The Big Three Compound Exercises

A Note on Warming Up: Before you start any exercise you should make sure you’ve thoroughly warmed up your muscles and ligaments. This way you will be limber and less likely to pull or strain a muscle. At the same time this will help you to increase the range of movement you’re training at as well as encouraging blood flow to the area increasing energy, strength and growth in that area.

The ‘big three’ exercises in the bodybuilding world are the ‘compound’ movements that work most of the major muscle groups between them with no need for anything else. These are also the exercises that are best for triggering the production of growth hormone and for growing larger muscles. They are also the three exercises used in power lifting competitions. These three then need to be the staples of your free weights programme – though they require good technique and a slow learning curve to perfect without injury. They are as follows.

Bench Press

The bench press is possibly the most well known exercise of them all and also the one that is considered the main benchmark of strength (pun intended then regretted). To perform a bench press you simply lie back flat on a weights bench and then press a barbell directly upwards over your chest using your pecs, deltoids, triceps and to an extent your abs and traps. Technique is fairly simple here, where you place your legs and whether or not you arch your back are optional.


The squat is one of the most punishing moves in the gym. Here you take a loaded barbell off of a rack and place it across your shoulders and the back of your neck (you should find there’s a groove here that seems almost designed specifically for that purpose). From here you then bend your legs to drop your buttocks so that they are close to the ground. At all times you should be holding onto the bar and keeping your back entirely straight (as in it can be diagonal to keep the weight over your centre of gravity, but mustn’t be arched or concave). From here you then push directly upwards again being careful to ensure it’s entirely your legs doing the work. This will work almost every muscle in your legs and is a great way to trigger more growth hormone production in your body. Some bodybuilders claim it’s not possible to get bigger without squatting. Don’t be one of the thousands of bodybuilders who think they can completely neglect their legs.


The deadlift is a full body exercise that utilises both the upper and lower body. Here you squat down to a stationary bar on the ground, grasp it and then stand directly upwards with it pulling it with you as you do. This requires a certain amount of technique to avoid hitting your knees and taxes the shoulders and lats as much as it does the legs and core.

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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