Multi-joint exercises for health and muscle building

Introduction:

As the name suggests, a multi-joint exercise is one which involves multiple number of joints. They are also known as compound movement exercises. In these types of exercises we train a set of muscle groups simultaneously.

The other type of exercises are isolation exercises. Isolation exercise involves only a single muscle. For example, dumbbell curl is an isolation exercise.

Yes, doing isolation exercises gives you a good pump. But, there is a difference between getting pumped and building big muscles.

And, that is, no matter how good the pump is it will fade away within couple of hours. On the other hand, muscles are permanent.

And, you certainly don’t want just to get pumped!

On the other hand, compound exercises won’t help you get pumped, but they will make sure that you build muscles faster.

It is not to say that isolation exercises are useless, but they are a part of the puzzle and not the entire puzzle.

Think of this way, compound exercises are the base on which a building stands and isolation exercises are the building blocks. 

multi-joint exercise

Is multi-joint exercise always better than isolation?

Both of them have equal importance. And, whether you should do compound or isolation exercise totally depends upon your goals.

If you want to live a healthy lifestyle and want to maintain the muscles you already have strong then multi-joint exercises are enough.

But, on top of being healthy you also want to build big muscles then you’ll need isolation exercises as well.

Secondly, if you are suffering from an injury than a multi-joint exercise can target the muscle that you don’t want to be targeted.

So, till the time you recover from the injury, you should stick to isolation exercises.

Benefits of multi-joint exercises

Fat loss

Multi-joint exercise will help you to lose fat faster than any isolation exercises. There are many reason to it. The most basic one is, since you are using multiple muscle groups the amount of energy required to do a multi-joint movement is more.

Some part of this energy comes from the glucose in the blood, some of it comes from the muscle glycogen and rest of it comes from the fat stored in the body.

It is seen that your body burns fat not only during performing heavy compound exercises, but also after the workout session.

It is important to use heavy weight in order to enhance the fat loss effect. People who can’t lift heavy or don’t want to lift heavy they can use light weights, but then number of reps should be increased.

Less time duration

Multi-joint exercises are very less time consuming. If you are doing heavy loads, then 4-5 compounds exercise is all you need to become strong and build muscles.

Whereas, in isolation exercises, you need to spend couple of hours in the gym, doing sets after sets of different  exercises and ending up with no satisfying gains.

Rate of force development

Rate of force development(RFD) is the measure of how quickly can a person reach the peak level of force. Having a high RFD helps you jump higher or throw longer or run faster.

Many athletes especially train to improve RFD, like basketball players, jumpers or Javelin throwers. Although, in normal day activities you don’t need to have high RFD but it can be life saving in some instances.

All of the multi-joint exercises doesn’t work on the RFD, but some of them does. And, they do a pretty go job, especially when done in combination.

Like, you can super-set deadlift with box jump to improve jumping power.

Increase Testosterone production

The most important benefit of multi-joint exercises is that, it increase the production of testosterone. Testosterone is a magical hormone, which not only helps you build muscle, but it also helps to increase fat loss.

Your body increase testosterone production when it feels that you need more muscles than you already have. This happens when you either push yourself very hard or when you break lots of muscle fibres.

Fortunately, multi-joint exercises both pushes you hard and break lots of muscle fibre.

Plus, having free testosterone in your body can be very beneficial to your health in multiple number of ways. Testosterone is known to increase your immunity and libido. And, helps to recover from injuries faster.

Improves core strength

Most of the multi-joint exercise involves your core and hence it helps in improving core strength. There are many reasons why you would want to improve the core strength.

Firstly, it helps you with posture, which not only makes you look better, but also gives you a sense of confidence.

Back injury is one of the most common type of injury. Having a strong core helps to prevent injury. With age people tend to develop a back problem, a strong core keeps such problems at bay.

Having strong core also makes your abs pop out more.

Good for heart health

Multi-joint exercises helps your heart in number of ways. First of all, when you use a number of muscles simultaneously your heart has to work hard to supply all that blood to different parts.

If you do exercises on regular basis your body adapts to this stress and makes the heart muscles strong. Which means over time less effort is needed by your heart to pump blood.

Secondly, cardio workouts are known to increase the number of blood vessels and strength training improves the size of the blood vessels. Multi-joint exercise improves the blood circulation by both building new vessels and expanding the old ones.

