A Case for Compound

In my first article, I discussed the fact that our core philosophy of training at Dominate Athletic™ is training our athletes as athletes first, and not specifically rugby players or soccer players, etc. We endeavour to train our athletes as complete athletes and build them up to a certain complete standard before working with them specifically for their sport or position within that sport. So how do we go about training our athletes as complete athletes you ask? Well, here we go!

First of all, we pay attention to each and every physical quality.

These are:

  • Range Of Motion (Flexibility)
  • Coordination
  • Balance (muscular + proprioceptive)
  • Mobility (Especially in the Ankles + Hips)
  • Stability (Especially in the Knees, Lower Back + Scapulae)
  • Muscular Strength
  • Explosive Power
  • Speed (Reaction, Acceleration + Pure Speed)
  • Agility (Game Speed)
  • Endurance (Anaerobic + Aerobic)

So we fit all of these qualities into our training in one way or another but generally, that doesn’t mean that we focus on all of them at once though. Today we are going to focus on how we give our weightroom training the “complete” edge.

There are many things that we do and many training variables that we manipulate in order to train our athletes to be complete. We will in future articles delve deeper into these other aspects, but for today, we will focus on one way in which we develop complete athletes – and that is by the use of big, multi-joint, non-bodybuilder, non-isolationist, compound athletic exercises.

Why do we use Compound Exercises?

The reason we use compound, multi-joint exercises in our training programmes is, simply put, because we are athletes and not bodybuilders. Athletes need their bodies and muscles to work together to achieve an end, whereas bodybuilders do not need their muscles to do anything apart from look big and ripped. A body builder wins competitions by his aesthetic appeal alone, and what his muscles can do strength-wise, power-wise, or performance-wise is irrelevant.

So why do we see so many strength coaches training their rugby players, boxers or tennis players using bodybuilding exercise techniques and isolationist exercises? Why do we even see elite, professional athletes using programmes made up by “THE TOP SPORTS SCIENTISTS” that are purely isolationist? The answer to these questions I actually do not know. It does not make any sense! Are they just ignorant? Or did they earn their qualification studying “Muscle + Fiction”-type magazines? Who knows!

One way of tracking how this odd phenomenon has come about, is by taking a look back in time to see where we as the “athletic/strength community” have come from and what past influences have led us to where we are today. But that is a study for another time. Right now we need to get into more reasons why we at Dominate Athletic™ use compound exercises to develop our athletes into the most dominant of all.

So here they are:

  • Our bodies were designed for our muscles to work together.
  • The brain was made in such a way as to recognise movement rather than muscles, so we need to work our bodies in such a way as to develop sound, functional, athletic movement patterns and get strong in those patterns. Therefore, pick a squat movement ahead of a leg extension, as the latter has no athletic advantage whatsoever.
  • A muscle will get stronger if it learns to work together as a team with its synergists (assistants). Your bicep muscles will get stronger if they are trained along with the lats and deltoids doing pull ups than if they were trained with a purely isolation exercise like curls.
  • In sport you are never required to perform a task with one muscle group, but rather to use your muscles together in unison. We choose to train the way we play (to a certain extent).
  • Multi-Joint, Compound Exercises use a whole lot of muscle mass in one movement whereas isolation exercises use 1 or 2 muscles at a time. By activating more muscle mass drastically cuts down on the time you need to train as you can hit the whole body in 3 or 4 exercises if you choose them correctly. This concept of using compound exercises to save time has been talked about by the very successful Performance Coach, Joe De Franco, and he has coined the term “TRAINING ECONOMY” for this type of exercise selection. There are various other advantages to using more muscle mass at once – for example, for fatburning you are burning more calories per exercise, as the more muscle mass being worked requires more energy and therefore your caloric expenditure is higher.

There are other reasons for using compound exercises I am sure, but these are the major reasons why we at Dominate Athletic™ have decided to use these exercises for our training programmes.

Now just to make one thing clear, I realise it is very easy to jump to the conclusion that we at Dominate Athletic™ never use any form of isolation at all. Well, we do use isolation exercises very occasionally in our programmes.


  • To promote muscular balance.
  • For injury prehabilitation/rehabilitation.
  • For fun every now and then for the us to work on our “beach muscles”!!

So as you can see, the backbone of our training system is the big, compound moves, and then we just fill in some of the gaps with a sprinkling of isolation to finish off the development of the complete athlete.

Exercise Examples

Alright, the next logical step is to outline some of the compound exercises that we practise at Dominate Athletic™.

Here are a few for your perusal:

Bent Row
Bench press
Overhead Press
Pull Ups

Okay, there are many more that we use but this list is just a concise selection just to give you a small taste of what we tuck into at Dominate Athletic™ every week.


And there it is, “A Case for Compound”. Not all exercises are created equally so go out there and be wise by selecting compound exercises that will build you Big, Strong and Athletic in as short a time as possible.

Dig Deep!

Graham Dean.


    DOMINATE ATHLETIC™ is a specialised Athletic Performance Coaching Company based in Cape Town, South Africa.