Will Doing Just Compound Exercises Make Me Big?

Compound exercises such as the squat and deadlift work your body using multiple joints and muscle groups. Isolation exercises use a single joint, and place fewer demands on your body's recovery ability. Compound exercises build size, strength and power while improving athleticism. No form of exercise will allow you to build muscle unless your diet supports your training program. Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

The bench press is one of many exercises that will help you get bigger. (Image: imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Lower-Body Compound Exercises

Exercises such as the squat and deadlift work your lower body extensively, but also work your core. The deadlift also works your upper back. Stiff-legged deadlifts work your hamstrings, the muscles on the back of your legs, more than conventional deadlifts, but recruit less of the front of your legs. Between these three exercises alone you can effectively work the majority of your lower body, your back and your abdominal muscles. Even your obliques, the muscles at the sides of your waist, are used to stabilize your torso when squatting and deadlifting.

Upper-Body Compound Exercises

Chinups and rows both work your back, biceps and shoulders. Each type of exercise works your muscles through a different plane of movement, and there are small differences in activation in the middle of your back on some types of chinups and rows. The bench press works your chest, shoulders and triceps, with your triceps being the most active muscle in the bench press. The military press works your shoulders, trapezius and triceps. Between the seven exercises listed, you can work your entire body and work it heavily.

Compound Exercises for Size

To train for size and strength you need to train hard and heavy. Keep your repetitions low, no more than eight per set. Keep your total volume low, no more than five sets per exercise. If, after five heavy sets of squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, chinups, rows, bench presses and military presses you still have energy left, you are not training hard enough. Train your entire body every workout, but give yourself at least one day of rest in-between training sessions. You train in the gym, you grow outside of it.


To grow you need protein, possibly twice as much as a sedentary individual. You also need fats, including essential fatty acids, such as oily fish, which are also high in protein. Essential fatty acids are required for your muscles to recover and grow. Protein should also provide some fat, so whole foods such as beef, chicken, milk and eggs should be dietary staples. You need carbohydrates to help recover from workouts and provide energy for future training sessions. Get your carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.