Unisex

Most of the multi-joint exercise can be done by both men and women. Many women have this fear that doing isolation exercises will make them jacked.

Multi-joint exercises distribute the stress over a number of muscles, which prevents you getting pumped on a particular muscle.

Women can do these exercises for losing fat while growing strength without getting bulky.

Different multi-joint exercises

Deadlift

Deadlift is probably one of the oldest and one of the best exercise. It engages your lower back, your quads, your glutes, hams, traps etc.

The core of this exercise is the stabilisation of your spine and shoulders. But, the most common mistake people make while doing it is curving their back and shoulders, which makes this exercise almost a useless one.

Apart from this, not arching your back properly can also lead to injuries.

Deadlift is the best exercise among all the multi-joint exercises, when it comes to building your core strength, provided you do it properly.

You’ll notice this after your first session of deadlift, that you’ll be taller and you’ll have a nice posture.

As mentioned before a deadlift movement uses lots of muscles, which makes you stronger overall. This will help you do day to day physical tasks with easy, like lifting a sofa.

Things to keep in mind while performing deadlifts

  1. Never curve your back or shoulders
  2. It is a two part movement.
  3. First part involves mostly your leg muscles.
  4. Second part, involves your back.

For example, while coming down you should only use your lower back and your knees should not move. This can be done by pushing your hips back.

And, when you can’t go any further down(just using your lower back), then you involve your hams, quads and glutes. You bend your knees forward and go down further. You must do just the opposite while going up.

Barbell thruster

If you have seen people doing barbell thruster only in the Olympics then you are not the only one. In spite of its worthiness you’ll see very few people doing it.

The reason behind that may be its complexity or the risk of getting injured. Yes, it is complex, there is no denying the fact. And, if not done properly it can lead to injuries. But, its pros can outweigh its cons very easily.

Now days, it is the most vital component of any crossfit workout. It not only helps in building strength, but also plays a part in improving your rate of force development.

What muscle group barbell thruster targets?

  1. Hams
  2. Quads
  3. Shoulders
  4. Back
  5. Triceps etc.

It can be broken down into a squat movement(squat clean) and a push-press movement. These two movements are compound own their own, but combining them takes the intensity to a different level.

Things to keep in mind while doing a barbell thruster:

  1. Do things in flow- From a squat clean position when to go up. As soon as you stand back you should start the pressing movement. And, don’t forget to lock your elbows at the top.
  2. The same logic must be applied while coming down. Start with squat movement as soon as the bar hit your front delts, you should start with the squat down movement. This will take pressure from your clavicle bone.
  3. Hyper-extend your neck to push the barbell far to the top.
  4. Try to keep the triceps as parallel to the ground as possible(while in squat clean position).
  5. Don’t try to go heavy or fast if you are a beginner. It is better to work on perfect postures and manoeuvres first and then work on the intensity.

Burpees

Burpees is most common element of an HIIT workout routine. It involves a series of task that are done in quick succession making them homogeneously integrated to appear as one manoeuvre.

Break down of one rep of burpees:

  1. Squat
  2. Push up
  3. Frog jump
  4. Jump squat

You can either start in a squat position or go down to squat position. Being in a squat position will target your hams, glutes, calves, quads, lower back and other small muscle groups.

Before doing a push-up you can get into a plank position, which will target your entire core. From there you can do push ups which is a very good exercise for your entire upper body.

Note– Make sure to do this exercise in quick succession, higher the intensity, the better results you’ll get. With burpees you don’t have to be in extremely correct form.

From the push up position you get back to squat position and perform a jump squat. Jumping is a very good exercises for you legs, it breaks more muscle fibres than squats or leg presses.

The best part about this multi-joint exercise is that you don’t need any equipment or weights to perform it. You can to this at home, at the gym or at a beach.

It is really a full body exercise and is very difficult to perform. It will take time for a beginner to get use to such high intensity.

Pull ups

All the above three compound exercises where more targeted towards your lower body. Pull ups is a complete workout for your upper body.

In fact, by doing different variations of pull ups you can target almost each and every upper body muscle properly.

It is very difficult for beginners to perform as it involves pulling your entire body weight without any help. The main thing you should keep in mind is strength comes with time.

Even if you do 2 reps at a time, it will be beneficial for you. And, it is better to do 2 reps with proper form then doing 10 sets with improper form.

