Since its birth in the late 1800’s the art of weightlifting has travelled a very strange and interesting course.

It began as a simple test of the capabilities of the human body.

Crowds and crowds of people would travel far and wide to see Strongmen and other strength based circus acts perform seemingly superhuman feats of strength by lifting unthinkable amounts of weight.


These men demonstrated how one can use their entire body as a unit to create a compound exercise. Flash forward to today and its fairly common to see people training just one muscle group at a time on a machine or other isolating tool.

Although isolation work can have its place to some degree, it is absolutely true that strength and muscular development is greatly dependent on the ability to perform compound exercises with proper technique and load.

Without a foundation to build upon isolation work can be an absolute waste of time. Think of your body like a house. It doesn’t matter how detailed and extravagant you make the designs on the walls if the walls will never stand due to a weak foundation.

Compound exercises are your foundation. Isolation exercises are the designs on the walls. Compound exercise is defined by a movement pattern of the human body that requires movement at more than one joint. (Squats, Deadlifts, Rows, Presses)

Isolation exercise is defined by a movement of the human body that requires movement at just one joint. (Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, Crunches)

For example, during the Squat you will have multiple joint movement at the ankle,knee,hip and even shoulder joints. Whereas if we take a bicep curl you will truly only be flexing at the elbow making the exercise only truly involve 1 joint.

Today, I’m going to give you 4 great compound exercises in gym that will target your entire body that will bring a strong foundation for performing all other movements.


Squats are debatably the king of all other exercise. You can perform these with a barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell or even body weight. The movement pattern integration is truly something remarkable and if you perform a squat correctly your entire body will truly be at work.

The gist of these is simple. You sit down, and then stand back up. Sounds easy right? Actually if you think about it most human beings hardly complete this movement with full range of motion at all.

You squat half way down to get into bed, to get in the car, and to sit in the office chair at work. You could literally go months or even years without ever completing a squat with full range of motion. So let’s change that shall we?

Barbell Squat

This exercise is best performed inside a squat rack for safety purposes. To begin, first set the bar on a rack to just below shoulder level. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck) across it.

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Hold on to the bar using both arms at each side and squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift it off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.

Step away from the rack and position your legs using a shoulder width or wider stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times and also maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position.

Begin to slowly lower the bar by bending the knees and hips as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until the angle between the upper leg and the calves becomes slightly less than 90-degrees. Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement.

Begin to raise the bar as you exhale by pushing the floor with your  full foot as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Always be sure when squatting that the first part of the movement is your hips going back to begin the descent. Do not let the knees shoot forward as this will be dangerous and could potentially lead to injury.

Please join me for Part 2 tomorrow when I will be concluding by looking at Deadlifts, the Bench Press and Barbell Rows.

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


Chriz Zaremba Fitness Consultant
Lost 45 Kg in Total
Chris, 50y Location: London, United Kingdom Lost 45kg after the age of 50 and now competes and wins physique competitions and runs marathons Check our weight loss plans