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Best Multi-Joint Exercises

author image Luann Voza
Luann Voza teaches both math and science in an elementary school setting and physical education in a college setting. A former fitness-club owner, Voza has taught group fitness classes in step, aerobics, yoga, Pilates and kickboxing. As a bodybuilder, she held the title of Ms. New Jersey Lightweight Division Winner. Voza has a master's degree in exercise physiology and a doctoral degree in education.
Best Multi-Joint Exercises
A class works out with barbells during an weight training exercise class Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Weight training exercises are designed to overload your muscles as they exert force to overcome movement. This movement is classified as joint movement, depending on the joints that are involved. Isolation exercises consist of one muscle group moving just one joint. Compound exercises, or multi-joint exercises, require more than one muscle group and involve more than one joint. Multi-joint exercises are recommended for increased muscle strength and size. Workouts should start with multi-joint exercises before moving to isolation exercises targeting smaller muscle groups.

Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best core exercises for upper-body strength gains. The shoulder and elbow joints move to perform the chest press. The chest contracts to move the shoulder joint, and the triceps work to extend, or straighten, the elbow. Lie on a flat bench with your arms extended toward the ceiling, gripping a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. Begin the exercise by bending your elbows, lowering the weight to just above your chest. Continue the exercise by extending your arms back up to the starting position. Complete three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. If using a barbell, be sure to have a spotter ready in case you can't get one of the final reps up, so you're not trapped under the weight.

Shoulder Press

The shoulder press exercise strengthens your upper body muscles and core, which includes the abdominals and lower back muscles. Your shoulder muscles move your shoulder joint, and your triceps extend your elbows. Stand or sit with your elbows bent and your palms facing forward, gripping a barbell or dumbbell in front of you at shoulder height. Begin the exercise by pressing the weight overhead toward the ceiling until your arms are fully extended. Hold, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Contract your abdomen, using your core muscles to avoid arching your back. Complete three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.


The website Top End Sports identifies the squat exercise as an effective exercise that works almost every muscle group. Your lower-body muscles and hip flexors work to bend and extend your hips and knees. Your core muscles contract to maintain spinal alignment. Stand with your hips slightly more than shoulder width apart, with your arms bent, palms forward, holding a barbell or pair of dumbbells on your shoulders. Begin the exercise by bending your hips and knees, lowering your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Continue by contracting your thighs and buttocks to lift your body back up to the starting position. Contract your abdomen to avoid overarching your back. Complete three to four sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.

Barbell Deadlift

Deadlifts -- of which the barbell deadlift is only one of many variations -- are one of the most comprehensive compound exercises working the most muscles at once in a single movement. Stand with your feet hip-width apart under the bar. Squat and grasp the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. You can grip the bar over-hand or with one hand over and one hand under. Lift the barbell by straightening your legs. When you're fully sanding with the barbell in your hands, pull your shoulders back. Return and then repeat until fatigued.

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