Compound Exercises, TelePhysio, Vancouver Physiotherapist

Compound Exercises: The Secret to Functional Movement and Reducing Injury

Doing compound exercises improves functional movement, which might reduce your need for TeleRehab down the road. Sounds pretty good, right? In this week’s blog, we highlight the importance of incorporating compound exercise into your fitness routine to support functional movement. Functional movement improves our everyday activities while reducing the risk of injury, especially for ageing bodies. 

What is Functional Movement? 

Functional movement refers to movement patterns that mimic everyday activity. It is improved by strengthening multiple major muscle groups through compound free weight or body weight exercise. Strengthening major muscle groups benefit activity patterns outside of the gym in everyday life.

Everyday movement patterns can be categorized into push, pull, hinge, squat, and rotate. These patterns are performed when we: 

  • Get in and out of the car, or stand up from the couch
  • Bend down to pick up your child or grandchild
  • Push a heavy door open 
  • Reach for something heavy on a top shelf 
  • Carry groceries up a flight of stairs 
  • Tie your shoe
  • Play badminton with your kids
  • And so much more…
Functional movement originated in rehabilitation spheres such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The founding purpose was to help patients recover from a movement injury by strengthening major muscle groups in order to ease back into everyday activity patterns without discomfort. 

Compound Exercises Prepare You for Life

Functional movement is improved by incorporating compound exercises. But what does “compound exercise” really mean, and why is it important?

Compound exercises recruit multiple major muscle groups at one time. Examples of compound exercises include the classic “big three” lifts: the squat, bench press and deadlift. These movements are examples of multi-joint movements. For example, the squat utilizes the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, core and calves. The bench press utilizes chest, triceps and deltoids. The deadlift utilizes the hips, knees, core and, well, most of the body.

These three lifts are functional movements because they recruit multiple muscle groups and movement patterns that simulate real life. For example, a deadlift simulates picking up bags of groceries off the floor. Squats simulate sitting down and getting up from the couch. Bench press simulates pushing a heavy door open. These are only three examples of compound exercises—there are many. 

Save Time, Stay Home, and Stay Safe with Compound Exercises

With proper technique, there are several benefits to incorporating compound exercises into your fitness routine. These include saving time, not needing fancy gym machines and reducing the risk of injury. 

Using compound exercises, you’ll achieve a full body workout more quickly because more than one muscle group is working. Compared to performing isolated exercises, your heart rate will be higher throughout the workout. This means that your fitness routine will become more efficient and will save you time. 

One of the best things about compound exercises is that you do not need fancy gym equipment. Most of the weight lifting machines you see at the gym are for isolation exercises. Isolated movements work only one muscle group at a time, which isn’t necessarily beneficial for functional movement. Conversely, you can perform compound exercises at home with resistance bands, dumbbells, or just your body weight. If you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells, get creative by using common household items such as laundry detergent or windshield fluid jugs. 

Finally, as we discussed, compound exercises promote mobility, improve coordination, build strength and act as cognitive stimulation. For older populations, compound exercises reduce the risk of injury, since improved strength and balance lowers the risk of falls. Therefore, compound exercises are not just for the young and able—they’re movements that everyone should be doing. 

Our Bodies are Complex Systems—Not Individual Parts

Our bodies are whole, complex systems and not individual parts. The human body is meant to perform movements that recruit more than just one muscle group at a time, such as walking or climbing stairs. This is an important principle when it comes to rehab.

In our TeleRehab practice, we will treat your injury with the understanding that it is part of a whole system. We will work with you and your whole body to address the root cause of your aches and pains (see last week’s blog), rather than giving you some simple exercises and hanging up the phone. (That said, there is a time and place to isolate one muscle group—such as strengthening a particular muscle after injury or underuse.)

Get in Touch 

Our TeleRehab service includes exercise programs catered to your goals. Whether you have aches, pains or questions about compound exercises, we’re just a phone call away. Get in touch with us today for your free initial 20 minute treatment!