Why you should do compound exercises for fat loss

First and foremost, I must get this myth out of the way. You cannot spot reduce fat.

  • I hear so many people complain about their “flabby” arms. Unfortunately you cannot spot reduce fat. In the case of “flabby” arms, doing a million tricep or bicep exercises will not remove fat from your arms. It will not change the fat into muscle. If you are not in a calorie deficit, it will just build muscle underneath your layer of fat. (This is why women might tend to “bulk up”.)


Push Up – Compound Movement

Secondly, here’s the difference between two major types of movements: compound versus isolated.

  • A compound movement is multi-joint movement that engages multiple muscle groups. An example is a push-up. It’s multi-joint because you are moving your arms at the elbow and at the shoulder. At the same time, you are also keeping your core engaged, as it’s essentially a moving plank. The primary muscle groups being worked are your chest, shoulder and triceps, among a bunch of other secondary muscles.
  • An isolated movement is a single-joint movement that engages only one muscle group. An example is a tricep extension. It’s single-joint because you are moving your arms only at the elbow. The only muscle it’s working is your tricep.

Dumbbell Row – Compound Movement

Now you know the difference between compound and isolated movements and that you cannot spot reduce fat. So why are compound exercises superior?

  • Think about it. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you will burn at rest. This will increase your chances of being in a calorie deficit (along with a proper diet!), resulting in fat loss.
  • If you do a compound movement, you are building muscle in multiple muscle groups versus just one muscle group with an isolated movement. Therefore, the compound movements will increase your metabolism more because it will build more muscle!
  • Let’s compare a dumbbell row (compound) versus a bicep curl (isolated). A dumbbell row works your lats, rhomboids, teres major/minor, traps and rear delts! A bicep curl works your biceps. Which one do you think is better for fat loss now? That’s right, the dumbbell row! You are going to build way more muscle with a row than with a bicep curl!

I’m not saying don’t do isolated movements. They definitely have their place. Some examples…

  • If you are looking to grow muscle in specific areas for aesthetic reasons, doing this may target those muscles in certain ways that the compound movements do not.
  • They can also be beneficial if you need to work on strengthening a specific muscle for rehab.
  • I also use isolated movements for my clients if we need to activate a specific muscle before a workout.


Lunge – Another compound movement

What are some good compound exercises? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Upper Body: Push Ups, Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Pull Ups, Dumbbell Rows
  • Lower Body: Squats, Lunges, Step Ups, Deadlifts, Hip Thrusts

Well there you have it. Now you know the key to exercises that give you the most bang for your buck for fat loss! So if your goal is fat loss, stop wasting precious time in the gym with isolated movements and do compound exercises instead!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *