We’ve all seen those guys in the gym who hunch over an EZ bar and curl their biceps to destruction before studiously analysing themselves in the mirror.
And, while it can be tempting to isolate the muscle groups you’re most self-conscious about, it’s by working as many muscles at once that will see you make significant results quickly, YouTube fitness stars The Lean Machines say.
The Lean Machines, made up of Leon Bustin and John Chapman, have over 16 years of experience in personal training and have grown their fitness-focused YouTube channel to over 400,000 subscribers at the time of writing.
They say that one of the biggest mistakes people make in the gym is ignoring compound lifts, otherwise known as multi-joint exercises.
In a joint message to Business Insider, Bustin and Chapman extolled the virtues of compound lifts:
“In our very busy world nowadays people are looking for a short effective way to workout, burn calories, and feel the most benefits from their program as possible,” the duo said.
“Compound lifts are fantastic for many reasons, one of the most obvious is their bang for the buck compared to isolation exercises.
“If you look just at muscle activation, for example, the difference between leg extension and a squat — there’d be no comparison because your squat’s going to work from your neck down.
“Compound lifts being multi-joint movements will recruit more muscle groups, requiring more energy from the body thus burning more calories without jumping from one machine to the next.”
Basically, compound lifts will work out more of your body in the same amount of time — allowing you to build more muscles at once.
What are compound lifts?
Compound lifts are defined by fitness writer David Robinson as: “Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and, indeed, multiple muscles.”
This includes but is not limited to: squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, and dips.
The Lean Machines define compound lifts as “exercises that strengthen your body in the way it needs to in order to perform better in your day to day life. They simulate daily tasks such as sitting, standing, and picking up your children.
“Compound lifts also signal the production of testosterone and growth hormone: two very important tools for growth and repair.”
They say it’s the primal fear of dropping the weights that pushes you that little bit further than if you were working out on a machine where there was less risk involved.
It’s that added fear, though, that makes the moves so hard — the fitness duo advises doing compound lifts at the start of your session, “because they take a lot out of your central nervous system.”