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5 Best Compound Exercises for Beginners

Embarking on a fitness journey can be both exciting and daunting, especially for beginners. Among numerous options, compound exercises stand out as essential building blocks for anyone looking to kickstart their strength training regimen. 

Compound exercises offer a holistic approach to fitness by targeting multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them incredibly efficient and effective for beginners. In this article, explore the best compound exercises for beginners, discussing their benefits, proper execution, and how to incorporate them into your workout routine for optimal results.

Should I Do Compound Exercises as a Beginner?

When you’re starting your fitness journey, it’s natural to wonder which exercises will give you the most bang for your buck. Compound exercises are a fantastic choice for beginners, as they engage multiple muscle groups at once, leading to efficient workouts and faster progress. 

Unlike isolation exercises, which target a single muscle group, compound movements mimic real-life activities and promote functional strength. Incorporating compound movements into your routine not only helps you build muscle mass but also improves coordination, stability, and overall athleticism.

What Are the 5 Big Compound Exercises?

If you’re new to the world of fitness, you might be curious about which compound exercise movements you should focus on. The “big five” compound exercises are renowned for their effectiveness in building strength and muscle mass.

They’re also described as the best compound exercises for beginners as they help build the foundation for one’s fitness journey and are easily incorporated into any workout routine. These exercises include:


Squats are the cornerstone of any strength training program. They primarily target the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Performing squats with proper form not only strengthens the lower body but also improves core stability and balance.

When performing squats, make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and your knees track over your toes. Once you’ve mastered the squat, you can switch to performing a back squat which is the most common variation of a loaded squat.

When doing back squats, pinch your shoulder blades to make the chest tall and to support the load on your upper back. Set your hands on the bar just outside shoulder-width distance, and apply more tension through your upper body.


Deadlifts are a compound exercise that works several muscle groups simultaneously, including the hamstrings, glutes, lower back muscles, and forearms. The conventional deadlift is incredibly effective for building overall strength and power, making it a staple in any beginner’s workout routine.

When you perform deadlifts, ensure that you keep your back in a straight line and hips hinged. You should also lift with your legs and not your back.

Bench Press

The bench press is a compound movement that primarily targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s an excellent exercise for developing upper body strength and muscle mass. Variations such as the incline and decline bench press can be incorporated to target different areas of the chest.

When doing bench presses, keep your shoulder blades pinned on the bench and ensure that there’s a definite space between your back and the bench. 


Pull-ups are great for targeting the back, biceps, and shoulders. They also keep the core engaged for stability. For beginners, it’s recommended to do assisted pull-ups before transitioning to traditional pull-ups. To do assisted pull-ups, use resistance bands or a pull-up machine.

Overhead Press

The overhead press, also known as the shoulder press, is a compound movement that primarily targets the deltoids, triceps, and upper chest. It’s a great exercise for developing shoulder strength and stability. Variations such as the dumbbell overhead press can be used to add variety to your workouts.

When doing overhead presses, hold the bar with a firm grip with your hand just outside a shoulder-width distance while you position your feet hip-width apart. Keep your core muscles engaged as well. 

Which Compound Exercise to Do First?

If you’re unsure about where to start with compound exercises, it’s essential to prioritize based on your fitness goals and level of experience. For beginners, mastering the squat should be a top priority. Bodyweight squats engage the largest muscle groups in the body and have a significant impact on overall strength and athleticism when performed correctly.

Once you’ve established a solid foundation with squats, you can gradually incorporate the other compound exercises into your routine.

When performing compound exercises, focus on maintaining proper form and technique to maximize effectiveness and minimize the risk of injury. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the resistance as you become more comfortable with the movements.

Can I Do the 5 Compound Movements Every Day?

While compound exercise movements offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to allow your muscles adequate time to recover between workouts. Training the same muscles every day can lead to overtraining and potential injury. Instead, aim to incorporate compound exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week, allowing at least 48 hours of rest between sessions.

In addition to compound workouts, it’s crucial to include rest days, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility training in your workout regimen for a well-rounded fitness program. Listen to your body and adjust your training frequency and intensity accordingly.

Final Note

Mastering the best compound exercise movements lays a strong foundation for beginners embarking on their fitness journey. These multi-joint movements help build overall strength and mass, as well as improve coordination, balance, and functional fitness.

However, it’s crucial for beginners to prioritize proper form and technique, gradually increasing intensity and resistance over time to prevent injury and optimize results. 

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.