Combo Moves: Twice the benefit, half the time

In the 12 years that I have been a Certified Personal Trainer, my approach to training and designing of routines has changed as has the fitness industry itself. There’s always newer, faster, more efficient exercises or equipment that changes how we approach workouts. But I have consistently utilized one favorite technique throughout these 12 years – that of the combo moves.

A combo move is a combination of 2-4 exercises that target either the same muscle group (i.e., biceps) or agonist + antagonist muscles (chest + triceps). The beauty of combo moves, and hence the reason they are still so relevant a tool in workout design, is that they can give you twice the benefit in half the time.


With everyone wanting to spend less time exercising, while simultaneously seeing quicker and better results, combo moves should be in everyone’s repertoire. Now before you go combining moves on your own, there’s a few things you should be clear on.

First, and foremost, is form. Form is essential to the success of your workouts – good and proper form gives you the most effectiveness in the least amount of time. Often I see a client (usually a man) who is lifting too heavy a weight with too little range of motion, and incorporating multiple muscle groups to help him lift (contraction of the muscle) all of which results in less gain and potential strain. I come in, lower their weight sometimes by half, and see to their proper posture and execution of the exercise. Lo and behold, suddenly they start to see huge results (huge muscles that is) though remarkably they can barely get through a set of ten with the “little” weights I’ve given them.  They may not understand it, but they’re always happy with the results.


Second, the combinations themselves do matter. While a combination of three different biceps dumbbell curls is an effective combo, six weeks later, what will you do? The answer may be agonist/antagonist combos – but do you know which muscle groups are which? (That’s where a trainer comes in!)

Think about it this way, when you bench press, on the push of the weights you are relying upon the pectoral muscles (agonist) to support the weight you are holding above you. But when you reverse and bring the weights back to starting position, you are actually using more triceps (antagonist) to support the weight. So a good combo move would be chest press + triceps ear busters.


Clearly I’m not going to give away all of my bag o’ tricks, but you should get the gist enough to make your workouts more effective than they’ve been. If you are interested in getting a customized routine full of combo moves, please check out my website

Happy lifting!

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