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Looking for the secret sauce that will make your workouts shorter and more effective? Search no further than compound exercises. Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that target multiple muscle groups at once. While biceps curls only involve your elbow joint and challenge your biceps, a squat, for example, relies on both your hips and knees and recruits all of the big muscles in your lower-body while activating your core, too.
By getting more of your body working, compound movements give you more bang for your workout buck than isolation moves. Working multiple muscles allows you to accomplish a lot more in a lot less time, so you can reap full-body benefits with every rep instead of relying on a whole slew of different moves to get your entire body in on the action. Compound exercises also burn more calories than single-muscle moves – yet another reason to love 'em if you're all about efficiency.
Want to slice your workout time in half? Build your sweat around combo moves.
Time: 20 minutes
Equipment: dumbbells and/or medicine ball
Good for: total body
Instructions: Select one low-impact bodyweight, two strength, two cardio, and one core exercise from the lists below. Perform each exercise for the indicated amount of time, then continue onto the next as quickly as possible. After you've completed all six moves, rest for 20 seconds, then repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.
Low-impact bodyweight compound exercises
Start in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists. Keep core tight, bend elbows, and lower body all the way down on to the floor. (Elbows should point 45 degrees away from sides.) At the bottom, lift hands a few inches into the air. Replace hands, then press back up to start. That's one rep. Repeat for one minute.
Squat with reach
Start standing with heels wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Bend knees, reach hips back, and lower down into a squat, dropping arms down in between legs. Then, drive into heels to stand up, lift arms straight up overhead. That's one rep. Repeat for one minute.
Strength-building compound exercises
Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a pair of dumbbells. Position weights in front of thighs with palms facing body. Keeping knees slightly bent, press hips back, hinge at the waist, and lower the dumbbells towards floor. Squeeze glutes to return to standing. That's one rep. Repeat for one minute.
Lunge with twist
Start standing, holding a medicine ball or dumbbell at chest. Take a big step forward with left foot and lower into a lunge until both legs are bent to 90 degrees while extending arms straight out at shoulder height. From here, twist arms and torso over left leg, return to center, then step back to start. Repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep. Repeat for one minute.
Core-focused compound exercises
Start lying on back with legs extended and arms by sides, both on mat. In one movement, lift upper body, arms, and legs, coming to balance on tailbone, forming a "V" shape with body. Lower body back down. That's one rep. Repeat for one minute.
Lateral bear walk
Start in bear plank, with shoulders over wrists and knees under hips, hovering a few inches off mat. Move hands and feet left for three steps, keeping hips stable, head in line with tailbone, and knees lifted off of the floor. Don’t let feet or hands cross. Pause, then reverse and move hands and feet right for three steps. That's one rep. Repeat for one minute.
Cardio compound exercises
Start standing with feet together and arms at sides. Bend knees to crouch down, bringing fingers to hover above toes. Then jump up into air bringing legs straight and wide outside of shoulders and arms out overhead, forming "X" with body. Softly land back into a crouch. That's one rep. Repeat for 20 seconds if you're a beginner, 30 if you're intermediate, and 45 if you really want to sweat.
Start in a low lunge position with right foot forward and left back, both bent at 90 degrees, torso parallel to floor, right hand on right thigh, and left arm extended, fingertips on mat. Push through right leg to take small jump up into air, lifting left knee off the floor and driving it toward chest, while swinging bent right arm forward until elbow is in line with shoulder. Reverse the movement to return to start. That's one rep. Repeat for 20 seconds if you're a beginner, 30 if you're intermediate, and 45 if you really want to sweat.
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