Compound VS Isolation
Unbelivable! All different kinds of internet research will not give me a good reason to do any isolation exercises, apparently if you want to be stronger, bigger, leaner there is no reason to waste your time with isolation but only push hard with big exercises like squats, deadlifts or bench press-nothing else; but is this really the truth?
After much research on internet I realized that even if you can find more than one site talking about the benefits of big exercises on body composition, fat loss, hypertrophy, strength and sports specific workouts there is only bad news about isolation exercises; apparently they are “not functional” or even unnatural, unhelpful and unhealthy for our joints.
Here, I will elaborate on a description, the pros and cons of these 2 different kinds of exercises and the reason why you need to use both to have the maximum in terms of results.
What do I mean by "compound exercises"? I consider “compound” as all the exercises that work more on joints and obviously more on muscles or muscle groups. Good examples of compound exercises are squats, deadlifts, chin ups, bench presses, etc. All this big movements’ work with a different muscle, if we think only about squats we can consider the 3 joints involved: the ankle, knee and hip; for each joint we need to consider how they act during the concentric phase, in this case: ankle joint extension, knee extension and hip extension. For each action we have a different muscle group working; gastrocnemium and soleum during ankle extension, quadricep during knee extension and hamstrings and gluteus maximus during hip extension; there are also other muscle groups working indirectly, like spine erectors and abdominals to support the spine and maintain balance.
Benefits of compound exercises:
-They permit us to do our workout in less time; during these exercises we work with different muscles at the same time so we don't need to spend too much time training. This is extremely important for people with a busy lifestyle that can't spend a long time in the gym or come everyday to focus on one muscle group. Another important concept to consider is the total time of the workout; it seems that the best results of weight training come from no more than 1 hour of intense exercises, after this our body starts to produce excessive quantities of cortisol and reduces testosterone levels, leading us to a status called catabolism-not the best condition if our goal is to build up muscle and lose fat!
-When we do compound exercises all the stress from heavy barbells and dumbbells is shared among different joints with less pressure on just one. This is especially important with the development of strength. For better results in strength training we need to work with a load between 75% and 90% of our 1RM (I’m talking about relative strength and functional hypertrophy), so obviously more weight=more stress on tendons and joints; this point makes compound exercises a better choice for safe training.
-It seems that during a heavy workout with big compound exercises we produce more anabolic hormones in our body; it’s not difficult to find routines for hypertrophy with 20 squats or deadlift repetitions. The purpose of this type of workout is not only to improve strength and the size of the legs but to indirectly improve the size of the whole body through a bigger production of testosterone.
In opposition to compound we have isolation exercises, so I’m talking about all those movements that involve only 1 single joint, so only 1 muscle or muscle group. Examples of isolation exercises are peck fly, dumbbell or barbell curl, leg curl or leg extension, etc. These movements work only with 1 muscle group at the same time, if we think about leg curls, easily we can see that we work only with the knee joint, if we want to be more specific during the concentric phase we have a flexion of the knee joint and so a contraction of biceps femoris ( long and short head), semitendinosus and semimembranosus.
Benefits of isolation exercises:
-Recovery after injury. For example, let’s say you’ve recovered from a hamstring injury and now you want to strengthen the weak leg. The most efficient way to recover the lost strength and muscle mass on the injured leg is to perform uni-lateral single joint exercises. You will achieve more motor unit activation by isolating the movement pattern. Once the hamstring is at a desired strength level, bilateral exercises can be added. Simply, any exercise that meets the needs of the desired goal adds a link in the chain of improvement
-Injury Prevention. When an individual has weak muscles within a movement pattern, the body will compensate by avoiding the weakness, especially during complex movements such as running, jumping, squats, Olympic lifts, chin-ups and shoulder presses. Repeated exposure to faulty movement patterns can result in pain and joint dysfunction. It has been said, and I agree, that you are only as healthy as your joints. The best way to address faulty movement patterns (not caused by a medical condition) is to pinpoint the weak muscles, strengthen with single-joint exercises, and then reeducate the muscular chain with compound exercise.
-Improve performance. As said before, all compound exercises work with more muscles at the same time, so our performance can be improved if we understand which one is the weak muscle of the muscular chain and strengthen it-obviously through isolation exercises.
Like almost everything, it doesn’t make sense to exclude one exercise because somebody said that it is “bad” or “good”; every person is different with different goals or needs and there is no reason to not use all the benefits that some exercises can offer us to improve our performance and achieve our fitness goals.
Thread: Compound vs Isolation exercises