Your 10-Minute Compound Exercise Routine

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 5 minutes

You’re a master multi-tasker. You can brush your teeth and pack lunch at the same time – no problem. But when it comes to strength training, you tend to focus on one, maybe two muscles at a time. Though super-setting a biceps curl with a seated row is effective at building muscle, your body could be getting a lot more from all that heavy lifting. In fact, the best workouts incorporate compound exercises – movements that call on multiple muscles and joints at one time. If you’re multitasking at work and at home to be more efficient, why wouldn’t you do the same in the gym?

Athletic woman in brightly lit room doing a lunge with dumbbells #compoundexercise |

A recent study published in the April 2016 Strength & Conditioning Journal set out to realize the importance of a functional movement screening (FMS) in female athletes. Though the actual method of testing for proper joint and muscular functioning was in question, the study emphasizes that, “The ability to perform multijoint and multiplanar movements efficiently and explosively, without compensation, is requisite for success in sport.” The authors suggest that this is why athletes and coaches are moving away from “sagittal plane, muscle-based training of old, toward an integrated, multidimensional movement-based approach that optimizes form and function.”

The reason these types of exercises are a “requisite for sport” is because there are many benefits to regularly performing them.

The benefits of compound exercises:

  • Save time, because you’re able to train more than one muscle group at once (this one’s for you, multi-taskers!)
  • Help prevent injury by working out muscular imbalances throughout the body
  • Improve muscle efficiency and coordination, because you’re asking multiple muscles and joints to work together (they have to contract and fire motor signals at the same time)
  • Burn extra calories by requiring more oxygen and asking the heart to pump blood faster in order to fuel several muscles simultaneously

Regardless of your fitness level, a compound exercise routine can help you perform day-to-day activities more easily and efficiently. That includes everything from tying your shoes to physically picking up your 4-year-old or even changing a flat tire on your car. Athlete or not, keeping your body functional should always be top priority. Luckily, this 10-minute routine is one almost anyone can handle—or modify to make more challenging. The most important part is it engages your body from top to bottom!

Your full-body, compound workout:

All of these compound exercises will utilize your core to stabilize and move you through the various planes (sagittal = left & right, transverse = top & bottom, frontal = back & front) for optimal functioning. Complete the number of repetitions as indicated for each exercise before moving onto the next. It takes about 10 minutes to finish all 8 exercises in a row. You can stop here…OR…take a short break (about 60 seconds), and then start again from the first exercise. Keep repeating as time permits.

  1. Squat to overhead press x 15 reps (quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs, triceps & shoulders)

Hold a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand, at shoulder height. Standing hip-width, bend knees and squat down as if you’re sitting in a chair behind you. Keep your hips back and weight in the heels of your feet. Don’t let your knees go past your toes. Squat so your knees form a 90-degree angle, or go lower for a deeper burn. As you stand back up, push through heels and simultaneously raise dumbbells overhead to straighten arms. Lower arms to shoulder height and repeat for 15 repetitions.

  1. Fire hydrant to bird dog x 15 per side (abs, abductors, glutes, triceps & shoulders)

On your clean yoga mat, get in table-top position with hands and knees on the floor. Keeping knee bent, raise right leg out to the side as you open up your hips. Bring knee back to the floor. Immediately lift left arm straight out in front of you as simultaneously lift right leg back behind you. Keep your leg straight, so you feel the squeeze in your glutes when you kick back. Bring everything back to all fours and repeat. After 15 reps on the right side, switch and complete 15 reps on the left. Trainer tip: make it slightly harder by raising left arm when you raise your right knee out to the side.

  1. Mountain climbers/Running man x 20 per leg/ 40 total (abs, quads, hamstrings, triceps & shoulders)

Get in standard plank position (arms extended straight out instead of resting on forearms). Stagger feet, so left leg is bent and left foot is up by your stomach/chest. Quickly hop left leg back, as you bring the right foot up and toward your chest. Keep “running” until each leg has switched positions 20 times, or 40 total steps. Try to keep your hips down and abs engaged, as if you’re holding a plank the entire time.

  1. Backward lunge with biceps curl x 30 total (quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs & biceps)

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Step right leg back and bend both knees into a static lunge position. While in the lunge, curl weights. Stand back up and step back with left leg. Curl again. Repeat for 15 lunge/curls on each leg, or 30 total.

  1. Alternating sit-up on ball x 30 total (abs, lower back, quads & glutes)

Position your mid-to-lower back on a stability ball and place hands behind head. Sit up and reach right elbow to left knee, rotating torso as you sit up. Lower and repeat on left side, reaching left elbow to right knee. Repeat for 15 reps on each side, or 30 total.

  1. Push-up to roll-in (optional: pike up) x 15 (chest, abs, shoulders, triceps & quads)

Place hands on floor and tops of feet on stability ball, so you form a plank position. From there, lower your chest to the floor to perform a push-up. Immediately, bring your knees to your chest, rolling the ball in. Push ball back out to plank position and repeat for 15 reps. Bump it: Make it more challenging by adding a pike-up. After rolling the ball in toward your chest, lift hips and straighten arms to form a V (like downward dog). Lower back down and return to plank.

  1. Deadlift to upright row x 20 total (hamstrings, glutes, back & biceps)

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, arms in front of thighs. Keep legs straight (but don’t lock knees!) and push hips back, as you lower dumbbells toward the ground. Keep arms straight and close to your body. Try to reach your shins, while keeping your back flat, core engaged and legs straight. Slowly return to standing. Keeping hands in front of you, bend elbows and bring dumbbells to chest height. Elbows should be bent and raised high. Squeeze your back at the top. Lower arms and go right into a deadlift again. Repeat for 20 total reps.

  1. Plank jacks x 30 total (abs, abductors, triceps & shoulders)

Get in plank position with arms extended and legs straight behind you. Jump legs out to the side, like a jumping jack. Keep abs tight and make sure hips don’t raise up high – you want to be in plank position the whole time. Jump feet back together and repeat for 30 total reps.