Below are just a few compound moves that are excellent for targeting all the things many machines don't:
Squats. This is probably my favorite exercise. Not only does it target the major muscles of the lower body, but it also mimics a movement we do all day long. The following are just a few variations you can try at the gym or at home:
Lunges. Lunges are another favorite of mine because they require balance. That means you're strengthening the legs at the same time you're engaging your stabilizer muscles to keep you upright. Lunges are another functional exercise that translates well into real-life activities. Here are some variations you can try to target the major muscles of the butt and thighs:
Deadlifts. This is an excellent exercise that targets the back, butt and hamstrings as well as incorporating the abs. This isn't an easy exercise to master and, if you have back problems, you want to be very careful and practice perfect form. Here are some options for you to try.
Pushups. This exercise targets so many muscles, it's no wonder my clients hate them. By doing pushups, you incorporate a lot of stabilizer muscles to hold your body rigid, so it's great for the core. The pushing movement fires up the chest, shoulder and triceps and, if you're on your toes, your lower body is working to stabilize you as well. If you don't do pushups, start with an easier version (like the wall pushups below) and work your way up to floor pushups. Being able to lift your own body weight is something we should all be able to do - at least once!
Chin-Ups/Pull Ups. This is an exercise not many people try, mostly because it takes lots of strength and practice to be able to do them. But, there are modifications for beginners and it's a great exercise because, like pushups, it works a variety of upper body muscles like the lats, biceps and shoulders as well as, of course, the core. Here are some modified versions you can try if you want to get a great upper body workout:
This shift away from isolation to more functional training is based on one simple idea: working the body as a chain. After all, the movements we perform each day (sitting, standing, walking, lifting, reaching) all require the firing of multiple muscles. So why not make your strength training more functional and more effective by performing more dynamic, compound movements? That isn't to say that all machine exercises are bad...it's great to incorporate a variety of exercises into your program. But if you're stuck on machines, it may be time to take the plunge and pick up some dumbbells.