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The 5 Best Compound Exercises That Burn More Fat

These moves will help you build strength and speed up the fat burn.

If you aren't doing compound exercises in your routine, it's about time you hop on the bandwagon. According to Caley Crawford, NASM-CPT and director of training and experience for Row House, the beauty of compound exercises is that they allow you to complete a productive, effective workout where you're doing "more work in less time." Thanks to Crawford, we have some pretty stellar compound exercises that burn more fat so you make the most of your fitness sessions.

"[Compound exercises train] your muscles to work together which will translate to be more functional in your everyday life," Crawford explains. "You'll activate more muscles at once, which will not only build strength, but it also trains your heart more efficiently. When more muscles are working, it requires more oxygen, which means your heart has to work harder so you'll see more cardiovascular benefits, sooner. More muscles activated also correlates to more muscles growing and building strength which results in higher caloric, and fat burn."

If you're looking to speed up the fat burn, Crawford offers five compound—and/or "large muscle group"—exercises that totally trump traditional isolated exercises like tricep extensions and bicep curls. Keep reading to learn all about them, and next, don't miss 7 Top-Recommended Compound Exercises To Melt Belly Fat.

Dumbbell Thruster

dumbbell thrusters illustration

This exercise is a total-body movement compounding an overhead press with a squat. Crawford favors dumbbell thrusters over barbell thrusters because the dumbbells establish more instability that really activates the stabilizers in your shoulders. Gear up to work your core, lower body, and upper body at the same time.

To set up, Crawford instructs you to position your feet shoulder-width distance apart, and have a dumbbell in each hand. The weights should be held in a "front rack hold," meaning the head of the dumbbells should be gently resting on your shoulders. Then, lower into a squat by hinging your hips back, bending both knees, and lowering your hips until your thighs reach a parallel position to the floor.

Crawford continues to explain, "As you rise up from the squat, use the momentum from your legs to push the weight above your head. Straighten your arms fully overhead and hold the weight in a stable position for a second. Lower the weight back to your shoulders (front rack position), and then immediately begin another squat, repeating the process."

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Man Maker or "Human Maker"

The man maker, or what Crawford likes to call the "human maker," is another total-body move that mainly targets your shoulders, chest, core, and triceps. It can also activate your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

To set up, start in a high plank position. Your hands should be on a set of dumbbells that are placed shoulder-width distance apart.

First, complete a renegade row by raising one of the weights up to meet your ribcage, making sure your hips and shoulders remain square to the ground. Switch between your left and right sides.

Then, it's time for a pushup. Complete one pushup while holding the weights. For extra points, try to perform a "deficit pushup" by lowering your chest all the way to the floor.

Next, you'll do a dumbbell clean. Bring your feet in closer to your hands, and explosively bring the dumbbells up to each shoulder, making sure they form a front rack position.

Now, complete a front squat by bringing your hips down until they reach a parallel position to the floor, making sure your body weight remains in both heels. The dumbbells should be in a front rack position once again.

Lastly, wrap up the exercise with an overhead press. Straighten out your legs and bring the dumbbells above your head until your arms are totally straight. If the weight of the dumbbells is too heavy, feel free to utilize the force from your legs to raise the weights.

Bring the dumbbells back to your shoulders, then lower them to each side of your body. Put them on the floor, step back, and repeat this exercise for as many reps as you're aiming for.

"The man maker exercise can be quite challenging, so it is important to start with lighter weights and focus on proper form before progressing to heavier weights," Crawford explains. "It is also important to warm up properly before attempting the exercise, and to modify or regress the exercise as needed based on your fitness level and experience."


fit man in high plank, getting ready to perform pushups

A classic pushup is an amazing total-body exercise that calls for complete activation of your core. This move also works your triceps, chest, and posterior chain.

"I highly suggest doing hand-release pushups to start to ensure you can maximize your range of motion—this will target more muscles and build strength faster," Crawford says.

Begin by assuming a high plank with your hands placed a bit outside shoulder-width. Your feet should be together, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Activate your glutes and core, and keep your neck neutral. Then, lower your body to the floor by bending at your elbows. Push back up to the position you started in, totally straightening your arms.

"One tip is to make sure your chest hits the ground before the hips do. Modify as needed using your knees or a wall," Crawford adds.

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woman doing dumbbell deadlifts at gym

"The deadlift is the strongest lift we can do. This is going to activate the glutes, hamstrings, and entire posterior chain as well as your core," Crawford tells us.

Start off by positioning your feet shoulder-width distance apart and standing up tall. Point your toes forward. Put the barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbells on the floor in front of your body. Stand close enough to the weight so that your shins touch it. Hinge your hips back, and, using an overhand grip, grab the weight by placing your hands shoulder-width distance apart.

Crawford continues, "Lower your hips by bending your knees slightly and bring your chest up so that your back is straight and your chest is facing forward. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and lift the bar off the ground by pushing through your heels. Keep the bar close to your body as you stand up straight, keeping your chest lifted and your back flat. Exhale at the top of the lift, and then lower the bar back down to the ground with control, making sure to keep your back straight and your hips back."

As far as Crawford's pro tips for this exercise are concerned, she says to make sure your back remains straight during the lift to avoid potential injury. Activate your lats, glutes, and core to give your lower back support. In addition, keep the barbell (or weights you're working with) close to your shins during the lifting motion to ensure you stay balanced. And lastly, gain momentum through your heels in order to lift the weight.

Clean & Jerk

Last but not least in our roundup of compound exercises that burn more fat is the clean and jerk. Begin by standing tall, and place your feet shoulder-width distance apart. Your toes should point forward. Place the barbell in front of your body. Use a wider overhand grip than if you were performing a deadlift. When it comes to this particular lift, Crawford says you'll usually assume a "hook grip," where "your thumb is under your fingers when wrapped around the bar."

Then, bend your knees and lower your hips, making sure your chest stays lifted and your back straight, in order to grip the bar. As you extend your knees and your hips, bring the bar up to your thighs. Keep your shoulders over the weight. When the bar is up to your thighs, shrug both shoulders, and utilize your hips explosively to drive the bar upward. Once the barbell is at its highest possible point, drop under it in a speedy fashion, positioning your elbows around and underneath the bar to "catch it" at the level of your shoulders.

Crawford continues, "Once you catch the bar, stand up with it, keeping your core tight and your back straight. From this position, dip your knees slightly, and drive the bar upwards, using the power from your legs to push the bar overhead. As the bar reaches its highest point, quickly move your feet into a split stance, with one foot forward and one foot back, to help stabilize yourself. Once you're in the split stance, fully extend your arms overhead to lock out the weight. Then, stand up with the weight pressed overhead. Always step the front foot in first, then the back foot. Lower the weight back down to your shoulders, and then slowly lower it to the ground."

Crawford dubs this exercise a "true Olympic lift" that needs good form. A trainer or coach should be watching over you as you perform this move in order to make sure you're doing it correctly. Begin with a light weight, then go from there.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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