Exercises for Multiple Muscle Groups

Exercises for Multiple Muscle Groups

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Deadlifts work multiple muscles from head to toe.

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Exercises for multiple muscle groups, also known as multi-joint exercises or compound exercises, are a vital component to any successful strength-training program. As the name implies, these types of exercises work several muscle groups at once whether it's multiple muscles in a specific body part or muscles throughout your entire body. Add exercises for multiple muscle groups into your workout routine to save time and see results.

Difficulty Level

Exercises for multiple muscle groups are generally more difficult to learn and perform than exercises that target just one muscle group. The fact that they target several muscles at once means that they require the use of several joints at once. This requires significant neural coordination, which can take some time to develop. Begin these types of exercises with lighter weights until you have perfected the technique. Strength improvements that occur within the first few weeks of training are primarily due to your nervous system becoming more efficient with the movements.

When To Perform

Multi-muscle exercises should be performed first in your workout while your muscles are strong and fresh. Exercises that work several muscles at once require coordination, balance and strength. If you perform single-joint exercises first, then the necessary muscle strength for a multi-joint exercise may be lacking. For example, if your perform multiple sets and reps of a leg extension exercise and then move on to squats, you will find that your quadriceps are too fatigued to perform with adequate resistance to efficiently work the rest of the target muscles.


If you're like most people, you're not just working out for the fun of it, you're working out for results. While you can get results with single-joint exercises, you can get the job done a lot more effectively with exercises that work multiple muscle groups. The National Strength and Conditioning Association notes that these types of exercises paired with heavy resistance and short rest intervals can help elicit optimal hormonal responses for muscle growth.

Efficiency and Functionality

Exercises for multiple muscle groups are time efficient, which means you can get a full-body workout in with less time spent in the gym. This makes them very convenient to add into your already-packed schedule. Compound exercises also rate high on the functionality scale, making them appropriate for everyday life as well as athletic pursuits. It is very rare that you'll come across an activity that requires the use of only one joint or muscle group. Instead, most sports and everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, depend on structural multi-joint movements.

To Name a Few

There are exercises for multiple muscle groups that work your upper body, lower body or target your entire body as a whole. Upper body compound exercises include the shoulder press, chest press and rows. Squats, lunges and step-ups target the several muscle groups in your lower body. Exercises such as deadlifts, cleans, thrusters and snatches engage multiple muscle groups throughout your entire body.