How compound movements improve strength

August 09, 2022 2 min read

How compound movements improve strength

Total body training which includes multi-joint or otherwise known as, compound, lifts such as deadlifts build a stronger back and better abs. Exercises like the deadlift also prevent lower back pain as it is widely recognised to be one of the most efficient exercises for strengthening the lower back.


During the following exercises, the electromyographic muscle activity in the lumber and thoracic erector spinae muscles of the lower back were compared in a recent study:

  • back extension
  • lunge with 70% of the 1RM
  • deadlift performed at 70% of the 1RM
  • single leg body weight deadlift
  • Completed on a BOSU:
  • static supine bridge
  • single leg body weight deadlift


The results showed that the most effective exercise in terms of working the lower back was the deadlift. The average EMG activity was 88% whilst the peak EMG activity was 113.4% for the lower back muscles. In regards to the muscle activation it was the lung exercises and the back extension which was most significant; whilst the lunge produced 46% muscle activity, the back extension resulted in an average EMG activity of 58%. In contrast, the supine bridge performed on the BOSU obtained the last at only 29% activation.


Additionally, deadlifts do not only provide maximal activity for the lower back muscles to enhance trunk stabilisation, they are also highly functional. As this exercise works numerous and various muscles such as the hamstrings and glutes, it can also provide stimulation to the trapezius.

To improve firing of muscles on the non- dominant side of the body, researchers have had athletes undertake unilateral neuromuscular training for a period of 8 weeks. The results of the study found that there was a noticeable decrease in the asymmetry of muscle activity from an average of 53% to 23%. This had the effect of improving their movement when performing a squat by 35%. It has been suggested by these researchers that once structure balance has been enhanced and made more efficient, the asymmetry is then reduced. This enabled the athletes to perform higher levels of traditional strength training such as deadlifts which in turn allowed them to build their strength throughout the
body as a whole.

Overall, training the whole body with compound lifts will help to strength the lower back and abs. Should lower back pain be evident it is recommended that neuromuscular training is completed to begin with which then progresses to deadlifts, lunges, back extensions once the pain has eradicated.

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