Whether you want bigger arms, thicker legs or a wider back, you need to incorporate compound movements into your workout program. Compound movements are exercises that engage multiple muscle groups. Examples of compound exercises include:
- Dead lifts -- bending at the knees to pull a barbell from the ground to your waist
- Squats -- literally squatting down with a barbell across your shoulders and pushing back to an erect posture using your legs
- Pull-ups -- grasping a mounted overhead bar and pulling your chin above it
Compound exercises allow weightlifters to move more pounds than they would be able to do in an isolation-style exercise. That weight is important. Why? To adapt to the stress of weightlifting, the body produces testosterone and human growth hormone to stimulate muscle growth [source: Frisch]. This hormonal response produces muscular development all over the body. ''The people in the gym with the biggest arms are the people doing squats, dead lifts and the heavy compound movements,'' says James Malvesti, fitness director at Fuzion Sports Club in Braintree, Mass.
That's not to say that bicep curls, tricep extensions and other isolation exercises aren't beneficial. Just make sure you stick those exercises at the end of a workout -- after you've taxed yourself with dead lifts and squats first.