How to Do Compound Back Exercises

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on June 30, 2022
5 min read

Compound exercises are the most comprehensive set of training to stimulate muscle mass. These exercises engage your whole body, including your glutes, forearms, back, and core. They may include heavy equipment. 

You can do compound exercises for the back just by standing in one position with proper balance. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and push-ups are some common types of compound exercises that keep you in shape. 

Compound exercises work several muscles at the same time. Common compound back exercises are squats, pull-ups, and reverse lunges. Squats work your glutes, calves, and quadriceps, while reverse lunges target your abs, hamstrings, and biceps.

You can combine two exercises if you want to target more muscles. For example, reverse lunge with bicep curls or squats. Compound exercises help you get quicker and more effective results than isolation exercises. Compound and isolation exercises are quite different, as isolation exercises work a single group of muscles.

Compound workouts for the back target almost every body muscle to improve its overall strength. Some of the primary compound exercises muscles worked include:

Lats. It is a large, flat back muscle that stretches in a V-shape to your arms to connect them to the vertebral column. These muscles stabilize your spine and support your back and shoulder during the workout.

Glutes. The glute is the primary extensor muscle of your hips. This muscle is also known as the gluteus maximus, the outermost muscle. It is a dense, fleshy mass that covers your entire hips and makes them look quadrilateral. The gluteus maximus is the largest among the three gluteal muscles.

Quadriceps. They are a large muscle group consisting of the four muscles that make up your thigh's front part. Quadriceps are also known as quadriceps femoris, quads, or quadriceps extensors. They are the extensor muscles of your knee, forming a large, fleshy mass covering the femur's front and sides.

Abs. Also known as abdominal muscles and the rectus abdominis muscle, abs are a pair of two straight muscles present parallel to each other. The linea alba (a midline connective tissue band) separates both the muscles. 

Hamstrings. Your thigh area consists of three posterior muscles, known as the hamstrings. These muscles often have several injuries, especially for fitness enthusiasts or athletes. So, you need to be gentle on your hamstrings when doing compound exercises for your back.

Shoulders. Your shoulder muscles consist of the deltoid muscle, which is further divided into anterior and posterior deltoids. The deltoid muscle makes up the rounded contour of your shoulders. The anterior deltoid has clavicular muscle fibers, while the posterior deltoid consists of spinal fibers.

Core. Your torso is primarily known as the core. It consists of major muscles, including the belly, mid and lower back, hips, shoulders, and neck.

Forearms. It is the upper limb area between the wrist and the elbow.

You can do compound back exercises in various ways. The most common ones are:

Deadlift. This compound exercise works your entire posterior, including your glutes, forearms, hamstrings, back, and core stabilizers. You'd need a barbell for this exercise.

  1. First, put the barbell on the floor and stand with feet hip-width apart. Keep your toes under the bar.
  2. Now, move your hips backward while keeping your core tight and spine straight, just like downward squats. 
  3. Place your hands on the bar a bit wider than your thighs and hold it. 
  4. Gently put force through your heels and start lifting.
  5. Keep the bar close to your body as you lift while raising your hips simultaneously.
  6. Squeeze your glute as you come back to your original position. Then, again, lower the bar and hinge your hips.

Squat. Squats improve the movement of your ankles and hips. They also work your posterior chain, quads, core stabilizers, and lower legs. Proper form is necessary to get the desired results from squats.

  1. First, stand straight and open your feet shoulder-width.
  2. Now, tighten your chest and engage your abs by shifting your weight toward your heels. Push your hip backward.
  3. Go down until your thighs come parallel to the ground. Keep your knees aligned over your toes.
  4. Tighten your core and keep the chest out as you stand back. Make sure to squeeze your glutes. 

High plank rotation. This is a variation of the standard plank that involves the rotation of the spine. It works your abs and shoulders. 

  1. Lie down in the push-up position with legs at a hip-width distance apart. Keep your cores engaged. 
  2. Now, move your right hand toward the floor while squeezing your glutes and thighs. 
  3. Lift your arm back while twisting your shoulders and hips toward the left. Repeat this action.

Pull-ups. This exercise works with your arms, lats, lower pelvis, spine, shoulders, core, grip, and back. Pull-ups strengthen your lats and enhance your postural stabilization. 

  1. Grab a pull-up bar by fully extending your arms.
  2. Make sure to use the full range of motion. Pull your body up while working your shoulder, girdle, and other muscles until your chin comes over the bar. 
  3. Now, lower your body gradually until your arms become fully extended.

Push-ups. Push-ups engage your shoulders, arms, core stabilizer, pectoral muscles, glutes, lats, and legs. You need to gain dynamic control over your body to prevent it from sagging.

  1. Come to the traditional push-up position with your hands on the floor with wide-spread fingers. 
  2. Make sure that your hands are under your shoulders.
  3. Now, tighten the shoulders, squeeze your glutes, and force the heels away.  
  4. Keep your head straight with the body. 
  5. Bend your elbows while lowering your chest toward the floor. 
  6. Return to the original position while keeping your glutes, legs, and shoulders engaged. 

If you're just starting, it's better to consult a professional trainer about developing your workout plan. Start gradually, and then increase the intensity of your workout routine. 

Some other compound back exercise variations include:

  • Loaded Carries
  • Bent-over row
  • Chest-supported row
  • Single-arm dumbbell row
  • Inverted row
  • Lat pulldown
  • Neutral grip pulldown

All these compound exercises for the back engage your entire body to enhance strength and muscle mass.

Strength training is beneficial for your health. These exercises maintain your body shape and strengthen your back and core muscles. Below are some benefits of compound exercises:

  • Gain more muscle mass. Compound exercises work your whole body to help you gain more muscle mass. They increase metabolism and strengthen your back muscles simultaneously.
  • Burn calories. Various compound exercises elevate your heart rate, burning more calories.
  • Enhance flexibility. Compound exercises are plyometric exercises that include cardio and resistance training. They make your body more flexible.
  • Increase bone density. Squats enhance your bone density. Almost all compound back exercises help prevent several bone-related disorders as you age.

You must learn the proper technique to do compound back exercises to prevent injuries. It's recommended to work with a fitness professional. They will tell you if you're doing these exercises correctly. 

A trainer will also help you determine the proper weights. It's safe to start with light weights and then gradually increase them. 

Over time, you'll learn how to do compound exercises correctly on your own. Make sure you feel the burn on your core, shoulders, and lats. Drink plenty of water between sets to keep yourself hydrated.