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Best Compound Exercise to Gain Muscle Mass

By The "Muscle Nerd" Jeff Anderson

Not all exercises are created equal...sure, you knew that!

But in your quest to build some serious muscle, you'll need to fire up as many muscle fibers as possible to stimulate the kind of deep growth you're looking for. And for this mission, you have a strong ally in compound exercises.

Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises

First some quick clarification...compound exercises move the body through more than one joint movement, while isolation exercises only move the body through a single-joint movement.

Probably the best exercise to demonstrate the difference is the barbell squat. This "king" of all compound exercises moves your body using a majority of your muscle groups and bends you at your ankles, knees, waist, hips, and to some degree, even your shoulders.

Compare this to an isolation exercise such as leg extensions, which only moves your body by bending one joint...the knee.

So which is better?

To provide complete muscle fiber stimulation, you should take advantage of the benefits of both types of exercises. However, if you're main goal is to build muscle, you should use compound exercises as the main focal point of your weight training program and bring in complimentary isolation exercises to supplement the "big movers".

Compound exercises allow you to lift heavier weights and work more muscle groups at the same time than isolation exercises. This saves you precious time in the gym while stimulating the maximum amount of muscle fibers.

In addition, compound exercises, due to the increased amount of muscle used for the movements, are better at sending your endocrine system a "distress call" to pump out more anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone.

Best Compound Exercises to Build Muscle Mass

Here's a list of the most powerful mass-building compound exercises to build into the core of your bodybuilding program:

Muscle Group: Shoulders
Targeted Compound Exercises: Military Press, Hang Clean and Press, Arnold Press, Dumbbell Military Press

Muscle Group: Arms
Targeted Compound Exercises: Close-Grip Chin Up (palms facing your face), Dips, Close-Grip Pushup

Muscle Group: Legs
Targeted Compound Exercises: Barbell Squat, Deadlift, Lunges

Muscle Group: Back
Targeted Compound Exercises: Chin-Up (palms facing away from face), Cable Pull-Down, Deadlift, Cable Row or T-Bar Row

Muscle Group: Chest
Targeted Compound Exercises: Pushup, Dips, Bench Press, Incline Bench Press

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