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A Creative Compound Exercise Circuit
Part 1 of 1
By: Jackie Wright

A compound exercise is one that requires the use of two or more parts of the body. For example, a hip abduction/squat with an overhead body bar press, is a compound muscular strength training exercise. It is common, when performing a set or two of 8-12 repetitions of the exercise described above, due to the total-body exertion required, to also experience cardiovascular benefits. What an efficient method of training, particularly for those of you that do not have a great deal of time to devote to your exercise program!

This week we will feature a terrific six-compound exercise circuit, all low impact, which may be completed in 15-20 minutes, post warm-up, two-three times per week on non-consecutive days. All you need is a set of 5-12lb. dumbbells/kettlebells, a figure 8 tubing, long tubing with handles and you.

Depending upon your exertion level (i.e. the higher the intensity, the greater the number of calories you expend) and your body weight (i.e. the heavier you are, the more calories you will expend in general), you may anticipate expending approximately 100-400kcal per session. Next week, the exercise description details will be highlighted. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Compound Exercise Circuit Set-Up

Set up the circuit prior to warm-up and then perform a five minute warm-up of walking, marching, lifting knees up alternately, arm reaches over head, bringing the ratings of perceived exertion to a 1-2 which is very light to light exertion. Each station is 75 seconds; 30 seconds per set with a 15-second break to change sides or actively recover. You may repeat the circuit through 1-5 times depending upon your fitness level and allotted timing. Complete the program with a comprehensive cool down and stretch for all major muscle groups of the body.

  • Attempt to move efficiently from one station to the next permitting only 15-30 seconds between stations.
  • For all exercises: head/neck are a natural extension of your spine, shoulders rotated back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, knees relaxed and the shoulders/hips/knees/toes all facing the same direction where applicable.
  • When performing compound exercises, learn these patterns in part, then perform as a whole. For example, begin with the lower body component and then add the upper body into the pattern.
  • Due to the complexity of the exercises, choose lighter weight increments and lighter gauge tubing when learning the patterns. Master the skill, then progress to more challenging external resistance.
  • Be meticulous regarding your core engagement.
  • Be stable before you attempt to be mobile.

Station 1 - Squats w/kettlebell swing

*Tip: Choose a weight increment that you can completely control on the “swing” particularly at the shoulder joint and lumbar spine.

  • Begin standing with the feet approximately shoulder distance apart.
  • Hold the kettlebell in front of the body suspended directly in front of the pelvis with both hands on the handle.
  • Squat down toward the floor with the body weight in the heels, knees tracking over heels, as you swing the kettlebell between the inner thighs.
  • As you drive through the heels returning to a standing position, swing the kettlebell to shoulder height only.

Station 2 - Pushups w/kettlebell rows

*Tip: Master your pushups prior to attempting this advanced exercise. Choose kettlebells/dumbbells that you are able to row with from the pushup position. This will be a lighter increment than, for instance, a bent over row.

  • Assume a modified/full pushup position from the floor holding a kettlebell in each hand.
  • The hands/kettlebells should track directly underneath your shoulder joints and your body should be in a perfect modified or full plank.<
  • Lower the body down toward the floor until your arms form two, 90-degree angles at the elbow joints and as you push up, lift one kettlebell off the floor and row it back to shoulder height.
  • Then, lower the arm/kettlebell back to the floor, maintain your plank position, lower the body again and as you push up, lift the other kettlebell off the floor, rowing it back to shoulder height, then down.

Station 3 - Lunges w/biceps curls

*Tip: With this exercise you will generally not be able to effectively lift as heavy a weight increment as you would if you were just performing the biceps curl or the lunges alone.

  • Begin standing in a staggered, front to back lunge position with the legs approximately shoulder distance apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, arms fully extended.
  • Body weight predominately in the front heel/back heel elevated throughout the exercise.
  • As you lower the body into a lunge (no lower than 90-degree angle at knee joint), perform a biceps curl.
  • Drive through the front heel, extending both legs as you lower the forearms back to the extended position.

Station 4 - Kettlebell Getups

*Tip: This is a very challenging exercise, so be prepared to get winded!

  • Begin seated on the floor on the right hip, right leg extended from the hip (i.e. right leg is parallel to the front wall) and the left leg flexed at the knee joint, behind the right leg, knee facing ceiling, foot on floor. Right hand is on the floor beside the right hip/arm extended and remains extended throughout the exercise.
  • Hold the kettlebell in the left hand, palm facing forward, with the “bell” on the back side of the wrist, arm flexed at the elbow joint in front of the torso.
  • Stabilizing with the right arm, lift the hips off the floor, driving with the core/hips/legs as you extend the left arm to the ceiling.
  • Lower the body and left arm back to the beginning position.

Station 5 - Supine Hip Extensions w/Bench Press

*Tip: If you have a step platform or BOSU, you may place the heels on either to increase the challenge.

  • Begin lying supine on the floor with the legs flexed at the knee joint, knees facing the ceiling, heels on the floor, and one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Arms form a 90 degree angle at each elbow joint with upper arms parallel to the floor at shoulder height—palms face the wall in front of you, knuckles face the ceiling and the forearms are perpendicular to the floor.
  • Drive through the heels, engaging the glutes/hamstrings, pressing the pelvis toward the ceiling as you press/extend the arms toward the ceiling directly over and across the chest (i.e. target your sternum).
  • Make certain you do not hyperextend the spine as you press the pelvis toward the ceiling.
  • Lower the hips toward the floor until you are just about to touch the floor as you lower the arms back to the 90 degree angle at the elbow joint simultaneously.

Station 6 - Hip Abduction w/triceps press

*Tip: You may substitute a long tubing with handles, but you will need to synch it up leaving approximately 6-8 inches between the ends.

  • Begin standing, with the legs shoulder distance apart.
  • Hold one end of the figure 8 tubing in the right hand and suspend it behind the back so that you can grab the left end with the left hand.
  • Form a 90 degree angle at the elbow of the right arm so that the elbow faces the ceiling and the upper arm rests near to the right ear.
  • The left arm will work as the “anchor” behind the back at waist to hip height.
  • Lift the left leg out to the left side as you extend the right arm toward the ceiling without moving the left arm that is behind the back.
  • Keep the right/left shoulders fixed throughout.
  • Lower the left leg and right arm to the beginning position and then lift the right leg and extend the right arm again. Continue to alternate the legs as you perform the right triceps press.
  • Perform 8-12 right triceps presses, then switch to the left arm and repeat the entire sequence lifting the right leg first.
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