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This Compound Workout Routine Builds Whole Body Strength

Three pictures of strength trainers completing a compound workout routine. One is performing a deadlift, the other a push press, and they other a front squat. All are exercising with an Olympic barbell and bumper plates.

This compound workout routine will help your build whole-body strength and forge robust physicality. Comprised of big compound exercises, all the major muscle groups are engaged.

Additionally, because compound exercises transition through two or more joints, they also activate a broad range of synergist muscles.

For example, the deadlift is often classified as a glute and lower back builder. And while it does develop strength and size in these areas, deadlifting also engages the quads, lats, rhomboids, traps, deltoids, biceps and forearms. Thus, it’s more accurate to label the deadlift as a whole-body exercise.

So, because this compound workout routine is structured around multi-joint exercises, such as deadlifts and squats, it provides the perfect all-purpose strength blast.

Compound workout routine benefits

This compound workout routine has been designed to build strength across the body. The exercises selected for this compound workout routine will certainly achieve this objective. They include:

Barbell squat

The barbell squat develops superior strength in the quads and glutes. But it’s also noted for encouraging whole-body growth. In the immense The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us that squatting stimulates tissue growth across the whole body.


As mentioned above, the deadlift engages a wide range of muscles beyond the glutes and lower back. Deadlifting is one of the best builders of raw power, which makes it a favourite among strength athletes. Frederic Delavier, author of Strength Training Anatomy, reminds us that deadlifting works ‘virtually every muscle . . . [and] it builds terrific hip, lower back, and trapezius muscles mass.’

Bent over row

For forging upper back and arm pulling power the bent-over is by far the best compound exercise. It also enhances strength in the erector spinae – lower back – which remain engaged to support the bent-over position.

Barbell bench press

Bench pressing with an Olympic barbell is an indomitable chest developer. However, its scope of muscular engagement is not so narrow. The bench press also activates the anterior deltoids and triceps.

Hang clean

Popularised by CrossFit, the hang clean is a killer compound exercise. In addition to increasing strength across the posterior chain, the hang clean promotes upper body power.

Shoulder press

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the standing shoulder press only works the deltoids. This is a monstrous compound exercise that engages a range of muscles. And, if make it a push press, it also activates the muscles of the lower body.

But besides building strength, what other fitness benefits can you expect from this workout?

Compound workout routine benefits

  • Increases whole-body strength

  • Develops the posterior chain

  • Improves muscle endurance

  • Enhances conditioning

  • Burns fat

  • Helps sculpt a lean defined physique

This workout requires minimal training kit

Another attribute of this compound workout routine is that it requires minimal equipment. All you need to complete this workout is an Olympic barbell, an assortment of weights (best to use bumper plates), a couple of clips, and a weights bench. That's it.

The minimalistic design of this compound workout routine makes it perfect for the home gym. But if you plan to complete this workout at a public gym, you can gather together the four pieces of exercise kit, sequester yourself in a quite corner, and start building strength.

How to approach this compound workout routine

You can approach this compound workout routine in three different ways. Your fitness goal(s) will determine which way you go with this workout. If you want to build strength in the major muscle groups, you should select option one where the exercises are assigned a specific set and rep range. On completion of each set, take a 2- to 3-minute rest to allow the muscles to recover.

AMRP this compound workout routine

Option two sees you complete six 5-minute AMRAPs. This is by far the toughest workout of the three. Your objective here is simple. Set a 5-minute countdown timer and proceed to perform as many reps as possible. After each exercise take a 2-minute 30-second rest before progressing to the next exercise.

Remember, make a note of the number of repetitions you amassed for each AMRAP. This way you’ll have a benchmark to compete against the next time you undertake this workout.

EMOM this compound workout routine

The final workout option is an EMOM. For each exercise your aim is to complete the set number of reps on the minute every minute for five rounds.

All in all, this workout takes 30-minutes. Unlike option one and two there are no rest periods throughout the EMOM. Once you start that repeat timer you shouldn’t stop until after the final round.

