Multi Joint = More Muscle, Less Time. What you need to Know.

If you're retired, unemployed, on vacation, or an out-of-season athlete with plenty of time to spend at the gym, continue doing bicep and leg curls, tricep and leg extensions, and other single-joint (isolation) exercises.

However, for those juggling many activities like work, school, family, and sports commitments while trying to fit in quality weight-training workouts, multi-joint movements (also known as compound exercises) are proven time-efficient muscle builders that deliver more results than single-joint exercises.

This does not imply that single-joint movements are ineffective. However, outside the weight room, in daily activities and in sports, virtually every movement involves more than one joint.
the benefits
Therefore, it makes sense to do mostly multi-joint exercises not only from a time management standpoint, but from a functional perspective outside the gym as well. And if you really want to gain mass for athletics or build beach muscles in the coming months before summer, replace those bicep and leg curls with barbell rows, deadlifts and squats for the next several weeks.

If your time is limited and you want fast results from these multi-joint (compound) exercises, or if you simply need some motivation, listen to Randall Strossen, Ph.D., who wrote a book called Super Squats back in 1989. He said, "Ignoring the fact that your time is precious and you might not want to spend three hours in the gym hitting each muscle group in turn, and the fact that it's a rare movement in everyday life that truly isolates a muscle group, there's another very compelling reason to stick to the basic exercises: They increase strength and size far more effectively than the isolation exercises. In fact, one compound exercise will produce far more bulk and power than an entire series of isolation exercises."
the proof
Need proof? Take note of the size of powerlifters. Each of their workouts focuses on just three multi-joint powerlifting exercises -- squats, deadlifts and bench presses. Performing several sets of those "big 3" during each workout can quickly yield growth without having to do any single-joint exercises that extend gym time. But limiting yourself to only those three exercises can get stale.

For variety, there are additional multi-joint exercises you can perform to boost muscle size in the shortest amount of time, such as overhead or shoulder presses, pulldowns, dips, lunges, pushups, and dumbbell rows. When you do multi-joint exercises, more muscle groups are used per exercise, stimulating growth throughout the entire body -- including your arms -- due to the release of anabolic (muscle-building) testosterone and growth hormone.

More anabolic hormones are activated during a squat or deadlift than during a single-joint exercise such as a leg extension (knee joint) or bicep curl (elbow).

Following are several multi-joint exercises to incorporate into your workouts. To keep things interesting, occasionally substitute deadlifts and lunges for dumbbell or barbell rows and leg presses. Or do squats instead of leg presses and dips, or pushups rather than bench presses. For shoulders, try upright rows instead of overhead presses.

Find out which multi-joint exercises will bulk you up and try some of the sample workout schedules

multi-joint exercises
Squats: Recognized mostly for building powerful thighs and hips, squats also add size to the upper body -- including the back, shoulders, chest, and arms -- due to their anabolic effect.

Deadlifts: The deadlift is another anabolic king because it not only increases lower body growth, but that of the upper body as well.

Leg Presses: These enable you to use heavier resistance than do leg extensions or curls, thus promoting more muscle growth. While three or more sets each of leg extensions and leg curls mainly work the quadriceps and hamstrings respectively, three or more heavy sets of leg presses or squats will strengthen and add more mass to the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals -- in a shorter time frame!

Front, Side or Reverse Lunges and Stepups: These are also excellent time-saving multi-joint lower body exercises, and they are particularly more functional for sports and daily activities than leg extensions or leg curls.

Bench Presses, Dips and Pushups: When it comes to the upper body, bench presses, dips and pushups not only add mass to the chest, shoulders and back, but the triceps as well. In fact, they do it much more effectively than single-joint tricep pressdowns or kickbacks. Also, eliminate those single-joint dumbbell flyes for the chest for several weeks; these exercises will build up your chest muscles to a greater degree in less time.

Overhead Presses: Excellent for shoulders and triceps.

Pulldowns, Pullups, Barbell Rows, and Dumbbell Rows: You'll see your biceps grow without doing one curl; not to mention the added size of your back muscles from doing these exercises.

Upright Rows: They're also a bicep and forearm-building movement, as well as a wonderful shoulder and upper back exercise.
sample workouts
Here's a sample workout schedule utilizing these multi-joint exercises. For those with a full plate of business occupying each week, do full-body workouts every third day with two days off for recovery. For example, train on Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Tuesday over a two-week period. If you have more time, try a four-day per week split routine, training the lower body on Monday and Thursday, and the upper body on Tuesday and Friday (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday off).

Full-body "every third day" workouts might include leg presses, deadlifts, dips, pulldowns, and upright rows during one session. The next workout could comprise squats or lunges, bench presses or pushups, pullups or barbell rows, and overhead presses. For those favoring a four-day split program, do several sets of squats and lunges on lower-body days, and choose leg presses and stepups for the next workout.

Upper-body days would involve selecting bench presses, dips or pushups, pulldowns, pullups, or dumbbell rows or barbell rows, and either upright rows or overhead presses.

Give it a shot
Devote approximately eight weeks to doing only multi-joint exercises, combined with adequate sleep and nutrition to enhance recovery. What -- no bicep curls for about two months? Well, believe me, after all those sets of pulldowns, pullups, upright rows, barbell rows, seated rows, and one-arm dumbbell rows, your biceps should be huge -- not to mention your bigger triceps, shoulders, chest, back, and legs from all the other multi-joint exercises.

And think of all that extra time you will have accumulated to accomplish things outside the gym just by removing the single-joint exercises from your workouts!