Multiple Joint Exercises

by Eric Brown

About Eric Brown

Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.


Compound exercises are referred to as multi-joint exercises. When you perform a compound exercise, you just multiple muscles and flex or extend more than one joint in your body. Because you are using multiple joints when performing compound exercises, you are also working numerous muscles at the same time, which often allows you to use a heavier weight than you would for an exercise using just one muscle.


The barbell squat is a multi-joint exercise that works nearly every muscle in your legs as you straighten your legs and hips. The squat generates greater activity in your hamstrings and quadriceps than other compound exercises such as the leg press. While the squat may work the hamstrings, you still need to include other exercises to develop the back of your legs. Multi-joint exercises such as the good morning and stiff-legged deadlift work the hamstrings effectively.


Deadlifts are a multi-joint exercise that works your back and also your legs, as you extend at the ankle, knee and hip joints. The deadlift can be performed in conventional style, with your hands wider than your shoulders. The deadlift may also be performed sumo style, with your feet wider than your shoulders. Either way, you pick a barbell up off of the ground without rounding your back or bending your arms. The sumo deadlift exhibits less force on your lower back, so this may be an alternative if you have back issues but still want to strengthen your muscles.


Any pressing exercise, including bench presses and the military presses, are multi-joint movements. The shoulders and triceps are very active in both exercises, and the pectoralis major, or large muscles of your chest, are active in the bench press. Your triceps, or the muscles on the back of your arm, function to extend your elbow, or straighten your arm. This makes your triceps the most active muscle group in both exercises. The primary joints used in both exercises are the shoulder and elbow joints.


Even though muscles all pull, or contract, rowing and chinup movements are viewed as pulling exercises because you move the weight into your body while working. These exercises also work at the shoulder and elbow joints but retract instead of extend. The primary muscles used in each exercise are the latissimus dorsi, or the wide muscles of your back. These exercises also work the back of your shoulders, your biceps and your forearms. In any routine, it is important to train these muscles as they support you during many exercises and promote balanced shoulder development.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or