Are you looking to exercise multiple muscle groups at the same time without fancy equipment? Compound bodyweight exercises are one of the most effective ways to strengthen your muscles without weights. Your own body weight is used as resistance, so these exercises are perfect for when you are traveling or want to work out at home.
Some bodyweight exercises focus on specific muscle groups, such as the rear deltoids, but compound exercises focus on activating several muscle groups at once. This is a major plus as it saves you time when it comes to your daily workout.
In this article, we’ll list the most effective bodyweight compound exercises for you to achieve muscle growth, increased fitness levels, and better functional movement.
Table of Contents
- 1 8 Best Bodyweight Compound Exercises
- 2 Benefits of Compound Bodyweight Exercises
- 3 Bodyweight Compound Exercises FAQs
8 Best Bodyweight Compound Exercises
- Bodyweight Squats
- Bear Crawls
Benefits of push-ups
Push-ups are a great upper body exercise as they work your triceps, chest, back muscles, and abdominals. If you want a break from the standard push-up, there are plenty of variations you could try, including the pike push-up and diamond push-up. You could even handstand push-ups if you are feeling brave.
How to perform push-ups
- Place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart.
- Get into a high plank position, with your feet extended behind you. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
- Engage your core muscles as you bend your arms and slowly lower your body toward the floor.
- Once your chest is near the floor, you can push back up and repeat the exercise.
This informative video from Mind Pump TV shows you the right way to do a push-up. You’ll learn the most effective push-up position and how to avoid the most common mistakes.
How to program push-ups
Push-ups are usually performed for 8 to 10 reps for three or four sets, but you can adjust this based on your capabilities. Remember to warm up before you start doing push-ups.
Benefits of dips
Dips are a compound back exercise that engages multiple muscle groups in your upper body, including your triceps, shoulders, back, and chest muscles. If you ever get bored of standard dips, there are plenty of tricep dip alternatives that you can try. One of the main benefits of dips is that you are lifting your entire body weight.
How to perform dips
- Hold onto the rings or parallel bars with your palms facing down while keeping your arms straight.
- Lift your feet off the floor so that your legs are hanging and relaxed.
- Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows and keeping them close to your sides.
- Lift your body back up by straightening your arms and locking your elbows. Repeat the process.
When it comes to this compound exercise, form is very important. Watch this video to learn how to perform dips properly and engage the correct muscle groups.
How to program dips
Aim to do three to five sets of 10 reps each, with around a minute’s rest between each set. If you are just beginning your fitness journey, you can always start with two sets and increase the number of sets each week as you progress.
Benefits of lunges
In addition to building strength in the muscles of the lower body, lunges can improve balance, hip flexibility, and core stability. The muscles that are engaged during lunges include the glutes, calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Lunges are also one of the many compound exercises that aid in boosting your metabolism.
How to perform lunges
- Stand with your feet around hip-width apart.
- Step forward with your right foot and bend your right leg. You can keep your hands at your sides or on your hips.
- Keep your entire core engaged as you hold this pose for a few seconds.
- Bring your right foot and leg back into the starting position.
- Step forward with your left foot and bend your left leg.
- Hold this pose for a few seconds with an engaged core before you step back into the starting position. Repeat the exercise.
Ensure you perform your lunges with perfect form by watching this video:
How to program lunges
Beginners can start with two sets of 10 to 15 reps. You can slowly increase the number of sets and you can always add weights if you want to.
Benefits of bodyweight squats
Bodyweight squats engage the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, abdominals, and lower back muscles. This exercise is also praised for improving your balance amidst other functional benefits. There are also plenty of squat variations that you can try if you get bored, including jump squats, pulse squats, and goblet squats.
How to perform bodyweight squats
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, pointing slightly outwards in a comfortable position.
- Keeping your core engaged, roll your shoulder blades back as you gaze straight ahead.
- Push out your hips as you bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat position.
- Once you have held the squat for a few seconds, you can return to the standing position and repeat the exercise.
Want to learn how to do the perfect bodyweight squat? Watch this informative video by Buff Dudes Workouts:
How to program bodyweight squats
If you are healthy and don’t have any knee issues, you can start by trying two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps. You can always increase the number of sets once you feel more comfortable with bodyweight squats.
Benefits of pull-ups
Pull-ups are easily one of the most popular compound exercises as they strengthen your rear deltoids, back, forearms, and several other muscles. This upper-body exercise is also great for improving your grip strength as well as your overall fitness. If you’re looking for a variation of the pull-up to change things up, you could always try chin-ups.
