Hang around a gym long enough and you’ll probably hear talk of compound versus isolation moves. Say what? It’s pretty self-explanatory, actually.
Compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups. Squats, for example, recruit your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and even your core for stability.
Isolation movements, like the leg extension machine, zero in on just one muscle.
Both forms of exercise have merit, depending on your goals. But frankly, we like compound moves because they work more muscles in less time. (And who isn’t time-crunched these days?)
These 25 moves will not only slash your workout time but also challenge your upper body, lower body, and core in totally creative ways, so you’ll never get bored.
For some of the moves, you’ll need a medium-weight kettlebell or dumbbell. The workout at the end was provided by Brynn Putnam, certified trainer and founder of Refine Method.
1. Box crawl
Start on hands and knees. Lift knees off the floor until hips are slightly higher than shoulders and you’re supported by the balls of your feet.
Crawl forward, stepping with right hand and left foot, then left hand and right foot. Crawl in a box formation, with 2 crawls in each direction: forward, to the right, to the back, and to the left.
2. Bird dog
Start on hands and knees, keeping shoulders over wrists and hips over knees.
With your abs engaged, reach right arm forward so it’s in line with your ear and simultaneously extend left leg straight back. Repeat on the other side.
3. Rotational lunge
Start standing. Step right foot back, bend knees, and engage glutes, hamstrings, and quads as you lower into a lunge position. Reach arms straight out in front of your chest, with hands clasped together.
Squeeze glutes and abs. Keeping shoulders and hips in one line, rotate 180 degrees toward right shoulder, pivoting on the balls of your feet. You should now be in a lunge facing the opposite direction.
Rotate left, back to starting position. Make sure you rotate with enough force so that you almost knock yourself off-balance. Use your abs to stabilize.
4. Hinge and reach
Kneel with right foot forward so you’re supported by your left knee. Reach right arm overhead, engaging abs and glutes.
Reach left hand out on a diagonal in front of you, hingeing at hips to touch the floor while keeping right arm up. Using your obliques, slowly return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
5. Rotational squat lift
Stand with feet wider than hip width, holding one weight with both hands. Send hips back, engage glutes, bend knees, and lower into a squat, bringing the weight to your left hip.
Stand and lift the weight on a high diagonal toward right shoulder. Focus on keeping hips forward and abs engaged as you allow your shoulders to twist. Repeat on the other side.
6. Quadruped row to arm extension
Start on your hands and knees. Make sure you have a weight near your right hand.
Pick up the weight. Using your upper back and shoulders, perform a row, pulling the weight up toward right ribs.
At the top of the row, elbow should be hugged close to your body and forearm should be in line with natural waist. Lower the weight back to the floor.
Still holding the weight, straighten right arm and simultaneously raise your straight left arm, reaching until arm is in line with left ear. Focus on keeping shoulders pressed down and neck long throughout (no scrunching).
Repeat on the other side.
7. Push-up with row
Start in a high plank position. Perform a push-up, and then perform a row with your right arm, squeezing shoulder blades together and engaging upper back to pull elbow toward waist.
Do another push-up, this time rowing with left arm. Focus on keeping chest down (not twisting in the direction you lift). Continue alternating sides.
Make it harder: Place a weight next to each hand and lift the weight when performing each row.
8. Squat to overhead press
Hold a weight with both hands at your chest. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Send hips back and bend knees as you come into a low squat.
Stand and press the weight overhead in one fluid movement. Bring the weight back to your chest.
Make it harder: Hold a kettlebell upside down in one hand, balancing so the bell always faces the ceiling.
9. Step-up with press
Holding a weight at your chest, step up onto a step, bench, or chair with right foot. Focus on engaging right glute and right hamstrings (not just pushing off with left foot) as you step up.
As you straighten right leg, press the weight overhead with arms by your ears and shoulders pressed down. Bring the weight back to chest and slowly step left foot back down. Repeat on the other side.
10. Squat with biceps curl
Hold a weight in front of your hips with straight arms and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Perform a squat.
At the bottom of your squat, perform a biceps curl, bending at elbows to bring hands to shoulders and extending all the way back down before rising to the starting position.
11. Plank jack with tap-up
Start in a high plank position. Jump feet hip-width apart, then back together, keeping core tight throughout. Still holding a high plank, tap left shoulder with right hand, then right shoulder with left hand.
Use your core to make sure your hips don’t twist. Repeat the entire sequence as quickly as possible while maintaining proper form.
12. Hip drive into triceps extension
Sit on the floor with your butt resting on your heels. Hold a weight against your chest with both hands.
Squeeze glutes and drive hips forward to an upright kneeling position. At the same time, press the weight overhead.
Bend elbows, using triceps to lower weight behind head. Press weight back up, then lower it to chest before returning to starting position. Focus on engaging your core throughout the exercise.
13. Split squat chop
Holding a weight with both hands, step right foot back and hold. Reach the weight up on a high diagonal toward right shoulder, keeping hips facing forward and allowing shoulders to twist.
Bend knees and lower into a lunge as you bring the weight toward left hip in a chopping motion. Return to starting position with the weight on a high diagonal. Repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: Keep the weight at your chest as you perform the lunge.
14. Hip drive halo into bottoms-up lunge
Sit on the floor with your butt resting on your heels. Hold a weight against your chest with both hands.
Squeeze glutes and drive hips forward to an upright kneeling position. Step right foot forward.
Engaging abs, circle the weight around your head, making a “halo.” Bring the weight to your chest and step up to stand, keeping left foot off the floor.
Lower your left knee back to the floor and reverse the entire movement to return to starting position. Repeat on the other side, making sure to halo the weight in the opposite direction.
Make it easier: Perform the same movement, but skip the halo. Complete the hip drive to kneeling lunge to standing position without pause.
15. Reverse lunge with biceps curl
Start standing, holding a weight in each hand, with palms facing forward. Step right foot back, engaging glutes and abs to lower into a lunge.
Perform a biceps curl, keeping shoulders pressed down and abs tight. Lower the weights and step right foot forward to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
16. Glute bridge chest press
Lie faceup with knees bent, core engaged, and hands at your sides holding weights. Squeeze glutes to raise hips into a bridge.
Perform a chest press by pushing both weights up over chest, engaging pectorals. Lower weights and hips together.
Make it easier: Drop the weights and practice raising your arms in a chest press motion, creating your own resistance.
17. Glute bridge with overhead press
Lie faceup with knees bent and core engaged. Holding a weight with both hands just below your sternum, squeeze glutes to raise hips into a bridge.
Push the weight straight up, then slowly lower it overhead with elbows slightly bent. Slowly bring the weight back overhead, then lower it to your chest before lowering hips to the floor.
Make it easier: Skip the overhead press. Hold weight in place while lifting hips or extend weight up without bringing it overhead.
18. Hip thrust abs rocker
Sit with knees bent and legs hip-width apart. Place hands on the floor directly under shoulders, fingers facing away from your body. Squeeze glutes and lift hips straight up so you’re in a tabletop position.
Lower hips back to the floor. Engage your abs and lift hands and feet off the floor, reaching arms forward.
Lean back and extend legs forward, coming into a V shape, keeping your shoulders and upper back off the floor. Return to starting position.
19. Lateral lunge with chest press
Stand with feet wider than shoulder width, holding a weight in both hands at your chest. Lean to the right, pushing hips back, bending right knee, and keeping left leg straight.
You should feel your right glute engaged and a stretch in your left leg. At the lowest part of the lunge, push the weight forward, engaging pectorals (chest muscles).
Your arms don’t need to get totally straight. Focus on keeping your upper body upright. Pull weight back to chest and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
20. Single-leg deadlift to hammer curl
Stand on your right foot with knee slightly bent, holding a weight in your left hand. Keep back straight as you hinge forward at hips.
With left leg straight out behind you, let arms relax at shoulders and weight hang toward the floor.
Engage glutes and hamstrings to slowly stand. Perform a biceps curl, keeping shoulders down and engaging your core for stability.
21. Single-leg Romanian deadlift with row
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in right hand. Lift right foot off the floor and hinge at your waist, leaning forward with a straight back. Think of your body as one straight line from head to heel.
Let right arm naturally fall forward so it’s perpendicular to your torso. At the lowest point, perform a row with the weight. Return to starting position.
Make it easier: Skip the row.
22. Push-up to side plank
Start in a high plank position and perform a push-up. Lift left hand off the floor and rotate your hips to come into a side plank on your right hand, extending left arm up.
Return to high plank. Perform another push-up and repeat the side plank on the other side. Make sure to keep your shoulders and hips moving in the same line.
23. Low-to-high Spiderman plank
Start in a forearm plank, with shoulders directly over elbows and core tight. Push off right forearm to come to right hand, then repeat on left side to come to a high plank position with shoulders over wrists.
Keeping abs tight and hips still, bring right foot toward the outside of right hand and tap the floor so you’re in a low lunge position for a moment.
Return to high plank, then tap left foot to outside of left hand. Return to starting position.
24. Squat jumpback to push-up
Stand with feet hip-width apart and lower into a squat. Jump back into a high plank position, keeping abs tight and hands under sternum.
Perform a push-up. Hop feet forward to a wide squat so hands are between feet. Stand up and jump.
Make it easier: Step back one foot at a time into the high plank (instead of hopping) and skip the push-up.
25. Side plank with leg lift
Start in a right side forearm plank with feet stacked, hips lifted, core engaged, and shoulder directly above elbow. Raise left leg 6 inches, then slowly lower. Repeat on the other side.
Now put ’em together with this highly efficient and super-creative workout created by Brynn Putnam, certified trainer and founder of Refine Method (who also models the exercises).
Grab a kettlebell and perform each exercise for 60 seconds, resting for 30 seconds between exercises. Repeat the full circuit up to 3 times.
- squat to overhead press
- quadruped row to arm extension
- rotational lunge
- hip drive halo into bottoms-up lunge
- box crawl
Finish the workout with a squat jumpback to push-up sequence. Perform 10 reps in 60 seconds and rest for the remaining amount of time.
When the time is up, do 9 reps in 60 seconds, then 8, 7, 6, etc. Your workout will be complete when you finish 1 rep in 60 seconds.
Special thanks to our friends at Lululemon for outfitting our model.