woman doing a deep squat with a barbell

5 Best Compound Exercises For Mass

by Evelyn Valdez

If you want to maximize muscle and strength gains, focus on compound movements. These exercises engage multiple joints and muscles, providing efficient stimulus for growth across various body parts. Incorporating compound exercises alongside some isolation movements will enhance your workouts and help you achieve your fitness goals.

To help you make strides on your muscle-building journey, we've compiled a list of the top five compound lifts that will help you gain muscle in all the right places.

Compound Barbell Exercises You Should Master

Although there are a variety of compound exercises to choose from, we are focusing on the best five compound barbell exercises. These are the ones you should master and rotate throughout your workout plan.

To get the most out of your compound exercises and push yourself to the next level, use lifting gear such as UPPPER's 10MM Lever Belts and Wrist Wraps (USPA Recommended).


Iulia doing deadlift

This is the number one compound lift that should be in your training program's rotation. It works various muscles, including your hamstrings, lower back, glutes, hip flexors, and core while targeting your arms and shoulders!

To maximize your effort, use a lifting belt (enhances core and back stability) and lifting straps (reduces grip fatigue).

How To Do It: 

  1. Approach the barbell bar and stand in front of it centered and with feet hip-width apart. Bend at the hips to grab the bar and place your hands shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Inhale deeply and extend the hips and knees to full extension, shins should be touching the bar. 
  3. Begin to lift the bar by driving through the heels and keeping your chest up, back straight, and shoulders back. Once the bar passes your knees, pull it back so your hips drive forward into the bar. 
  4. Get back into the starting position by bending at the hips to lower the bar.

Just remember to incorporate deadlift variations into your routine so you can continue driving better progress and improve your technique.


iulia doing squats

Squats are a favorite on leg days and for a good reason. When done properly, barbell squats target your quads, lower back, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and core. It's also a great compound movement for beginners because you can start practicing your form with bodyweight squats and work your way up to a barbell and other squat variations!

Go deep on your heavy squats with UPPPER'S tapered-designed Lifting Belt. The tapered design allows you to go through the full range of motion.

How To Do It: 

  1. Get beneath the bar to take it out of the rack, make sure it's comfortable resting on your rear shoulder muscles. Take two steps back and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly out. 
  2. Make sure you're standing upright and look at a spot on the floor slightly ahead of you, begin to sit back down. 
  3. Keep your chest up and descend until your hip crease is below your knee. Try to go through the full range of motion, meaning drop the thighs just below parallel to the ground. 
  4. Pause, then make sure the weight is on your heels as you drive back up.

If you can't go through the full range of motion just go as deep as you can with correct form. Do not sacrifice your form to go deep. Instead, start working towards getting deeper by practicing with a lower weight or by using only your body weight.

Bench Press

iulia doing a bench press

The bench press is not only a great chest exercise, but it also works the triceps, deltoids, rhomboids (back muscles), and core. Plus, there are so many chest press variations you can do to emphasize different muscles. Each of these variations will work a different part of your pectoral muscles and supporting muscles.

Minimize wrist pain and use wrist wraps on your heavy sets to stabilize and protect your wrists.

How To Do It: 

  1. Lie on a flat bench, then hold the bar with an overhand grip and hands shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Begin to lift the bar from the rack and hold it above your upper chest with your arms straight. 
  3. Inhale and slowly lower the bar until it touches the middle of your chest. Your elbows will be bent slightly when the weight is down. 
  4. Exhale and begin to push the bar upward using your chest muscles. At the top squeeze your chest and repeat.

The barbell bench press is an advanced move, if you're a beginner work your way up to this move by using a long resistance band or dumbbells with a weight that fits your fitness levels. This will help you practice form and build up those chest muscles so they're able to lift heavier.

Standing Overhead Press

This exercise, also known as the shoulder press, will help you build nice, round shoulder and more. It engages the shoulder muscles, your chest triceps, and your core to help you lift the weight over your head.

How To Do It: 

  1. Stand with the bar on your front shoulders, grab it with an overhand grip, and hands placed shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar from the rack and walk back a few steps. 
  2. Look straight ahead making sure your back is straight, not arched, and core muscles braced. 
  3. Begin to press the bar directly overhead until it's balanced over your shoulders. Make sure not to tilt your hips forward during the movement. 
  4. Begin to slowly go back to the starting position.

Overhead presses might sound easy, but they are an advanced move. So be careful with your form when doing this exercise, the shoulder muscles are notorious for getting strained or injured easily. Also, pick a weight or piece of equipment that fits your fitness level. And in case you need it, here are some tips on how to work out your shoulders safely.

Bent-Over Rows

iulia doing bent over rows

If you're not doing pull-ups, then you should be doing barbell rows! This is one of the best exercises to help strengthen and build back muscles. It works the lats, traps, rhomboids, and lower back.

Barbell rows can be strenuous on your lower back, get added lower back support with a lifting belt. You can also use lifting straps to reduce grip fatigue.

How To Do It: 

  1. Grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip, begin to bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward by bending it at about an 80-degree angle, keeping your back straight until it's almost parallel to the floor. 
  2. Your head should be up and your arms hanging perpendicular to the floor and your torso. Begin to lift the bar towards your body keeping your elbows close to your sides. 
  3. Once you're at the top of the movement, squeeze your back muscles and pause. Then inhale and slowly lower the bar.

There are two places you can stop the movement to target more specific areas. Like you can either pull it to the belly button which will activate the lats more or closer to the chest to hit more of the middle/upper back. Also if you're a beginner, you can start this move by using dumbbells.


1. How many compound exercises to do per workout?

Aim to train each muscle group with 2-4 different compound exercises per workout. For example, if you're focusing on your chest, pick 2-4 compound exercises, and finish off with isolation exercises to target any areas you want place a greater focus on.

2. Are there any alternative exercises or modifications for people with injuries or limitations that prevent them from doing these compound lifts?

Yes! Here are a few alternatives or modifications you can do:

  • Replace Deadlifts: Swap traditional deadlifts with trap bar deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts, which can be gentler on the lower back.
  • Modify Squats: If you have knee issues, try goblet squats or use a leg press machine instead of barbell squats.
  • Alternative to Bench Press: Use dumbbells for chest presses or incorporate push-up variations if bench pressing is challenging.
  • Substitute Overhead Press: Use lighter dumbbells for shoulder presses to reduce strain on the shoulders.
  • Modify Bent-Over Rows: Use the cable machine or perform seated cable rows if bent-over rows strain your lower back.


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