Muscles targeted by pull ups:

  1. Back
  2. Shoulders
  3. Biceps
  4. Triceps
  5. Forearm
  6. Traps
  7. Chest

In the beginning you can ask someone to help you out a little bit, or if you have a pull-up machine at the gym you can use it too. Check this article to learn how to do more push ups.

 

Bench press

Bench press, although not as great exercise as deadlift or burpees, but it still is very important especially for the upper body strength and muscle growth.

A proper bench press movement can use your chest, biceps, triceps, front delts and your back. Bench press can be vaguely be divided into two types; wide grip and narrow grip.

Wide grip targets your chest, biceps and front delts more. On the other hand, narrow grip is for your triceps and also engages your middle delts too.

Note– It is important to engage your core while doing bench presses, as it will help you lift more and add more muscle groups to the set of muscles on which you are working.

If you are doing bench press it is better to do with free weights rather than using smith machine as it will take the stabilisation out of the picture.

Stabilising weights make any exercise difficult, due to this reason it is more beneficial.

 

Planks

It doesn’t necessarily fit the bill for a multi-joint exercise as it is based more on stability rather than multiple joint movement. But, it engages a number of muscle groups.

There are variety of planks. The way you do a plank will decide which muscle you target more and how intense the pain is.

You’ll see lots of people doing plank for 2-3 minutes. The basic idea is to do it in such a way, that is, make it so difficult that you shouldn’t be able to do it more than 20-30 secs.

Don’t let you body curve and look at your front. In the beginning make someone watch and guide you.

The best trick to do a plank properly is to rest on the two elbows and slowly slide your feet back until a point where starts hurting. Be at that point for 15-30 secs. The key is; the harder you make it the more you gain.

Benefits of planks:

  1. It makes your core strength, which in turn improves your posture.
  2. Helpful if you have an injury and you can’t move your joints.
  3. Very less time is needed for each set.
  4. You can choose your own intensity and build on it further.

Seated Russian twist

Seated Russian twist is a complete core exercise. In the video you see the model doing the twist with feet above the ground. As a beginner it is fine if you keep your heals on the ground.

Taking the heals of the ground will make the exercise more difficult and hence help you with maximum gains.

Things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Use only your core for the twist movement.
  2. Add weight to make the exercise more difficult.
  3. Lifting your feet off the ground will make you work for stabilisation too.
  4. The closer you keep the weights to your body, the easier it becomes and vice versa is also true.
  5. You can do this on a bench too.
  6. Squeezing hard at the end is important.
  7. It is better to go slow that way you can make sure that you are only using your core and not the momentum of your hands to perform the twist.

Box jump

Box jump is probably the simplest exercise on the planet, but it is not an easy one. To jump on a box you need use your ankle joints, your knee joints, your hip joints, your spine etc.

Box jumps are very important exercise for two main reasons. First of all, it allows you to develop your Rate of force development, which will help you to excel in pretty much every sport.

A high RFD will help you run faster, jump higher and throw longer distance.

Secondly, when you push yourself off the ground, it requires lots of force. This helps you burn more fat it very less period of time and you break more muscle fibres.

Breaking lots of muscle fibres will help you build more muscles and increase the production of testosterone.

Things to remember:

  1. To jump higher more force is required which breaks more muscle fibres.
  2. It is necessary to be in complete control. It will help you prevent injuries.
  3. If it is difficult to jump on the box, you can start with jumping stairs.

Kettle bell swing

Kettle bell swing can work on each and every muscle in your body. For example, it can work on your shoulders, chest, biceps, hams, quads, calves, traps and many more.

It is basically a amalgamation of both cardio and strength training. If your goal is to build muscles while losing fat then there is nothing better than kettle bells.

If you are above 40 and your goal is to maintain weight and prevent Sarcopenia, then 15 minutes of light weighted Kettlebell swing 3-4 times a week would be enough.

As it is a cardio in itself, you don’t need extra running or cycling to train your cardio vascular system.

Benefits of kettle bell swings:

  1. You can train pretty much every muscle in your body.
  2. You don’t need to do extra cardio if you maintain good intensity.
  3. You can buy a kettle bell and don’t need to go to gym.
  4. It is fun way to do cardio and strength training simultaneously.
  5. It is compact, so you can carry it anywhere.
  6. It is equally beneficially for both men and women.
  7. There are lots of moves you can do with kettle bell. You can design your own keeping in mind the muscles you want to train more.

 

Squats

Squat is one of the most common multi-joint move. It is right next to deadlift and bench press. Squat is vital part of a good leg workout. It majorly trains your glutes, quads, hams, calves and lower back.

Depending upon the distance between your feet and whether or not you allow your knees to bend forward decides which part you’ll train more or less.

If you allow your knee to bend past your toe, it will train more of your lower back and quads. And, if you keep your knees straight, the entire focus will shift to hams and calves.

After getting to body weight squats, you can move one level up to dumbbell squats and finally to barbell squats.

Things to keep in mind while doing squats:

  1. Arch your back while coming up or going down.
  2. Push through your heels and not your entire foot sole.
  3. Knee forward=Quads+back & Knee static = Hams + Calves
  4. Chest needs to be out all the while and look forward.
  5. The deeper you go the more you’ll stretch your quads and it will work n your abs too.

Dips

Again a very good upper body multi-joint exercise. It is almost as comprehensive as pull ups when it comes to upper body. The major difference between pull ups and dips is that, in pull ups you pull and in dips you push.

Dips targets the following muscles:

  1. Chest
  2. triceps
  3. biceps
  4. shoulders
  5. upper back
  6. traps

Depending on the alignment of your body you will train different muscles. For example, if you bend a little forwards on top of your triceps, you are also training your chest.

Being perfectly straight will cover the entire arm and traps too. No matter what you choose, you will train every muscle a little bit.

When you go down make you go up to a point where your triceps becomes parallel to the ground. You can go a little further down also, but it will increase the risk of getting injured 10 folds.

If you are not strong enough to do dips on a bar, then you can start by using a bench and after some time self-graduate to dip bars.

Wood chopper

As the name tells you have to mimic the task of wood chopping. It is very good exercise for your core and your arms. The best part about wood chopper is that you can do it with a dumbbell or cables or a kettle bell.

The effectiveness of this exercise depends upon how much you use your core(hips, back, abdomen) for the torque.

The farther you keep your hands from your body the more effective it will become.

How to do a woodchopper properly:

  1. Keep your feet pointing towards the direction where you want move. For example, if you want to go from left to right, then point your toes towards left.
  2. Keep looking straight and just rotate your torso. That means, your lower body and head will remain static and only your torso should rotate.
  3. Make sure to squeeze at the top and hold the weight there for at least 1 sec before coming back down.
  4. You can do this with cable, but it is better to do a woodchopper with free weights like dumbbell or kettle bell. The work you’ll put to stabilise the weight will make the exercise more fruitful.
  5. You can go up with a swift movement, but while coming down, go slow. Dropping the weights down with a jerk can cause an injury.

Although, there are variations of woodchopper. Different people like to it differently, but the main target is core. As long as you are doing it. Everything is good.

 

Injuries during multi-joint exercise

Multi-joint exercises uses various joints and muscle all at once, which make them prone to injuries. The most common injuries are of shoulder, back, elbow and knee. 

Many people tend to injure they back while deadlifting. The most common reason is because they don’t arch their back properly. If you pick heavy with a curvy back you are most likely to get injured. Dips is most responsible for shoulder injuries.

You can injure yourself by doing any multi-joint exercise. But, they can be prevented 99% of the time just by taking few measures.

Tips to prevent injuries:

  1. Warm-up – A full body warm up is necessary before doing multi-joint movements. You have to take special care of your shoulder as it is most susceptible to injuries. Jogging on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes is the best way to warm up. After that you can do quick-light weight exercise to warm up a particular body part.
  2. Drink water – A dehydrate body means the chances of cramps and muscle tears is high. Make sure to drink ample water.
  3. Go slow – There is a particular way to do an exercise. That particular way has been formulated after years of failing and learn. Try to stick to the basics. Don’t try t go too fast, especially if you are just starting. Going slow will also keep your muscle under tension for a longer period of time.
  4. Increase load gradually – It is important for you to increase the weight you use gradually. It will not only make you strong and ready for next level, but it also helps you to stick to proper form.
  5. Buy accessories – When you think you are ready to lift heavy ass weight, the first thing you want to buy is a gym belt. You can use strap too. It takes pressure from your wrist and forearms.
  6. Don’t over-exhaust – Almost all the compound exercises are very toll taking. So, doing 2-3 sets of 4-5 exercises is enough. But, if you overdo it, you can end up injured.