The Seven Best Compound Lifts for Maximum Size

Compound lifts engage multiple joints and work multiple muscles; these strength-building exercises are ideal for gaining maximum mass. Another benefit of compound lifts is that they reduce the need for isolation exercises. When it comes to the amount of weight and number of reps, it’s better to perform fewer reps at a heavier weight than vice versa — try starting with four sets of five reps and work up from there.

Try these seven effective compound lifts during your next sweat session:

Bench Press

Bench Press

The bench press is a tried-and-true compound lift that works not only the chest muscles but also the shoulders, triceps, and back.

To perform this lift, start face-up on a flat bench. Your back should be gently arched and feet should be flat on the floor. Using an overhand grip, hold the barbell and lower it to chest level; hands should be placed shoulder-width apart. To complete the exercise, raise the barbell back up to the starting position.



Deadlifts work the back, abs and legs; muscles engaged include but aren’t limited to the lats, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

To do a deadlift, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and bend the knees until you reach the barbell. Grasp the bar with one overhand and one underhand grip; inhale and lift the bar until knees are straight. Contract the back while lifting; exhale, then lower the bar gently to the ground.

Full Squat

Full Leg Squats

Full squats work multiple muscles including the quads, glutes, adductors, and hamstrings. The posterior and abdominals are also engaged during this exercise.

Start by sliding under the barbell; it should be positioned right above the shoulders. With the back gently arched, grasp the bar and remove it from the weight stand. While bending forward from the hips, perform the squatting motion – bending the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. To complete the exercise, straighten your legs and return to the starting position.

Clean and Press

Clean and Press

The clean and press works a number of muscles from the triceps and biceps to the glutes and calves.

For this exercise, the barbell should be on the floor. To perform this lift, squat and grab the barbell with a pronated grip. You’ll be lifting the bar to the upper thighs, right under the chin, then overhead. The movement is done with energy; once the bar is over your head, lower it slowly back down to the tops of the thighs then squat, lowering the bar to the floor.

Bent Over Row

Bent Over Row

The bent over row works multiple muscles which include but aren’t limited to the lats, posterior deltoid, erector spinae, and rectus abdominis.

This lift begins with the barbell on the floor. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, with hands shoulder-width apart. Slightly arch the back, bending about 45 degrees. Upon inhaling, lift the bar to the upper abs; to complete this lift, gently lower the bar back down to the floor.

Military Press

Military Press

The military press is excellent for the muscle groups of the arms and shoulders; muscles worked include the delts, pecs, and triceps.

This lift is performed from a seated position. Hold the bar at chest level using an overhand grip, then extend the bar over your head. To complete the exercise, lower the bar to the starting position.


Pull Ups

The humble — yet highly effective — pull-up is a classic exercise that doesn’t require any barbells because it utilizes your body weight. This exercise builds the muscles of the arms and shoulders, including the lats, rhomboid major and minor, and biceps, to name just three.

You can use an overhand or underhand grip when doing a pull-up. Position hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart on the pull-up bar, then pull your body up until your chest is at bar level. Complete the exercise by lowering yourself to the starting position.


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