Move It Monday: Upper + Lower Compound Exercises

by tinareale on November 26, 2012

Now that the holiday weekend has officially ended, I thought some of you might like a new workout to try. Well, I actually don’t have a workout for you today. I have a variety of different exercises that you can incorporate into your workouts when short on time. Make the most of your time (and your workout) with the use of compound exercises.

What are compound exercises? They are any exercise that utilizes more than one part of the body during the movement. In fact, many of the major exercises you should incorporate into your training are compound exercises. Things like squats, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups all include movements that target multiple areas of the body. For today’s post, I want to take things a bit further.

Instead of simply doing some lunges and squats and then some shoulder presses and bicep curls, let’s combine them for some extra oomph to the workout. While I do train shoulders, biceps, and triceps with exercises specific to those body parts, I also recognize that they typically feature an isolation movement. In other words, they don’t work much else than the single targeted area of the exercise. That has it’s purpose; however, when I only have thirty minutes for a workout, I don’t want to spend that time on solely my arms and shoulders. Enter compound exercises for the upper and lower body together.

Below, find a list of exercises featuring compound movements coupling a lower body exercise with an exercise for the shoulders, biceps, or triceps. Pick a few to add to a workout with other traditional compound exercises or pick 2-3 from each section to group together for a workout in itself. Mix it up by choosing new exercises your next workout to keep your workouts fun and challenging to your body.

compound exercises

Lower Body + Shoulders

Lower Body + Biceps

Lower Body + Triceps

  • Forward Lunge into Triceps Extension
  • Glute Bridge with Triceps Extension
  • Deep Lunge with Kickback – Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Step the right leg back into a lunge. Hold your lunge as deep as possible with good form. Bend slightly forward at the hips. Place the left hand on your left thigh for stability. Perform  a triceps kickback with your right hand for desired reps. Repeat on the left side for one full set.
  • Burpees into Triceps Push-Up – Keep a narrow grip with hands directly below shoulders during a burpee and complete a triceps push-up at the bottom of the burpee movement.

A few things to consider: These exercises work well for basic conditioning and/or muscular endurance but will not be the most effective when trying to make strength gains.I recommend these moves as a complement to a training plan. You will need to pick a weight based on what your upper body can handle for your desired reps, which will likely end up a lighter weight than you can typically handle for leg exercises.

*I am a certified personal trainer, but each individual has different needs and physical requirements. Please use the information provided here with caution and adapt to YOUR body and fitness level. Always consult a physician before beginning any new fitness or exercise program.

Your Turn: Do you have a favorite move that works both the upper and lower body that you don’t see mentioned here? Or are one of these moves a favorite? See something new to try?


1 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey November 26, 2012 at 6:59 am

I love compound exercises! I always feel like I’ve gotten in more of a workout when I do them!

2 Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean November 26, 2012 at 7:04 am

BIG fan of compound exercises!

3 Lauren November 26, 2012 at 7:08 am

Definitely love compound workouts! The best bang for your buck.

4 lindsay November 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

i spy katie’s picmonkey pictorial! hehe. Looks good, as do the workouts!

5 tinareale November 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Yes indeed! I told her I loved her for it!

6 Coco November 26, 2012 at 7:23 am

I love compound moves, but they challenge my coordination and concentration — which may be an added benefit! I do lunges and bicep curls or lunges and lateral raises, or squats into overhead press. I will try some of these.

7 Linz @ Itz Linz November 26, 2012 at 7:42 am

oooh i’m just getting back into lifting weights.. i’m book marking this one… looks like a good one!

8 Haley @ The Saucy Apple November 26, 2012 at 8:13 am

I love compound exercises, but I have to remember to do them slowly and deliberately. Otherwise, I end up doing them wrong because I’m so uncoordinated. :p

9 tinareale November 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Slow and deliberate is a GREAT thing with strength training. :)

10 Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table November 26, 2012 at 8:32 am

I love doing these – especially the fact that they require a little more coordination and force you to really engage your core.

11 tinareale November 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Definitely a great added bonus!

12 Kierston November 26, 2012 at 9:04 am

Great workout!

13 Victoria (District Chocoholic) November 26, 2012 at 9:16 am

Squat with overhead medicine ball lift is the best – it works your core, too!

14 Alex @ therunwithin November 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

I love the way you broke this down, thank you!

15 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries November 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

Love compound exercises! They are more efficient AND burn more calories – it’s a win=win for sure! A couple of my favorites are squat to shoulder press and forward lunge with bicep curls.

16 Stefanie @ Thin Vegetarian November 26, 2012 at 11:27 am

I like to use the Clean and Press for as a compound move, and it sure raises my heart rate also!

17 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats November 26, 2012 at 11:39 am

I really need to work on using more compound exercises when I’m putting together my own workouts, they keep my heart rate up so much more!

18 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers November 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for sharing! I love throwing these into circuits to get an extra cardio bonus. They’re usually better at achieving, or at least maintaining, a higher HR.

19 fittingbackin November 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Great workout ideas – love your circuits! Can’t wait to get back to it and hope to have ‘body after baby’ results like yours!

20 tinareale November 27, 2012 at 3:08 pm

You certainly will! I was so excited when I heard that you’re pregnant. :)

21 Rachel B - Busy Mama November 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm

LOVE THIS!!! I’m a huge fan of comp0und exercises but tend to run out of ideas of combo’s. This is awesome!

22 Heather (Where's the Beach) November 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I always forget about compound exercises. I get into such a rut sometimes. That pulse lunge with curl looks awesome.

23 Keri November 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Just had a quick question about your shoes! What made you decide on the Brooks PureFlow? I’ve worn Brooks Adrenalines for a long time. I’ve been wearing a Merrell minimalist shoe for the past few months. I really want to try the Pure line, but I can’t decide between the Pure Flow and the Pure Cadence.

24 tinareale November 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I wanted something with the lower heel toe drop but not completely minimal. I also chose that option of the Brooks pure line because it has more cusion and a wider toe box (which I really need).

25 Christine @ Love, Life, Surf November 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I love compound exercises and are definitely a great way to be efficient at the gym. I love doing squats and shoulder presses. But Tina, burpees + tricep push-ups?? That’s just mean.

26 tinareale November 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Or just fun. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Mwahaha! ;)

27 Heather @ Better With Veggies November 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Love these compound exercises – it’s like a shortcut for workouts, even though you’re still doing the work!!

28 Chelsea November 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Added some of these moves to my full body workout on Monday! I often forget about compound exercises, and I am so thankful for your reminder :) I had an awesome strength workout!

29 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

That is so awesome to hear! Glad you liked them and had a good workout.

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