Is your goal to build muscle at a faster and more effective rate? It can be hard to hit the gym more than five times a week when you have work or school to schedule around. If you find yourself short on time and you’d like to hit multiple muscle groups at once in order to get into an effective full-body workout, you should try compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once! This way, you can hit the gym just two or three times a week but still get in a quality workout.

In order to save you some time, we created a list of the 10 most effective compound exercises to incorporate into your workouts. Each exercise targets unique muscle groups so you can mix and match the workouts depending on what general area you are trying to target for the day.

1. Push-Ups

Man doing a push up
Source: ThinkStock Photos

A classic. Push-ups are a speedy and efficient way to build muscle and strength. They engage your triceps, shoulders, back and chest. They can also strengthen the abdominal muscles by engaging the core. What’s great about this workout is that you can do them anytime, anywhere. There are also an endless number of push-up variations you can try to keep challenging yourself.

2. Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups

Man doing compound exercise - pull up.
Source: Jose Mandoja

Pull-ups and chin-ups are another compound exercise that hits multiple muscle groups. They primarily target the back, chest, shoulder and biceps. Pull-ups, chin-ups and push-ups are great bodyweight workouts you can practice at home to gain strength for other workouts that include weights.

3. Bench Press

Man teaching woman how to do bench press
Source: Stride Strong

Bench presses are ideal for building your chest, shoulder and triceps. These three muscle groups are crucial to strengthening your upper body and will overall help you build muscle and look bigger.

4. Dips

Woman doing dips on a gym bench
Source: iStock Photos

Dips are the perfect exercise for your shoulders, chest and triceps. It is an exercise that targets every part of the tricep, including the later head, long head and medial head, which in turn will overall help you strengthen the upper portion of your arms.

5. Overhead Press


Man doing compound exercise overhead press.
Source: Barbell Front Raise

The way dips are a great compound exercise to isolate the triceps, overhead presses are ideal to isolate the shoulders. The exercise targets the anterior, lateral as well and deltoid muscles. It also impacts the chest, triceps, traps and abs making it a well-rounded upper-body workout.

6. Bent-Over Rows

Woman doing compound exercise bent over rows
Source: Pexels/Anastasia Shuraeva

Bent-over rows are a compound exercise that hits most of the different muscle groups in your back, primarily the lats and traps. It also indirectly affects the biceps, core, hamstrings and rear deltoids. Who doesn’t love an exercise that works out more muscle groups than intended?

7. Seated Cable Rows

Man doing cable rows
Source: HK Connect

Seated cable rows are excellent for the back and arms. It targets the lats, traps and biceps. This is a great workout not only because it will strengthen your upper body, but also because it will also help improve your posture! Having good posture is key to building a solid physique.

8. Deadlifts

Woman doing compound exercise, dead lifts.
Source: Healthline

As for the lower portion of your body, deadlifts are the perfect compound exercise for strengthening your hamstrings, glutes, hips and core. Deadlifts also benefit the trapezius muscle, making it an overall versatile exercise that should definitely be included in your workout plan.

9. Squats

Woman doing squats.
Source: Shutterstock

Another amazing lower-body compound exercise is squats. Squats target your quads, hamstrings, calves, abs and glutes. They are the perfect workout to build strength in your legs. People often neglect their legs but if you’re planning on gaining muscle in your upper body, you must balance that out with your lower body in order to grow proportionately.

10. Lunges

Man and woman doing compound exercise, lunges.
Source: Studio Firma/Stocksy

Another great compound exercise for your legs is the notorious lunges. Similar to squats, lunges target your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. It is also an effective workout to improve stability, coordination and balance.

Incorporating compound exercises into your workout routine can be a game-changer if you’re striving for more efficient muscle building. These multi-muscle group workouts allow you to maximize your gains even when time is scarce. From push-ups to squats, each exercise targets a range of muscle groups, offering you a comprehensive full-body workout.

Whether you’re looking to strengthen your upper body with classics like push-ups and pull-ups or aiming to build a robust lower body with squats and lunges, these compound exercises have got you covered. But remember, building muscle isn’t just about exercise; it also involves a well-balanced diet. So, while you embrace these compound exercises, ensure you’re complementing your efforts with a suitable diet to fuel your muscle growth journey. With dedication, smart training, and a balanced diet, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your fitness goals.