The 6 BEST Compound Exercises For Mass In 2018

A lot of you may have a hectic life but realizes that you have to work out to stay healthy and fit. To exercise effectively is to know which compound exercises are going to bring you the best results with the least effort. The results may be muscle, strength or condition.

That’s why I’m writing this article.

In this article, you’ll find the only compound exercises you need to build a fantastic physique most effectively.

P.S. There’s also a BONUS at the end!

Exercise #1: The Deadlift

The deadlift includes the most muscles of all the listed compound exercises. This makes the exercise very useful (and hard).

If you’ve never done this exercise, I recommend you watch the video below made by the Buff Dudes before you perform the exercise.

Start with no weight and increase the weight as you feel more confident.

It’s crucial that your form is correct with this exercise because if it’s not, you’ll injure yourself. This also applies to every other exercise from this list of compound exercises.

The muscles you’re targeting with this exercise are

  • The back muscles
  • Your legs
  • The shoulders
  • Your glutes

There are multiple variations on the deadlift. If you keep your legs straight or wide, you’re targeting the hips and legs more. Here’s one variation on the ‘normal’ deadlift which targets the hamstrings and hips more than the quadriceps.

Tip: Make sure you have a straight back throughout the movement. If you’re not able to, drop the weight. Be very careful with your lower back. You might mess up your lower back discs if you’re not careful enough.

Exercise #2: The Squat

The squat is the best exercise overall and while everyone knows that, they don’t like to do it.

It’s the best exercise for the legs EVER.

Again, if you never performed this exercise, here’s a video.

It’s the same here as with the deadlift. The form is more important than the weight.

The muscles you’re targeting with the squat are

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Hips
  • Abdominals (secondary)
  • Back (secondary)

As with the deadlift, there are also variations on the ‘normal’ back squat which targets the hamstrings and hips more. The front squat focuses more on the quadriceps. Here’s a video on how to do the front squat.

Tip: Ask someone to film or watch you because you never really see how you perform the exercise. If someone checks on you, you’re sure you’re doing the exercise well. This way you’ll prevent injuries from happening.

Exercise #3: The (Incline) Bench Press

The chest exercise all men like to do, the bench press. It’s one of the best chest exercises for overall chest development and one of the best compound exercises (which is why it made it to this list). While this exercise targets the chest, it’s also one of the best tricep exercises.

This exercise targets

  • The pectoral muscles (upper and lower chest)
  • Front shoulders (secondary)
  • Triceps (secondary)

As with all compound exercises I recommend you start with only the bar if you’ve never performed this exercise and watch this video (again, from the Buff Dudes) on how to bench press.

With the bench press, there are a lot of variations. Incline, flat and decline will target different portions of the chest.

When doing the incline bench press make sure you stay in the 15 – 45-degree angle with the bench. If you feel it too much in your shoulder, lower the bench. Find your sweet spot. For decline bench presses, -15 degree is more than enough, I don’t recommend you go below that.

If you feel like one side of your chest is bigger than the other (more than is normal), you should switch to dumbbells and train with those for a while.

Tip: When you’re doing three sets of bench press, make sure to do at least one sets of face pulls or another rear delt exercise. This will help you keep a healthy posture and prevent front shoulder injuries.

And believe me, you don’t want to screw up your shoulders.

I did, and guess why it happened. My ego got too big. I put on too much weight. I didn’t perform the exercise with proper form. Goodbye shoulders.

Even now I feel them sometimes because they’re still very vulnerable.

Just making sure you don’t mess them up.

Exercise #4: The Pull-Up

The compound exercise all people in the military have to be good at; the pull-up. This is one of the best back exercises, that’s why this exercise is called ‘The King Of Back Development’.

It’s about pulling your own weight up, lowering it and pulling it up again (excellent job explaining Marnix).

So, the muscles you’re targeting with this exercise are

  • The back muscles
  • The biceps
  • The rear delt

This is the best exercise to grow your wings (lats) as it focuses on the latissimus dorsi which is this muscle right here:

Latissimus Dorsi - Seeking Me

The lats will create the V-shape in the back. Basically, it makes your upper back wider.

This exercise shouldn’t sound very complicated but to make sure you do it right, here’s a video to help you.

Also, when you are doing the pull up for the first time, you may not even be able to do it.

That’s why with this exercise it might be best for you to start with an assisted pull up. You have machines for this, but you could also use a band to put your legs on. Like this:

Assisted Pull Up With Resistance Band - Seeking Me

The pull up is actually the first exercise I ever did. When I started working out as a 15-year-old little guy, I thought pull-ups would be the way to get big.

So, I started doing them every day. First I could only do a couple. But after two months I was able to do one-arm pull-ups ten times in a row like it was nothing.

It felt great, but when you’re only doing pull-ups, just your back and biceps grow.

Tip: Make sure your workout plan focuses on all muscles without neglecting any muscle. This way you’ll have a proportionate physique, and you won’t look like this guy:

Chicken Legs - Seeking Me
Chicken legs, you better hope this is photoshopped.

Exercise #5: The Row

No, not rowing like rowing a canoe. Rowing with a barbell (or dumbbell) while you bent over the bar.

