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Simple versus Compound Exercises - by Matthew Romans

There are two types of exercises that are performed in high-intensity strength training: simple and compound exercises. Simple exercises involve movement around one particular joint (example - a bicep curl with rotation around the elbow). Compound exercises involve movement around multiple joints (example - chest press with rotation of both the shoulder and elbow joints). We incorporate both types of movements during our exercise sessions at Total Results, and both will go a long way toward helping you to maximize your genetic blueprint.

Simple exercises are more effective than compound exercises for directly targeting specific muscles. For example, while there is involvement of the posterior (rear) neck musculature in a compound Overhead Press exercise, you can more effectively and directly target that muscle group by performing a Cervical Extension exercise (either on one of our machines, or with manual resistance applied by your instructor). The rotator cuff is a small group of muscles located deep within the shoulder joint, and can be a source of inflammation and injury, particularly with athletes who throw balls, as well as many non-athletes as we age. The only way to effectively strengthen or rehabilitate these very small muscles is to perform an exercise called External Shoulder Rotation, which is a simple exercise (I have incorporated this exercise into my workout routine for many years). While simple exercises are very effective for targeting smaller muscle groups, performing an entire workout using these types of movements would be much less efficient and consume far more recovery resources than is optimal for stimulating maximum physical benefit.

Compound movements are usually easier for the beginning trainee to learn, involve a greater amount of muscle, are more physically taxing, cover more ground in a shorter period of time, and lead to a more effective exercise stimulus. The Leg Press will engage all of the muscles of your lower body in one exercise. The Pulldown exercise will involve all of the musculature of your upper body, with the exception of your neck. Even muscles that are not directly targeted will be stimulated during compound movements; this is what Arthur Jones (founder of Nautilus and Med-X exercise equipment) used to refer to as "the indirect effect." Remember, the primary objective of high-intensity exercise is to systematically fatigue the musculature sufficiently enough to stimulate an adaptive response. Working to muscular failure on a handful of compound movements will more efficiently stimulate body improvements than doing a large number of simple movements. We want to send the message to the body to adapt and grow stronger without using up too many recovery resources along the way.

Both simple and compound movements should have a place in any well-designed exercise routine. Your Total Results instructor will find the right prescription of each type of movement (as well as regulate the variables of frequency, volume, and intensity) to help you reach your potential, no matter what your goals are. Let us show you the way!

Posted January 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin