Premier Private Personal Trainer & Online Coach

The 10 Best Multi Joint Exercises To Optimize Your Gym Sessions

By: Zack Mathews - NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1


multi joint exercises

What Are Multi Joint Exercises?

Multi joint movements are exercises that recruit multiple muscles while performing a set.  They are often called compound exercises by many people in the fitness industry.

The advantage of these types of exercises is that you will be working harder and activating more muscles every time you prioritize these exercises.

For example, a barbell squat is a multi joint movement.  You are working your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, core, and calves. A leg extension is an isolation movement, meaning it’s only working a single muscle, in this case the quads.

Both are great exercises but since you get more bang for your buck with compound exercises, they should be what most of your workout consist of.

The 10 Best Multi Joint Compound Exercise List

5 Upper Body Compound Multi Joint Exercises

Barbell Bench Press

It’s not called the king of upper body exercises because it’s easy!  The barbell bench press is considered a multi joint upper body push exercise because it works your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Whether you prefer a flat bench, incline, or decline, the barbell bench press will target all of those muscles.

Low Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

Performing upper body push movements can be done using dumbbells in addition to barbells.

One of my favorites is the low incline dumbbell chest press.  I like the angle that it provides and dumbbells are safer for your shoulders so you are getting a more joint friendly multi joint exercise here.

Again, the incline is my preferred method, but you can do these on a flat bench or decline.  Here are other chest press variations I enjoy.

Barbell Overhead Press

Another multi joint push movement is the overhead press.  It can be performed with either dumbbells or a barbell.

Although it is a push movement, it is done in the vertical plane where as the previous two exercises were horizontal.

A mixture of both vertical and horizontal push exercises should be part of your workout routine.

Lat Pulldowns

Now we get into the multi joint pull exercises.  The first is the lat pulldown.

With this exercise, you are working multiple muscles in your back, your biceps, and your forearms.

It’s an amazing exercise for beginners since it’s machine based and you control how much weight you use.


A harder variation of pull multi joint exercises are variations of pull-ups. These can be done on a regular bar, assisted, or with bands.

You will be working similar muscles as your lat pulldown so that is a great exercise to get better at if you struggle with pull-ups.

Pull-ups and chin-ups are very similar so choose the variation that feels best.  Never done a chin-up before? Follow this guide to get your first one.

multi joint compound exercises for upper body

5 Lower Body Multi Joint Movements

Barbell Squats

The barbell squat is often called the king of all exercises.  

You are working all the muscles in your lower body, your core, and there is even a level or shoulder mobility required to perform these correctly.

When it comes to compound multi joint exercises, you can’t go wrong with a classic barbell squat.

If you are new to the gym, I recommend starting with bodyweight squats and then goblet squats before working with a barbell, which still are compound multi joint exercises.

Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats are performed on one leg, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be easier than squats. 

Quite the opposite actually!

These are one of the hardest single leg exercises because of the degree of strength and balance required to perform them correctly. 

They are a great exercise that target your quads, glutes, and core.

Trap Bar Deadlifts

The first two multi joint leg exercises were both knee dominant squat movements. 

For a well rounded workout, you also want to be targeting hip dominant exercises that are performed by hinging.

The trap bar deadlift, or any deadlift variation of your choosing, will do that for you.

Doing hinge movements will require extra recruitment in your hamstrings along with your glutes, calves, and lower back.

Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift, often called RDL’s, is another hinge multi joint movement that has you starting from a standing position with the bar.

Depending on your knee position, you can make these more of a glute or hamstring focused exercise, but you are still working multiple muscles.

Dumbbells or a barbell are acceptable for these!

Walking Lunges

And here we are at the end of our examples of multi joint exercises, the walking lunge.

Any lunge variations is a compound exercise so you can do what feels best for you based on experience and how your knees feel.

Most lunge vacations work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs.  Since it’s a single leg exercise, your core muscles are also being recruited.

multi joint movements for lower body


Should I Only Perform Multi Joint Exercises?

Multi joint exercises give you the best bang for your buck so the majority of your workout should include movements like the ones above but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do.

Sprinkle in isolation exercises such as bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, lateral raises, leg curls, and leg extensions for a well balanced workout.

You can use the isolation exercises as movements to get extra work on a specific area.

How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do Of Multi Joint Movements?

Generally speaking, for most multi joint exercises, you can perform a variety of rep ranges and that will depend on how long you have been training and what your goal is.

Most of the time, 3 - 15 reps for 3 - 4 rounds is a wide, but realistic set and rep range.  

If you want to learn more about specific exercises, check out these guides below.


I’ve provided you with 10 of my favorite multi joint exercises but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more!  There are hundreds of variations of these compound movements that will target multiple muscles.

As long as you focus on picking a mix of pull, push, hinge, and squat multi joint exercises, you’re going to see great results!

Happy lifting!