Top Compound Exercises for Losing Fat and Building Muscle

1. Deadlift

(Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Glutes, Back; Secondary Muscles Targeted: Every lower and upper body muscle) The deadlift is called the mother of all exercises because it puts to work more muscles than any other exercise. But how does working out more muscles together lead to better results? The logic is simple: The more muscles you use, the more weight you can lift. And the more weight you lift, the stronger the stimulus for muscle growth. Your muscles grow bigger and faster when you lift heavy weights (provided you also take ample nutrition and rest), and the deadlift is the exercise in which you lift the maximum weight.

2. Squat

(Muscle Targeted: Quadriceps; Secondary Muscles Targeted: All lower body and lower back muscles) Big muscles come from big exercises—and compound movements don’t get bigger or better than squats. The squat is not called the king of all compound exercises for no reason: it works out the strongest muscle grouping, the glutes and quads, allowing you to lift a lot of weight. The squat also provides the maximum cardio respiratory and metabolic benefits. If your goal is to lose fat and build muscles as fast as humanly possible, you just can’t afford to not do squats.

3. Bench Press

(Muscle Targeted: Chest; Secondary Muscles Targeted: Shoulders and Triceps) The bench press promotes more upper-body mass gains than any other compound exercise. However, great as the bench press is for developing the upper body, half its benefits are lost when you do not lower the bar in a slow, controlled motion. When working out, the technique and form matters most. If each and every movement is not controlled, the benefits will be less than optimal. The correct technique to lower the bar is to stretch the muscles to the limit and lower the bar slowly and controllably, without any jerks or sudden movements. Some don’t put the effort required in bringing the bar down correctly to do more repetitions. But this line of thinking is wrong. More reps done with poor technique don’t give you better results—fewer reps done properly do.

4. Vertical Pull

(Muscle Targeted: Back; Secondary Muscle Targeted: Biceps) Number of reps of the vertical pull done separates the men from boys. Universally considered as the most effective exercise for increasing strength and building muscle in the back and biceps, the vertical pull is one exercise you shouldn't miss.

5. Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

(Muscle Targeted: Middle Back; Secondary Muscles Targeted: Biceps, Shoulders, Laterals) Multi-joint lifts are usually not easy to perform, and the reverse-grip bent-over row is no different. That’s why many body builders opt for an easier option—they do seated rows instead. But no pain, no gain. If you want a thickly-muscled back, you got to do the reverse-grip bent-over row. There is absolutely no two ways about it. When done regularly, the exercise triggers massive muscle mass gains. Precisely for this reason the reverse-grip bent-over row was the favorite exercise of six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates.

6. Shoulder Press

(Muscle Targeted: Shoulders; Secondary Muscle Targeted: Triceps) The shoulder press is a mighty effective compound exercise. It targets multiple upper body muscles, like the deltoids, triceps, trapezius, serratus anterior, and upper pec region. You can perform the exercise in different ways, using dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or barbells. The shoulder press can be done either sitting or standing and offers a host of benefits, like improved strength in the shoulder area; better stability in the arms, shoulder, and torso; and stronger bones. For an all-round, well-developed upper body, you must do shoulder press regularly.