Combination weight exercises are a series of multijoint movements that work more than one muscle group at once. They usually combine a lower-body exercise with an upper-body exercise. The best combination exercises focus on numerous muscle groups in one exercise while improving your strength, balance and daily living.
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The most beneficial reason to perform combination exercises is the increase in calorie burn. Combination exercises burn two to three times more calories than isolation exercises. During combination exercises, more muscle groups are involved in the movement. This allows you to lift heavier weights than you would with isolation exercises. Combination exercises are also more functional -- meaning, they will improve movements in your daily life such as reaching for something or getting in and out of your car. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the gym, combination exercises can be more time efficient because you work more than one muscle with each exercise.
Weight machines focus on one set movement, thus they are not appropriate for combination exercises. Your body remains in one position, and you only recruit the muscle on which you're focusing. For example, using a leg extension machine only emphasizes your quadriceps, because your body is supported in the chair. This is better suited for a beginner to learn proper technique and strengthen new muscles. By using free weights such as medicine balls, dumbbells, resistance bands and barbells, you incorporate more muscle groups to stabilize your body throughout the movement.
Choose combination exercises that focus on as many muscles as possible. For example, a lunge with an overhead press using a medicine ball focuses on the muscles of your entire leg, abdominals and shoulders. Stand with your feet together holding a medicine ball in front of your chest. Contract your abdominals and step forward with your right foot, stabilizing yourself with your left leg. Allow your left leg to bend at 90 degrees. As you lower yourself, simultaneously lift the medicine ball straight overhead. Return the ball back to the starting position before returning your right leg back to its starting position.
Another example is the barbell push press. This exercise works your legs, abdominals, triceps and shoulders. To begin, step under the bar and grasp it with your palms facing forward. Position the bar directly over the top of your chest. Contract your abdominals and perform a squat, keeping your back flat and chest up. As you stand, slowly lift the barbell overhead and return to the starting position.
Both exercises may also be done with a dumbbell biceps curl or a shoulder press.
Combination exercises are progressive movements that require proper technique and form. If you are a beginner, master the mechanics of each individual exercise -- such as a biceps curl and a squat -- before combining them together. You could risk injury if you are not advanced or strong enough to perform multiple exercises at once.