multi-joint liftsHave you ever seen the guy in the gym who does nothing but bicep curls? Did you also notice he never gets bigger? I know you have.  He may actually be flexing in the mirror next to you right now.

So why does this person cease to grow?

It probably is a combination of many things, but a bulk of his problem is the fact that he isn’t stimulating enough muscle.  To truly spark muscle growth and place stress on the body, a person must use multi-joint lifts.

Multi-joint lifts are exercises that utilize more than one joint.  Because more joints are used, more muscle is also used.  Makes sense right?

Because more muscle is used, a person can use more resistance than they could with a single joint lift.  This increases tension placed on the muscle and elevates the levels of stress placed on the body.  This will give you quicker, more efficient, and better results than utilizing a bunch of single joint lifts.

To better understand multi-joint exercises, let’s begin analyzing the upper body.  We will break up the upper body multi-joint movements  by the type of lift (Pushes or Pulls) as well as the direction of the lift (Horizontal or Vertical).


push muscles

Horizontal Push

The most common horizontal push exercise is the bench press.  A horizontal push occurs when someone moves resistance away from their torso horizontally.

Other Examples: Dumbbell Bench Press, Push Up

Prime mover: Pectoralis Major (Chest)

Secondary Movers: The front of the deltoid (Shoulder) and triceps.


Vertical Push

During a vertical push a person moves resistance from their upper chest to over their head.  A military press is the most common example.

Other Examples: Seated Overhead Dumbbell Presses, Push Press, Arnold Press

Prime Mover: Front of deltoid

Secondary Movers: Triceps, upper trapezius and pectoralis major.


back muscles


Horizontal Pull

Rows are the most common types of horizontal pulls.  Horizontal pulls can be described as pulling weight toward your torso horizontally.

Other Examples: Bent Over Dumbbell Row, Bent Over Barbell Row, Dumnbbell Rows, T Bar Row

Prime mover: Latissiums dorsi

Secondary movers: Trapezius and rhomboids (middle of the back), biceps, and back of the deltoid.


Vertical Pull

Vertical pulls are demonstrated most commonly through pull up exercises.  Vertical pull is when a person pulls resistance from overhead to the top of their chest.

Other Examples: Lat Pull Down variations

Prime Mover: latissimus dorsi

Secondary Movers: biceps, back of the deltoid, trapezius and rhomboids.



Now that we have the upper body broken down, lets move on to the lower body multi-joint exercises.

leg muscles



Squats are the quad dominant multi-joint exercise of the lower body.

Exercise Examples: Barbell Squat, Dumbbell Squat, Lunges, Step Ups

Prime Mover: Quadriceps

Secondary Movers:   Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves


Deadlifts are posterior chain dominant exercises of the lower body.  The posterior chain are the muscle associated with thoracic and hip extension.

Exercise Examples: Conventional Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Single Leg Balance to Toe Touch

Prime Mover: Glutes

Secondary Movers:   Hamstrings, Quadriceps,  Calves, Erector Spinae group (Lower Back)


That is a full breakdown of all of the multi-joint exercises of both the upper and lower body.  It isn’t  as complicated as you though huh?

These types of lifts are efficient and effective and should make up a bulk of your training.  Work smarter not harder right?