Minimalist Strength Training (Focus On Compounds)

Compound exercises should cover 80% of your gym training routine.

Minimalist strength training is a training approach that focuses on building muscle in less time. It involves simplifying your workout routine by focusing on compound exercises. You really do not need to be in the gym for over an hour maximum to get a good workout and stimulate growth. Too many people waste time on too many isolation moves and in reality, it isn't needed.

The Art of Minimalist Strength Training: How to Build Muscle with Less

Understanding the Principles of Minimalist Strength Training

To effectively implement minimalist strength training, you need to understand the principles behind it. These principles include focusing on compound exercises, emphasizing progressive overload, and prioritizing proper form and technique.

Compound exercises are exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once. They are the foundation of minimalist strength training because they allow you to work multiple muscles in a single movement. This not only saves time but also helps to improve overall strength and functional fitness.

Progressive overload is the principle of gradually increasing the demands placed on the muscles over time. This can be done by increasing the weight lifted, the number of repetitions performed, or the intensity of the exercise. By progressively overloading the muscles, you force them to adapt and grow stronger. This is essential for building muscle and improving strength.

The Importance of Compound Exercises in Minimalist Strength Training

Compound exercises are a key component of minimalist strength training. They target multiple muscle groups at once, making them highly efficient and effective for building muscle. By incorporating compound exercises into your workout routine, you can save time while still achieving great results.

Compound exercises allow you to work multiple muscles in a single movement, which helps to improve overall strength and functional fitness. This is because compound exercises mimic movements that we use in our daily lives, such as squatting down or lifting objects. By training these movements, you can improve your ability to perform everyday tasks with ease.

They also help to increase muscle mass and strength. They will make you look better and build more confidence at the gym. Since they target multiple muscle groups, they allow you to lift heavier weights and stimulate more muscle fibers. This leads to greater muscle growth and strength gains. Compound exercises also help to improve muscle coordination and balance, as they require the activation of multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Examples of compound exercises


Squats target multiple muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core.


Deadlifts work the entire posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back. 

Bench Press: 

The bench press primarily targets the chest muscles (pectoralis major), but also works the triceps and shoulders. 

Overhead Press: 

The overhead press targets the shoulders, triceps, and upper back.


Pull-ups and chin-ups are excellent compound exercises that target the back muscles (latissimus dorsi), biceps, and shoulders.


Lunges work multiple muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. 

Bent-over Rows: 

Bent-over rows target the back muscles (rhomboids, latissimus dorsi), biceps, and shoulders. 


Push-ups work the chest muscles (pectoralis major), triceps, shoulders, and core.


Dips primarily target the triceps but also work the chest muscles (pectoralis major) and shoulders. (Lean forward for more chest activation and stay more upright for more tricep activation).

You can use different variations of each exercise as well depending on your level/what you enjoy. No exercise is a 'must do' exercise, in my opinion.

Barbell strength training adds on a lot of strength and mass

How to Create a Minimalist Strength Training Program

Creating a minimalist strength training program involves setting goals, choosing exercises, determining frequency and intensity, and tracking progress. 

The first step in creating a minimalist strength training program is to set goals. What do you want to achieve with your training? Do you want to build muscle, lose fat, improve strength, or enhance overall fitness? By clearly defining your goals, you can design a program that is specific to your needs.

Once you have set your goals, the next step is to choose exercises. As mentioned earlier, compound exercises should form the foundation of your program. Choose exercises that target all major muscle groups and that you enjoy doing. Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% compounds and 20% isolation.

After choosing exercises, you need to determine the frequency and intensity of your workouts. How often will you train each week? How many sets and repetitions will you perform? How much weight will you lift? These are all important factors to consider when designing your program. I won't write about that here, but here is a guide on different workout schedules, reps etc.

Finally, you have to track your progress. This can be done by keeping a workout journal or using a fitness app. By tracking your workouts, you can see how far you have come and make adjustments to your program as needed. It is also helpful to take progress photos and measurements to visually track your results. Don't just rely on the scales.

I have written about my own minimalist training routine as well, which is a 3 day a week push/pull/legs routine.

You need to eat the right amounts of protein, fats and carbs when you are strength training

The Role of Nutrition in Strength Training

In strength training, you need to fuel your body with the right nutrients to support muscle growth and recovery. This involves consuming an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Protein is the building block of muscle and is essential for muscle growth and repair. It is recommended to consume 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. 

Carbohydrates provide the energy needed for intense workouts and help to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles. The best type of carbs are complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Healthy fats are important for hormone production, brain function, and overall health. Consume sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish. These fats provide essential fatty acids and help to support muscle growth and recovery.

Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Water helps to transport nutrients to the muscles and aids in recovery. 

How to Progress in Minimalist Strength Training

Progression is all about challenging the muscles and promoting growth. There are some different ways to progress in your training, including gradually increasing weight and intensity, incorporating new exercises, and adjusting frequency and volume.

The most popular way to progress is by gradually increasing the weight lifted. This can be done by adding small increments of weight each week or each workout. By lifting heavier weights, you force the muscles to adapt and grow stronger. 

And probably the second most popular way is by increasing the intensity of your workouts by performing more repetitions or sets. This can help to further challenge the muscles and promote muscle growth. 

You may also like - Minimalist Kettlebell Exercises - Calisthenic Core Work Exercises - Minimalist Fitness Challenges

Final Words on Minimalist Strength Training:

Minimalist strength training offers offers a practical and sustainable approach to building muscle. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter, incorporating minimalist principles into your training can help you achieve your goals more efficiently and effectively.

As a beginner, doing the basics right will set you on your way, don't over complicate it, and as you become more experienced, you can try and add more advanced techniques if needed (paused reps etc). But stick to the basics and you won't go far wrong. Make sure you learn proper form and rest properly as well, maybe hire a personal trainer to begin with!

Please give me a follow on Twitter - Be nice to connect with fellow minimalists!