull ups are a bit challenging and you are unable to lift yourself easily, you can start out will pull downs.

They also target your back muscles such as the upper back and lats.

Check this video on how you can perform pull down with proper form.

Leg press

The leg press is a good compound exercise that will target your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Check out this video on how to perform the leg press.


Lunges are a great leg exercise that is underrated. They are a good compound exercise for targeting a lot of your leg muscles.

What are the advantages of compound exercises?

As a beginner, we need to focus on using a lot more compound exercises than isolation exercises and the reasons are as below.

Compound exercises are more time efficient

Compound exercises target several muscles at the same time. This helps to save the time you need with your workouts at the gym.

Compound exercises will give you the fastest muscle growth

Compound exercises help you target several muscles and joints as well as give you a greater range of motion.

This means that you can move larger amounts of weight and you will progress quickly when it comes to building strength and muscle.

Compound exercises will help your body produce more testosterone

Compound exercises are shown to help the body increase the level of testosterone and growth hormone that it produces. This can help increase the growth of muscle.

What are isolation exercises?

Isolation exercises are those that make use of a single joint and focus on a single muscle.

As we have seen, the bicep curl is an example of an isolation exercise because it just makes use of the elbow joint and targets the bicep muscles only.

What are some of the best isolation exercises you can use?

Here are some of the isolation exercises that you will find useful as a beginner. Some of these will be a part of the good beginner workout programs that we have seen.

Barbell curl

Barbell curls are an isolation exercise that targets your biceps.

Here is a video that shows how to perform barbell curls.

Cable pushdown

This is a great isolation exercise that targets your triceps.

Face pull

The face pull is a good upper back exercise that focuses on your lats, upper back, traps, shoulders.

Side raises

This exercise is an isolation exercise that works out the middle part of the shoulder.

Chest flys

Chest flys are an isolation exercise for the chest that really focuses on squeezing the pectoral muscles. If you want to really hit your chest with an isolation movement then try some chest flys.

Hammer curls

Hammer curls are another isolation exercise for the biceps but they hit them from another angle so they target the brachioradialis.

Barbell shrugs

Barbell shrugs are an isolation exercise that targets the traps.

What are the advantages of isolation exercises?

Isolation exercises can help you target your weak points

When you perform compound exercises for a long period of time, you will gain a lot of strength and muscle. That is when you will start noticing lagging body parts.

This means that certain body parts will not grow as expected because of genetics or just because they don’t get sufficient stimulus with the compound movements.

For example, you may have poor shoulder growth due to poor genetics. In this case, you can use isolation exercises to target specific muscles of the shoulders and improve your shoulder development.

So as you can see, isolation exercises can be used when you want to bring up your weak points.

Isolation exercises can help you add more volume to your workouts

There is only so much volume that you can add when you just make use of heavy, compound exercises.

As you keep on getting stronger and build muscle and are out of the beginner phase, you will need to add volume so that your muscles can continue to grow.

This is where isolation exercises can help to target specific muscles and add more volume to the workouts that you perform thereby increasing your potential for muscle growth.


So as a beginner you should definitely make use of a good beginner workout program that focuses about 80% on heavy, compound exercises and the remaining 20% on isolation exercises.

This is because compound exercises hit several muscles at the same time thereby giving you as a beginner the maximum potential to grow muscle in the most efficient manner.

If you have any questions about compound exercises or isolation exercises, please let me know in the comments below.

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