How many of you have dedicated entire training sessions to a single muscle group? I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of you answered yes. At least I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who used to listen to the advice of bodybuilders have done this. An example of what I am talking about is spending an entire training session of around 30 minutes or more completing exercises that specifically target a single muscle group such as biceps. Well, if you are on this blog looking for the simplest ways to just feel better, you may consider stopping and here’s why.
That level of specialization will only give you noticeable progress if you spend ample time towards it. Also, that intense level of specialization is probably only useful if you are quite experienced and have hit a very high-level plateau of muscle composition. So, unless you are looking to spend entire training sessions burning out a single muscle group for the sake of maybe a 5% increase in performance or size, intense specialization is not necessary.
On the contrary, we should shift our focus on training just enough to get us just enough results to make us feel our best without suffering tremendously. Spending an extra few hours in the gym every week to punish our muscles for negligible progress is unnecessary. If we are effective and efficient, we won’t need to waste time in the gym so that we can dedicate that time towards other things that matter more like sitting down to truly enjoy a cup of coffee each day or maybe even running to the store to buy our partner a special gift.
So, for the sake of spending our time training appropriately, we should complete exercises that are most effective. Those exercises happen to be compound or multi-dimensional exercises. Compound movements are movements that target and train multiple muscle groups at a single time.
By training multiple muscle groups with a single movement, you are potentially completing the work of multiple exercises in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the energy. By exercising multiple muscle groups at one time, you can make progress in multiple directions. It is for these reasons that it is a necessity to at least begin your training session with compound exercises.
It is also necessary when keeping this in mind to view your training sessions differently. You should view them as the training of specific muscle groups. These groups are often referred to as: push, pull, and legs. By focusing on grouping training sessions towards muscle functions we can use our time most wisely by being able to utilize the effectiveness of compound movements.
This is a wise use of time because it allows us to batch muscle groups instead of segregate them. By batching muscles, we are now able to utilize compound movements without consequence towards any of our other training sessions, especially if we properly rotate our sequence.
A direct example of this is my current training routine. I start each push day with the compound movement of a standing barbell shoulder press. This movement targets my legs, core, upper chest, triceps, with a heavy emphasis on my shoulders. My legs are flexed in order to sustain the weight of my body as well as the barbell. My core is flexed in order to stabilize my torso. My upper chest, triceps, and shoulders are the main muscles being targeted because they are used to push the barbell up over my head. This one pushing movement hits so many muscles it’s incredible!
Also, as you get better at these movements, you may be able to put focus on one specific muscle group that is being utilized throughout the exercise. What I mean by this is that if you are completing the standing barbell shoulder press I mentioned above, you may be able to progress to such a point that you can choose to use the movement to target one of the muscles specifically being utilized such as the core. By maintaining the utilization of the compound exercise, you can specialize in the training of one muscle while still training multiple.
What I make sure to do is start each training session with 5 sets of a compound movement. For push days I begin with standing barbell shoulder press. For pull days I begin with rack pulls. For leg days (which I rarely do since I tend to train legs appropriately during my push, pull, and HIIT sessions) I begin with either kettlebell swings or jump squats.
Each of these beginning movements ensures my success in progressing one or more muscle groups from the start. Also, if I train intensely from the start of each session, I could end my training less than 10 minutes in and likely still make progress due to the utilization of compound movements.
Keep in mind that hormones are what physiologically help us experience a certain feeling. By using exercises that target a larger muscle mass during our strength training, our body responds by releasing more positive hormones. That means that by training with the use of compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups our body positively responds by releasing more positive hormones.
Also, getting back to the basics of what is natural for our bodies always makes us feel better. So, shouldn’t we train accordingly? I mean, can you imagine a time where we or our ancestors have ever specifically used only a single muscle group? Doubt it. By using compound movements we get back to those natural basics of the human body. Imagine picking up a log to bring back to the village. That movement is natural and that movement includes multiple muscle groups.
Compound movements are the simplest way to improve your movement practice. They are effective in building muscle, efficient by helping you hit all the muscles within a functional group, help stimulate positive hormonal response, and also very natural to your body. So, if we are trying to make the most of our time training our bodies so that we can feel our best, is there any reason why we would not include with compound movements? There isn’t any I can come up with.
Move like you should. Be natural with it. Don’t waste time completing all of these special exercises that only target one muscle. Make your training sessions simple and do what works best in making you and your body feel great.