Lean athlete on gymnastics rings
Lean athlete on gymnastics ringsJames Michelfelder

Best Compound Lifting Program to Get Shredded

You read that right. Most people think fasted cardio is the fast track to weight loss. But those who know a thing or two about training will agree there are several benefits from major barbell movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench press. These big lifts are awesome for adding strength and muscle, but with the right approach, you can use them to get a shredded workout.



You see, compound movements have a benefit on conditioning most isolation lifts can’t deliver. Here are just a couple:

  1. Spinal Loading for Fat Loss: Heavy bars placed on the body will do two things. First, they light up the nervous system to recruit more of its high threshold motor units, which are responsible for fast-twitch muscle fibers, or at least make the ones that are firing work even harder. Second, you’ll be releasing more hormones that are essential to burning fat and building muscle, during and after the workout.
  2. Core Strength Benefits: Big, multi-joint movements are often performed standing, which creates a much greater dependency on the abs and lower back. Not being confined to a seat means a hell of a lot more stability work for the core. Other than injuries being avoided due to lack of spine stability or support, it means you’ll also burn more calories for every rep and every set, which is just what the doctor ordered for leaning out and getting shredded.
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Barbell bench press
Barbell bench press James Michelfelder

The Best Compound Strength Exercises to Get A Shredded Workout

As far as compound movements go, these exercises provide the most bang for your buck.

  • Deadlift, rack pulls, and their grip variations
  • Cleans, snatches, and Olympic lift variations
  • Pullups, chinups,  and inverted rows
  • Squats and their variations
  • Lunges, split squats, and their variations
  • Standing overhead press
  • Bentover rows
  • Bench press and pushups

Including as many of the above into your workout routines as the primary exercises can hasten fat loss and preserve lean mass (key to getting shredded), all without doing endless bouts of steady-state cardio post-workout, or on separate days.

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The Best Damn Compound Lifting Program to Get Shredded

There are a lot of demands this program places on the central nervous system (due to the large movements). If at any point during the phase you feel sluggish or overtrained, it usually means your body is telling you to scale things back. Listen, and take a deloading week.


In order to hit the whole body more than once per week, this six-week program comprises two horizontal push/pull days and two vertical push/pull days to give proper rest to specific muscle groups. You’ll notice the short rest times below too. That’s because there are no supersets in this program (perform as straight sets—completing all sets for one exercise before moving on). It goes against the grain for most conditioning programs, but this allows you to stay focused and undistracted from the big movements that require it, while at the same time keeping your heart rate elevated for the majority of the workout. Suffice to say, don’t use your actual rep max efforts here. Drop the working weight by 10-15 percent for each exercise so you don’t tap out early or risk injury due to the short rest periods.

Aim for a 3-5 percent increase in weight for each week of the program, while you cut back on rest intervals. Try to shave five to 10 seconds off your rest time per set in each subsequent week.

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Man jumping up to pullup bar
Man jumping up to pullup bar Vladimir Borovic / Shutterstock

Day 1: Vertical Push/Pull

  1. Barbell Deadlift – 5 x 6 reps
  2. Barbell Overhead Press – 5×6 reps
  3. Pullups (weighted, if applicable) – 5×6 reps
  4. Hang Cleans – 5×6 reps: Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, hands at the same width you’d use for a bench press. Keep your back arched for safety, then lift the bar so it’s resting on the front of your thighs. Bend hips and knees slightly so the bar lowers just above your knees, then explosively straighten hips and knees as you shrug your shoulders and pull the bar straight up in front of your torso. As the bar reaches chest level, bend your elbows so palms face the ceiling and catch the bar at your collar bone (upper arms should be parallel to the floor). Bend your hips and knees as you catch the bar to absorb the impact.

Rest 90 seconds between sets of all exercises.

Inverted Row
Inverted Row James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth

Day 2: Horizontal Push/Pull

  1. Inverted Row – 5 x 10 reps
  2. Bench Press – 5 x 6 reps: After the final set, perform a single set of pushups to failure.
  3. Walking Lunge – 5 x 20 steps

Rest 90 seconds between sets of all exercises.

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Barbell back squat
Barbell back squat James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth

Day 3: Vertical Push/Pull

  1. Barbell Squat (Front or Back) – 5×6 reps
  2. Barbell Push Press – 5 x 6 reps: Start with a barbell at shoulder level, just like in a typical standing press. Use your legs to perform a slight “assist” on the way up for each rep. Let that momentum carry itself through the bar to help propel the weight overhead. Lower the bar slowly to the start position with straight legs, and repeat.
  3. Narrow-Grip Chinups – 5 x 6 reps

Rest 90 seconds between sets of all exercises.

Front Rack Split Squat
Front Rack Split Squat Justin Steele

Day 4: Horizontal Push/Pull

  1. Seated Rows – 5 x 12 reps
  2. Incline Bench Press – 5 x 6 reps: After the final set, perform a single set of pushups to failure.
  3. Rear-Leg Elevated Dumbbell Split Squat – 5 x 6 reps each side
  4. Bentover Rows – 5 x 8 reps

Rest 90 seconds between sets of all exercises.

Skullcrushers James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth

Day 5: Isolations/Specifics

Choose any 5 exercises from the following list and perform 4 x 12 reps.

  • Stiff-legged deadlifts
  • Barbell biceps curls
  • Skull crushers
  • Hanging leg raises
  • Dumbbell or cable chest fly
  • Leg press
  •  Lat pulldowns
  • Dumbbell lateral raises (standing)

Rest 90 seconds between sets of all exercises.

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Hill sprints
Hill sprints Javier Hdz / Shutterstock

Day 6 (Optional): Hill Sprints

Your journey to getting shredded isn’t complete without hill sprints. They’re a great complement to strength training because they give your metabolism a kick in the pants to trigger more fat loss. They’re also safer for your joints than sprinting over flat ground or on a treadmill. Find a medium grade hill (30 degrees would be perfect) that’s at least 40 yards long, and perform the following workout:

1. Uphill Lunges — 1 x 40 yards: Alternate legs on each rep.
2. Uphill Double-Leg Jumps — 2 x 10 reps:  Be sure to land in a squat position and hold for a 3 second count before the next jump. Rest 2 minutes between sets. Watch a video demonstration here.
3. Uphill Sprints at 90% Max Effort — 12 x of 40 yards: Maintain a very fast pace without going all-out to leave something in the tank for subsequent reps (and the sake of safety). Rest 2 minutes between sprints.

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