Compound workout routine

1) Barbell squats

Option 1: 2 to 3 sets of between 6 to 10 reps

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (How many reps did you achieve?)

Option 3: 5 x 1-minute EMOM rounds (aim for 15 to 20 reps)

Key squat teaching points

  • With the bar resting securely across your traps, space your feet slightly over shoulder-width apart.

  • Keeping your eyes fixed forward, squat down until a 90-degree angle forms at the back of the knee.

  • To conclude the squat, stand up under control focusing on pushing your hips forward as you do so.

2) Deadlift

Option 1: 2 to 3 sets of between 6 to 10 reps

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (How many reps did you achieve?)

Option 3: 5 x 1-minute EMOM rounds (aim for 15 to 20 reps)

Key deadlift teaching points

  • Adopting a shoulder-width stance, start with your feet under the bar.

  • Bending at the knee grasp the bar; your hands are slightly wider than your feet.

  • Using glute and lower back strength, stand up.

  • As you stand ensure to drive the hips forward.

  • Once upright, return the bar to the floor for the next rep.

3) Bent over row

Option 1: 2 to 3 sets of between 6 to 10 reps

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (How many reps did you achieve?)

Option 3: 5 x 1-minute EMOM rounds (aim for 20 to 25 reps)

Key bent-over row teaching points

  • First, to get the bar in position, perform the first part of a deadlift.

  • Standing with the bar resting against mid-thigh, hinge at the hips until the bar is level with the upper knee.

  • Fix the position ensuring that your back is straight.

  • Row the bar until it touches your lower chest.

  • Return and repeat.

4) Bench press

Option 1: 2 to 3 sets of between 6 to 10 reps

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (How many reps did you achieve?)

Option 3: 5 x 1-minute EMOM rounds (aim for 20 to 25 reps)

Key bench press teaching points

  • Set the barbell at an appropriate height on a rack.

  • Manoeuvre a bench under the bar ensuring that it is exactly central.

  • Lie on the bench taking a wide hand grip on the bar.

  • Prior to lifting, plant your feet firmly so that your form a stable position to lift from.

  • Remove the bar from the rack and lower until it touches the chest.

  • Smoothly press the bar to the start position: do not lock out at the elbow.

5) Hang clean

Option 1: 2 to 3 sets of between 6 to 10 reps

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (How many reps did you achieve?)

Option 3: 5 x 1-minute EMOM rounds (aim for 10 to 15 reps)

Key hang clean teaching points

  • As with the bent-over row, to get in position for the hang clean perform the first part of a deadlift.

  • Take a shallow hinge at the hips until the bar has dipped just under mid-thigh.

  • Using lower back, trapezius and arm strength explosively power the bar into the front rack position.

  • This should be one smooth movement. The bar remains close to the body – you are not swinging it out.

  • To return the bar to the start position allow it drop from the shoulders. Gravity is doing the work here, you’re merely assisting and controlling.

6) Standing shoulder press

Option 1: 2 to 3 sets of between 6 to 10 reps

Option 2: 5-minute AMRAP (How many reps did you achieve?)

Option 3: 5 x 1-minute EMOM rounds (aim for 15 to 20 reps)

Key shoulder press teaching points

  • The start of the standing shoulder press is the finish point of the hang clean.

  • The bar is supported by the anterior deltoids, your hands spaced just wider than shoulder-width.

  • Under control press the bar above your head stopping short of lock out.

  • You can make this a push press by engaging the quads to assist the initial stage of the exercise.

Enjoyed this compound workout routine?

Get your hands on 50 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits Vol. 1.

Circuit training is one of the best forms of physical exercise for maintaining and increasing overall-fitness. A well designed circuit will provide a great cardiovascular workout, strengthening the heart and lungs in the process, whilst also improving muscle endurance and developing functional strength. This unique combination, of fat burning and muscle building, which singular exercises, such as running, cycling, swimming or weights cannot give, will help to sculpt a lean defined physique.


In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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