Compound Exercises Defined

Compound exercises can be defined as a movement pattern that replicates common joint actions, applied joint forces and muscle fibre recruitment similar to those in everyday life. As opposed to isolation exercises that focus on a single joint movement, a compound exercise puts emphasis and stress on multiple joints and muscle groups. A program based around compound exercises is an effective way to train the whole body in a time efficient and safe manner.
The Squat is a Compound Exercise

The undisputed king of all compound exercises is the squat. The squat focuses on the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. This movement involves the joint action of the hip, ankle and knee, as well as stabilization from the pelvis and trunk. So when you think about, the squat works nearly every muscle in the body!
Why Use Compound Movements?

Compound exercises are functional - As earlier mentioned they replicate the body?s daily movements that originate from joint actions and muscle fibre activation. Training the body in a functional manner assists with joint stability, coordination, and posture.
Heavier loads can be placed on the body - Compound exercises allow heavier loads to be lifted due to a more stable base and increase in muscle fibre recruitment, which leads to greater strength and size gains in a shorter period of time.
Neural adaptation and activation - Heavier loads and larger muscle fibre recruitment places a higher demand on the Central Nervous System or (CNS) which forces the activation of more motor units, and for them to fire at a higher rate.
Increase in HGH levels - Compound exercises cause a distress call for the endocrine system to release more Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and testosterone. This places the body in an ideal anabolic environment.
Less stressful to joints - Compound movements promote joint stability due to the activation of stabiliser, synergistic, agonist, and antagonist muscle groups.
Compounds train smaller assisting muscle groups - The weak link in any compound movement is the smaller assisting muscles that aid the prime mover during the lift. These include the biceps, triceps, and muscles of the shoulder. Heavy debate still arises as to whether additional isolation exercises usually allocated to these muscles need be performed, due to the high amount of stress already placed on them during these lifts.
As a base of any resistance training program, compound movements should make up the core, whilst additional isolation exercises can be brought in to correct muscle and strength imbalances.

Examples of Compound Exercises

Chest: Barbell bench press (flat, incline, decline, close grip, wide grip), push-ups (wide, narrow), Dumb-bell bench press (flat, incline, decline), Chest press machine, Bench press machine, Dips (wide grip for chest emphasis, narrow for triceps).
Legs: Squat (barbell, Dumb-bell, single leg), Deadlift (barbell, dumb-bell, single leg), Lunge (barbell, dumb-bell, split, travelling), Squat machine, Leg press, Burpees.
Back: Chin-up/Pull-up (assisted, wide grip, supinated, hammer grip), Lat pull down (wide grip, supinated, shoulder width over hand grip), Cable row (supported, unsupported), Bent over row (supported, unsupported), Deadlift, Inverted row, Single arm dumb-bell row.
Shoulders: Barbell/dumb-bell military press (Seated, Standing), Arnold press, Upright row (Barbell, Dumb-bell), Shoulder press machine.