Yeah, clear instructions, right? Here’s a video on how to perform the row correctly:

This exercise targets

  • The back muscles
  • The biceps
  • The rear delt

But there’s one crucial difference from the pull-up, and that’s the difference in the purpose of the exercise. These compound exercises together are the best back exercises to do for overall back development.

With the pull-up, you target the muscles (lats) that will make your back wider. With the row, you target the muscles (rhomboids) that will make your back thicker.

These are the rhomboids:

Rhomboids - Seeking Me

With the row, there are sooo many variations. You could switch to dumbbells or cables instead of barbells. You could do them lying down or on a machine. Here are all the possible row variations.

Tip: Try to focus on pulling back your elbows instead of your hands. This way you’re making sure you really activate your back instead of your biceps and forearms.

Exercise #6: The Overhead Press

Last but not least, the overhead press. Another press movement but now for the shoulders.

This is the exercise you should be most careful with because, as I said earlier, your delts are a very sensitive group of muscles. And you don’t want to mess them up.

Here’s how to do the movement with the correct form:

The overhead press targets

  • The delts (primarily)
  • The triceps (secondarily)

This is an essential exercise to do if you’re training for that V-shape from the back, like this:

V-Shaped Back - Seeking Me

This exercise also has variations with cables or dumbbells. You can also choose between sitting down or standing up. Standing up also requires a bit of stability and strength in the abdominals.

Tip: Don’t go too heavy on this exercise, your shoulders are a small muscle group like the biceps. They should be trained with a lot of caution. Again, I don’t want you to mess up your shoulders.

An Extra Benefit Of Compound Exercises

While these compound exercises all focus on specific muscle groups, they also target the abdominal muscles.

This is why I rarely train my abs separately because compound exercises are also one of the best ab exercises.

So, don’t feel like you have to train your abs separately but if you still want to do it, here are the two best ab exercises to train your abs with:

The BONUS: The 3-Day Workout Routine

Because I wanted to give you something you could take action on, I decided to design a simple workout routine with these compound exercises for you.

Now, a little disclaimer here. I’m not a personal trainer, but I have designed a lot of workout routines for friends and for myself. In my four years experience of trial and error with exercise & fitness I now feel like I know what works and what doesn’t.

I also know how to mess up your shoulders, that’s why I don’t want you to do it.

I designed a 3-day a week workout routine for you, so it’s not too big of a step, but you’re still getting the results you want. The most important things with this workout routine are these three things:

  • Consistency, if you’re training 1 week and skip the next, you have to start all over again. So, even though you might miss a day, you may be able to do it the next day. Don’t give up when you fall down, get right back up.
  • Patience, if you want results FAST, you need to go on steroids. If you’re like me and you don’t want to use steroids, be patient, results will come. First focus on progression, the results will come later.
  • Recovery, if you’re training seriously, you need a lot of recovery. This means taking at least 1 day off in between workouts (as you will see in the workout routine) and making sure you sleep well.

Let’s get into it!

The Workout Routine

These are all guidelines, if you want to do a variation of an exercise or add an isolation exercise, feel free to do so. Experiment with it and do what feels best. This is just a straightforward and basic workout routine for those who want to try it out.

Depending on your goals you should do the following amount of sets and reps with matching rests:

  • Strength – 4-5 sets of 2-6 reps, taking 3-5 min of rest in between sets.
  • Muscle building – 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps, taking 1-2 min of rest in between sets.
  • Conditioning – 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps, taking 30-60 sec of rest in between sets.

*There’s one exception to this, for the deadlift 1 set is enough as it costs the most amount of energy and uses almost every muscle in your body.

Day 1: Monday

Barbell Back Squat

The (Incline) Bench Press

The Row

Day 2: Tuesday

Rest or cardio

Day 3: Wednesday

Barbell Deadlift*

Pull Up

Overhead Press

Day 4: Thursday

Rest or cardio

Day 5: Friday

Barbell Back Squat

The Overhead Press

The Row

Day 6: Saturday

Rest or cardio

Day 7: Sunday

Rest or cardio

Other guidelines

Before going into any exercise make sure to warm up your body by doing any light form of cardio for 5-10 min.

When doing heavy sets, don’t use your training weight immediately. Build slowly up by first using the bar, then add weight little by little. Don’t count the reps while warming up, just focus on the form and getting the blood flowing through the muscles. You shouldn’t be tired after a warm-up set, so don’t go too hard.

If you can do all the sets on the high end of the rep range you’re aiming for, increase the weight with as little of an increase as possible.

Say, I deadlift 200 pounds, and I’m able to do that for 12 reps while my focus is building muscle. This means I should increase this amount with the littlest weight possible. If that’s with 5-pound plates, then I’ll have to do 210 pounds next time.

*When you’re using a barbell, both sides should have the same amount of weight, that’s why the 10 pounds increase.

Use the workout routine and do your work out!


Check out other posts in the Fitness category if you liked this one!

Marnix Midas Buijs

I’m Marnix, and I’m a blogger, freelance content writer/marketer, and online entrepreneur.

On this blog, I help people become the best versions of themselves by finding their true selves through self-development. Sharing my knowledge, I learn(ed) in my personal life journey.

As a freelance content writer/marketer I help business/blogs spread their message through content that gets seen so many more people can benefit from it. If you’re interested in working with me, go to

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