Not all exercises are created equal. Hopefully you've heard that compound exercises are what you need to focus on first and foremost. This is true.
Compound movements involve multiple joints and muscles while performing them. This is what makes compound lifts superior to isolation exercises, which focus on only one muscle group.
Because compound exercises use many different muscle groups at the same time, these exercises burn the most calories. They also spike beneficial anabolic and fat-burning hormones. These lifts also result in more energy and longevity effects than their inferior counterparts.
Still, not all all compound exercises are created equal either. Whether you workout at a commercial gym or at home, here are the top 3 exercises that you NEED in your routine.
1. The Deadlift
The deadlift is the king of compound exercises.
It burns THE MOST CALORIES, is THE MOST ANABOLIC, and burns THE MOST FAT out of any possible exercise.
Because it's such a tough lift, your body responds by release testosterone, human growth hormone, and catecholamines. Testosterone and human growth hormone are extremely anabolic hormones while catecholamines increase lipolysis, or fat burning.
Deadlifts rev up your metabolism like crazy, even hours after you've done them!
It's such an intense exercise that it even serves as a cardio workout!
2. The Squat
Next to the deadlift, the squat is the next best lift you can perform. I mean, what sounds tougher than squatting upward with 200+ pounds on your back?
In order to reap the most benefits from squatting, you'll need to actually go heavy with some added weight on your back. Just be sure to have a spotter if possible. If not, go a bit lighter so you don't crush yourself.
These weighted squats, like the deadlift, will burn tons of calories and release a surge of similar hormones. However, unlike deadlifts, which pretty much hit every muscle in your body, squats directly hit your legs, abs, and lower back (like crazy, might I add).
But what's awesome is that squats actually promote symmetry in your body, indirectly growing your upper body muscles as well.
Not only do your chest and arm muscles have to stabilize the bar and weight on your back, but the testosterone and human growth hormone released promotes muscle growth from your other workouts as well!
3. The Bench Press
The bench press is the king exercise for targeting your upper body. And yes females, you should still bench and workout your upper body.
Lifting heavy does not mean you get bulky or gain muscle - it helps you burn fat. It means you burn calories. It means you produce catecholamines and other fat-burning hormones. It means your mitochondria become more efficient at utilizing energy aka burning fat.
In order to bulk up or gain serious muscle, you need to eat like a bodybuilder, taking in a surplus of calories. Check out 5 other reasons why lifting will not make you bulky.
Anyway, at the very least bench is another exercise to add to your regime that burns tons of calories, releases those awesome hormones, and (believe it or not) works your abs like crazy.
This one exercise hits your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and even a bit of your lats - talk about hitting 5 birds with one stone.
Some Other Great Compound Exercises
Although these are the top 3 compound exercises you need to be doing, there certainly are more that you should also do.
- Bent-over rows
- Military/shoulder press
- Bench dips
By all means, add these movements to your workouts! Just remember: the deadlift, squat, and bench press are the top 3 because they burn the most calories and are the most anabolic.
Deadlifts hit pretty much everything squats hit your lower body and back, and bench hits your upper body. Be sure to prioritize these in your weekly routine while adding other compound movements if possible.
For more information on these compound movements, you can check out my article about the top 5 exercises for any routine.
If you're working out at home, this is why we recommend a power rack and an olympic bar + weights as essentials for your home gym. With just a bar and weights, you can perform the deadlift (remember, the #1 exercise!). With a power rack as well, you can perform both the squat and the bench press.
With just these pieces of equipment, you can already perform the top 3 exercises and more!
Curious to know what steps are needed to creating your home gym? Download our Home Gym Handbook (it's much shorter than it sounds), absolutely free!