How to perform pull-ups
- Grip the pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.
- With your knees bent, hang from the pull-up bar so that your feet are not touching the ground.
- Pull yourself up by slowly bending your elbows. Your chin should go all the way above the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back into the starting position.
Pull-ups are one of the most challenging compound movements. This video provides a great example of how to do the perfect pull-up:
How to program pull-ups
Many people battle with this compound exercise. If you can’t do a single rep, you may need to build strength with easier moves like assisted pull-ups. However, if you are already quite confident with pull-ups, you can start with three sets of eight reps and slowly progress from there.
Benefits of burpees
In addition to muscle activation, burpees offer impressive fat-burning benefits and are considered a great form of cardio. This whole-body compound exercise gets your blood flowing as it is a two-part movement, consisting of a push-up and a jump. Burpees will also help with your mobility and coordination.
How to perform burpees
- Begin in a squat position, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent. Make sure you have your weight evenly distributed.
- Place your hands on the ground and kick your feet back so that you are in a push-up position.
- Keep your back straight as you complete one push-up.
- Jump your feet to your hands and bring your body back into a squat.
- Reach your arms over your head and jump quickly into the air. Land with your knees bent and begin the entire process again.
Want to see a good example of how a burpee should be done? Watch this tutorial by Kettlebell Kickboxing:
How to program burpees
If you’re doing three or four sets, try to stick to between 10 and 15 reps. If you are only doing one set, you can try to do as many as 20 burpees. Rest for around 30 seconds between sets.
Benefits of bear crawls
Not only do bear crawls help with warming up your muscles, but they also provide a useful compound movement for those who want to improve their agility and mobility. While bear crawls can help you gain muscle, they also provide a great mental workout as you keep all limbs moving at once.
How to perform bear crawls
- Get onto your hands and knees. Lift your knees so that they are hovering above the ground with your toes remaining on the ground.
- Stay low to the ground and keep your back straight as you move your right hand and left foot forward at the same time.
- Switch sides by moving the opposite leg and hand forward. Keep repeating the movement as you alternate sides.
This video provides a great visual example of how to do a proper bear crawl.
How to program bear crawls
If you want to get the most out of your bear crawls, try to aim for eight sets of eight bear crawls. Each set should last roughly 20 seconds. If you don’t have a lot of space available to you, you can alternate between going forward and backward.
Benefits of step-ups
Step-ups, which are packed full of benefits, are one of the most common everyday movements. Step-ups engage several muscle groups in your lower body, including hamstrings, adductors, glutes, and quads. Step-ups can also help even out any imbalances in your leg muscles and improve your cardio fitness.
How to perform step ups
- Stand facing a secure bench or box with your arms at your sides and your feet flat on the ground.
- Place your right foot on the platform.
- Place your left foot on the platform.
- Step down with your left leg and then step down with your right leg.
- Alternate which leg leads the exercise.
Make the most out of your step-ups and ensure you have the perfect form by watching this video:
How to program step-ups
You can begin with two sets of 10 reps for each leg and slowly progress from there. The difficulty of your step up will also depend on how high your platform is.
Benefits of Compound Bodyweight Exercises
Easy to incorporate into everyday life
Compound movements and bodyweight exercises are often used in ‘prison workouts’, which are exercise regimes that do not need a lot of space or equipment. Whether you are at home, at work, or on holiday, you can always find a way to incorporate these exercises into your everyday life.
Burn more calories
Compound exercises engage several different muscle groups at the same time, which results in burning more calories than you would if you only focused on one specific muscle group. This also means that compound exercises are highly efficient and save you time!
When you perform exercises that activate multiple muscle groups at the same time, you’ll improve your neuromuscular coordination. Compound movements and multi-joint movements result in better reflexes and improved muscle control.
Exercise the whole body
By doing just a few compound exercises, you can work out your upper and lower body. This full-body workout helps with muscle growth and allows you to see full-body results sooner than if you were only focusing on isolation movements.
Bodyweight Compound Exercises FAQs
If you want to see noticeable results, you should do bodyweight training at least three times a week. It is safe to do bodyweight exercises daily so long as you do not push yourself too hard.
While you don’t need weights for bodyweight moves, it may be helpful to have a yoga mat, resistance bands, rings, parallel bars, and a pull-up bar.
Many athletes solely make use of bodyweight exercises to build muscle. However, if you want to increase your muscle mass, you may want to introduce weighted exercises. Along with compound exercises, you might also want to try out exercises that focus on one specific muscle group.