The Hunt for the perfect 13 compound lifts ??
June 27, 2008 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I've read somewhere that a workout regime consisting of 13 compound lifts is really all you need. Does anyone know which 13 lifts they may be talking about ? or can point me to the article ?

I'm curious to see what other folks think about doing predominantly compound lifting ?

I want to see more results with my workout and want to incorporate more compound exercises..
posted by hboogz to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Well, need for what? Weight loss? Aesthetics? Ability to run inside a burning building in a hundred pounds of gear and run out again carrying six toddlers?

I'm a big fan of compound lifts - but then, I'm not a bodybuilder and I'm not trying to infinitesimally increase my traps-to-delts ratio. I primarily train for overall fitness, and so I do deadlifts, squats, cleans, overhead presses (strict, push press, push jerk) as well as a lot of bodyweight stuff.

If you could clarify your goals, you'll probably get more specific answers (although if you're a firefighter, I'd just send you to Crossfit and be done with it.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:16 PM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks restless --

first part of the question is really trying to find the source of the person who indicated that all anyone really needs is 13 compound lifts -- no matter what your goals are. I'm curious to find the originating piece.

secondly -- i am concerned more about losing body fat and building strength, in that order.

my workout schedule is as follows:


10 min - cardio

Chest - 4 exercies / 3 sets x 8-10 reps
Shoulders - 4 exercies / 3 sets x 8-10 reps
Tris - 3 exercies / 3 sets 8-10 reps


10 - min cardio

Same as above, except i only do 3 leg exercises.

Friday/Sat - ARMS/ 30 min cardio
posted by hboogz at 1:22 PM on June 27, 2008

The nature of compound lifting is that you stop dividing the body up into "parts" like bis/tris/chest/back.

I would venture to guess that a few of the compound lifts they're talking about are:

1) Deadlifts
2) Squats
3) Bench presses
4) Overhead presses
5) Barbell rows
6) Lateral pulldowns or pull ups
7) Dips
8) Cleans
9) Snatches

Give or take a few.

I've maintained 7-9% body fat while slowly increasing muscle mass for the past year and a half. I am a competing powerlifter, so I don't do bulk/cut cycles, really. I'm trying to stay close to the max weight for my class.

I have been doing minimal cardio (intervals, swimming) but lifting 4 times a week for 1hr 30min each time. 90% of what I do is Westside style compound lifting. Here's what my split looked like this week:

Mon: heavy squat day
85% 1RM squat: 5x4
4x6-8 stiff-legged deadlifts from a deficit
4x10-15 weighted back extensions
4x25 misc abdominal exercise

Tues: heavy bench day / rows
85% 1RM bench press: 5x4
4x8 close-grip decline bench press
4x8 seated row
4x6-8 lateral pulldown

Thurs: speed squat day
60% 1RM squat, + 80lb chains: 8x3
4x8-10 front squat
4x6-8 rack pulls
2x2min wall sits

Friday: speed bench day
60% 1RM bench press + resistance bands: 5x3, 3x2
2x8, 2x6, 2x4 weighted dips
3x8-10 one armed incline dumbbell press
3x6-8 strict overhead press or push press

Mind you, this is with manageable or comfortable weight. I am trashed and half-coherent after most workouts when I go back to work (I lift with my team during my lunch break).

Try it if you like. What I can definitely say is that you will absolutely make strength gains, the gains in muscularity have been a steady and satisfying ancillary benefit, and the constant state of healing/metabolism/growth maintains a very high caloric deficit for me during the day, so I don't really have to worry about doing "fat burning" stuff and can eat what I want to eat, within reason.

PM me if you have any questions, I participate on several strength training/fitness/health boards and would be happy to give extra advice. To anyone, really.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Christ, I meant to say, "this is not with manageable or comfortable weight". Stupid meathead..
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:48 PM on June 27, 2008

You actually need far fewer than 13 for general fitness purposes. That's the whole advantage of doing compound exercises. To wit:

Bench press
Shoulder press
Lat pulldowns/pull-ups

The problem is doing those over and over would get pretty boring, but still -- you'll get probably 90% of the benefits of lifting if you do those or some close variation of them.
posted by decoherence at 1:52 PM on June 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well, that looks like a strict bodybuilder routine to me. Straight out of muscle and fiction, no offense. I don't know the source of the '13 compound lift assertion', but it's not uncommon for people to assert something along those lines-that most people do more exercises than they need, and at pretty low marginal utility.

Like restless_nomad, I have spent time on crossfit, and think it is an excellent program, in many ways.

If fat loss and overall strength are your goals, then big, heavy, compound movements are for you. You simply won't burn many calories or build strength and muscle on a routine filled with calf raises and concentration curls. So instead, focus on lifts that require you to lose lots of muscles, and allow you to move weights that are big for you. Also, your routine focuses too much on arms and not enough on the core. Here is my current routine. I run, doing half marathon training found on Hal Higdon's website, T-Th-Su. I lift on M-W-F.

Monday is Deadlift, Bench press, Dragon Flags (ab exercise), Glute Ham raises.

Wednesday is Squat, Overhead Press, Knees-to-elbows (abs, again), Hyperextensions

Friday is Clean and Jerk, Good Mornings, Weighted Chins, weighted dips.

So on each day I work most of my body; and each day has at least one 'core' exercise, each day has an exercise that hits the upper body hard, and each day has an exercise that hits the lower body hard. Each exercise is done only once a week. Last, there are no ticky-tacky/small weight/body building exercises. I can usually be in and out of the weight room for about 35-40 minutes for each workout. Challenging and time efficient.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 2:17 PM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've never heard of a magic number 13, only that compound was better and would inherently build up the core, whereas isolation exercises might not.

Tangentially, I've been trying a workout based on a single-set of about 8-12 reps, but the point is to keep doing reps until you can't possibly move the weight another millimeter. If you reach failure after 12 reps, next time you add more weight so that you can't get past 8 or 9.

It is certainly an excruciating workout for the few seconds you struggle on that last rep, but you get through about 10 exercises in less than 45 minutes. I've broken through some long-standing plateaus with this approach, and am definitely noticing the changes overall shape. And if nothing else, you will experience new and fascinating realms of sweating. Just a thought.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:32 PM on June 27, 2008

Crap. That should read 'use lots of muscles' not 'lose lots of muscles'.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 5:20 PM on June 27, 2008

As others have said, there's no way you need 13 of them. Because they are compound, they cover a lot of ground. Look at the Starting Strength program.
posted by creasy boy at 3:12 AM on June 28, 2008

Response by poster: I'd like to change my weight-lifting regime --

I'm just unsure as to the combination of exercises that should be done on a particular day..

I know that chest/shoulders/tris all sort of target the same motion..

Back/legs/bi's the same

so if i just did compound lifts, which lifts should be done on which day complimenting what other lifts ?
posted by hboogz at 3:51 PM on June 28, 2008

To simplify this, you could split them in multiple ways. If you pare down the lifts into the basics, you could just concentrate on doing maybe 3 to 5 lifts. So some people splits include push/pull, upper body/ lower body, or just do all three in one workout three times a week. The last one would be just for simplicity. Read up a little, pick something you like and go with it. It really isn't that complicated. Getting in the gym and doing it is fifty percent of the battle.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:27 PM on June 29, 2008

Here is a good article on splittin up workouts.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:03 PM on June 29, 2008

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