Light up every muscle with these total-body exercises that can help you squeeze maximum gains from quick-fire workouts.
These exercises are either compound movements or combination moves. Compound exercises are when a single action requires the body to move several joints at once, and as a result you have to work many different muscle groups at the same time.
Take the deadlift, for example: it seems like a fairly simple action – you’re just picking something up from the floor – yet it requires you to move at the ankles, knees and hips simultaneously, while supporting the weight with your shoulders and stabilising your spine as you raise the bar. This simple action works all the muscles of your legs, your back and shoulders, your core muscles and your forearm muscles, which are required to grip the bar. It’s a whole-body workout in a single move.
Other exercises take the idea of compound movements further by introducing dynamic elements. The hang clean, for example, requires you to hoist a barbell up in front of you powerfully enough to be able to flip it onto your front shoulders. Not only does this use a lot of different muscles, but the explosive movement required to raise the bar at speed fires up your fast-twitch muscle fibres – the ones involved in dynamic movements – which have the most potential for growth.
Combination exercises are when you stitch together two or more moves to create a new exercise. We’ve given some examples below, but you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to creating new combo exercises. Grab a pair of dumbbells and there’s no reason why you can’t perform a squat-to-clean-to-press-to-lunge-to-curl-to-deadlift-to-row combo.
By linking exercises like this you keep your work rate high, which is great for burning fat, saving time and training your body to function as a single unit.
This rotational lift builds the connection between your upper and lower body and creates a strong core.
- Hold one dumbbell in both hands and twist your torso to one side to position the weight on the outside of one thigh.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back flat and core engaged throughout.
- Lift the dumbbell up and across your body with straight arms, rising up onto your toes as you lift.
Cable Wood Chop
– Work your body in the opposing plane to the standard dumbbell wood chop.
Cable Low to High Wood Chop
– The cable provides constant resistance across the full range of the exercise.
Wood Chop Lunge
– The wood chop/lunge combination requires your body to work horizontally, vertically and rotationally at the same time. It’s a great way to build co-ordination and functional strength.
LUNGE TO PRESS
All these exercises combine upper- and lower-body moves to get twice the workout in half the time.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, with palms facing forwards.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, back straight and core engaged.
- Step forwards into a lunge – your front knee and front foot should be in line.
- Sink your back knee as close to the floor as possible without banging it.
- At the same time, press the weights directly overhead.
- Step back to standing and repeat on the other leg.
Squat to Curl to Press
– Combine three separate exercise to get your body working as a single unit.
Romanian Deadlift to Row
– Work your back and hamstring muscles together with this classic combo.
Swiss Ball Jackknife to Press-Up
– This combination move targets your abs, hips, chest and triceps.
The deadlift works your lower and upper body at the same time in one mass-building compound move. Keep your core muscles tight to avoid lower-back pain.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with toes pointing forwards.
- Position your shins close to the bar, keep your gaze ahead and bend down to grip the bar with either an overhand or alternate (one hand overhand, one underhand) grip.
- Keep your back flat, shoulder blades retracted, chest over the bar and core braced.
- Lift the bar by pushing with your glutes and through your heels.
- Ensure the bar follows the line of your shins and keep your shoulders pinned back.
- As the bar passes your knees, push your hips forwards.
- Return the bar with control.
– Hold the bar with a wider grip to place greater emphasis on your upper-back (trapezius) muscles.
– If you find the range of motion of normal deadlifts too strenuous – especially if you already have lower-back problems – start with the weight plates raised on blocks.
This exercise works your body from top to toe in a dynamic, powerful movement.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Look forward, keep your back straight, shoulders retracted and core braced.
- Lean forward from the hips and bend your knees to initiate the move.
- Keeping your elbows high, explosively raise the bar up, flip it onto your fingers and catch the bar on top of your chest.
- Keep your core tight throughout and bend your knees slightly when the bar is at its highest point.
- Stand up straight and reset the bar before repeating.
– Duck under the bar to ‘catch’ it overhead. This requires excellent co-ordination and shoulder flexibility, so try it with a light bar to begin with.
One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch
– Work each side of your body independently – especially useful for sports conditioning.
Clean and Jerk
– This exercise targets so many muscle groups that it’s a workout in itself. Ensure perfect form throughout.