4 Compound Sets for Maximal Muscle Growth
- DAN NORTH
- Muscle Build
If there’s one thing about social media, it’s the fact that overly complicated exercises can be glorified while the basics don’t seem to get the credit they deserve. If your goal is to get substantially stronger and pack on dense muscle, nothing beats consistently tackling the basics for a long period of time. Boring answer, but it’s true.
But every now and then, it’s good to mix things up and introduce new training methods into your routine to keep your workouts motivating and challenging.
I offer these exercises as a way for you to keep your training from getting stale, not a replacement for the fundamentals.
What are compound sets?
How you organize your workouts when it comes to the pairing of exercises is going to effect how it impacts your body.
One of the most tried and tested ways to maximize muscle growth is through supersets (performing two exercises back to back).
A compound set is a subcategory of supersets where you perform a multi-joint (compound) lift before performing an isolation exercise that targets the same muscles immediately after.
This is beneficial from a hypertrophy standpoint since you are:
- Establishing a stronger mind-muscle connection. The compound lift you perform first acts as a “pre-exhaust” before moving onto the isolation exercise, where the targeted muscle has already been fatigued.
- Maximizing time under tension. This term gets thrown around a lot, but it’s importance to muscle growth remains true. If you want to get bigger, you need to make your muscles go through some tension.
Remember to not solely focus on supersets when it comes to the majority of your programming, but compound sets can be beneficial if you:
- Are strapped for time.
- Are travelling with minimal access to equipment.
- Want to change things up a bit.
Below are four examples of compound sets you can try out with two upper and two lower body-dominant sets.
1. ARNOLD PRESS X ECCENTRIC LATERAL RAISE
Anytime you’re super-setting shoulder stuff, it fucking burns. Our delts are relatively small, so the amount of loading they can handle is miniscule when compared to our bigger muscles, like the glutes or back.
The Arnold press is one of my favourite overhead variations given it’s rotational aspect, hitting all corners of the shoulder. Couple this with eccentric lateral raises, and you might need to buy new shirts.
Try 8-10 Arnold presses and 10-12 eccentric raises for 2-3 sets.
2. ALTERNATING ARNOLD PRESS X ALTERNATING LATERAL RAISE
A simple tweak from the previous compound set is to perform unilateral variations of both exercises.
In addition to the tension you’re creating through the compound set, you’re incorporating an isometric hold on the non-moving arm. This one ain’t easy, and man it burns.
3. DUMBBELL RDL (FEET FLEXED) X HIP BRIDGE (FEET FLEXED)
This is a hamstring-dominant set given the foot positioning on both exercises. With your feet flexed, you’re effectively recruiting your hamstrings to a greater degree as it acts as the primary hip extensor. Do this and you’ll slab some meat on the back of those legs in no time.
Try 8-10 RDL’s and 10-15 hip bridges for 2-3 sets.
4. 3-2-1 GOBLET SUMO SQUAT X FROG PUMPS
If you’re looking for a booty-building pairing, here you go. The wide stance squat mixed with frog pumps is a sure-fire way of waking up your sleepy glutes.
For the squat, you’ll perform a 3 sec lowering, 2 sec pause at the bottom once you’ve hit depth, and 1 sec concentric phase up. To maximize it’s effect, imagine you’re standing on a sheet of paper and you’re trying to rip it apart. Think “spreading the floor apart” to maintain optimal hip and knee positioning.
Frog pumps are one of my go-to glute isolation exercises. They’re different from a standard hip bridge given the foot positioning. Since your feet are together on an angle, your glutes are acting as the primary hip extensors (as opposed to your hamstrings during a standard hip bridge with your feet flat or flexed on the floor).
Try 8-10 sumo squats and 20 frog pumps for 2-4 sets.
Compound sets are meant to enhance your training, not replace the fundamentals. The best way (maybe the only way) to get stronger and look jacked is to practice the fundamentals consistently for a long period of time. Every now and then, you can change things up by using training methods like compound sets to maximize muscle tension and keep your training from getting stale.