Resistance training is an essential part of any workout program, regardless of whether you want to lose, gain, or maintain weight. However, most people are either doing way more resistance training than they need, or are doing exercises that do not give them the maximum benefit for their time. Here’s a resistance training efficiency hack you should try.

Sure, a five-day weight lifting split to isolate each body part will help you build muscle, but for most people that is an unrealistic amount of time spent at the gym.

If you are doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions hitting each machine in the row, you will see some benefit in terms of strength and muscle size – but in most instances, you will be sacrificing mobility, stability, and core activation. (Speaking of core activation, check out this recent post on how yoga can help you see better results from lifting!) That’s where this hack comes in.

The Compound Set

We all live busy lives, so why not get into the gym, do a quick AND effective strength and muscle building workout, and get out as soon as possible? This is why compound sets are very valuable.

A compound set has multiple exercises engaging the same muscle group. The method I prefer uses three exercises with different repetition ranges to get the perfect balance between strength and definition.

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Example Chest Compound Set Workout

Your first exercise will be relatively heavy, and therefore be more beneficial for building strength.  The next two will be at a moderate and lighter weight for more repetitions to help develop muscle tone or size. Repeat these two exercise sets two or three times with a weight that is challenging for you, and you will get a comprehensive and exhausting routine for the body part of interest that takes about 10-15 minutes.

Add two more compound sets for back and shoulders, and you should be able to complete a full upper body routine in 45 minutes with time to spare if you want to give your arms some extra attention.

It should be noted that in order for this routine to be performed effectively and safely, you need to feel confident enough with the exercises to be able to use heavier weights for the 5 repetition set. But regardless of your goals, this style of weight training can be very beneficial, especially if you feel that your resistance training has become boring or stagnant. Introducing some unusual stress on your muscles and nervous system is essential for allowing you to continue to make progress.

Apply This To Other Areas Of Your Workout

This routine can also be used for legs, or even for biceps and triceps. Not only is this an extremely efficient way to exercise, but it’s also more fun than your typical 3 sets of 10. Even if you feel comfortable with your program, adding a compound set is an additional tool that will easily help maximize your success!

Post written by FFC West Loop Personal Trainer Paras Patel.

About Paras

Paras Patel specializes in core training, functional, stability and balance, trigger point and athletic training, as well as TRX/bodyweight training and flexibility as an ACE-certified trainer at the Fitness Formula Clubs West Loop location. Have questions or want to set up a free complimentary 60-minute session? Email him at!

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