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
02-17-2011, 08:34 PM #1
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Compound vs Isolation exercises
02-22-2011, 12:21 AM #2
The same cannot be said about compound exercises, weight trainers who solely use compound exercises correctly are usually hugely strong and have thick muscleshttp://www.quickmusclebuild.com/burn-the-fat-feed-the-muscle-review/
02-22-2011, 02:05 PM #3
we do no isolation work at all. Have a very basic routine comprised of the following exercises-
lifting heavy in each of these exercises (4-6 rep range) has given both my son and I some excellent size and strength gains.
no need to complicate thingsMy goals-
Today, I want to better then I was yesterday. Tomorrow, I want to be better then I am today.
02-27-2011, 04:01 AM #4
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08-30-2011, 06:23 PM #5
09-01-2011, 06:03 PM #6
I recently came back to lifting after a long layoff, and currently I'm only doing Compund Exercises and heavy free weights, mainly because I want to gain strength again, and don't want to spend a whole lot of time in the gym, since my stamina is waaaaaaaaay down. But the results have been so good, that even after I'm 100% back into it, and I start gaining strength and looking better, I will continue to only do Compound Exercises and freen weights, and only occassinally do an Isolation Exercise at the end.
12-08-2011, 10:12 PM #7
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03-08-2012, 01:12 AM #8
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03-13-2012, 05:14 PM #10
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03-13-2012, 05:34 PM #11
I'm from the Bob Hoffman/York school of thought and training which goes like this: use barbells but but never forget to use dumbbells.
So i can safely say this you get a truly well developed physique you need to use both compound (barbells) and isolation(dunbbells) exercises.Barbarism in the natural state of mankind.Civilzation is unnatural.It is the whim of circumstance.And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.
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Beyond the Black river
03-14-2012, 01:21 AM #12
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03-15-2012, 06:10 PM #13
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04-06-2012, 02:32 PM #14
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04-10-2012, 06:06 AM #18
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04-10-2012, 07:32 AM #19
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IMO it seems that if one can stick with a program that leads the trainee to use progressive poundage on the following movements, then you are set:
That being said; I still can't help but throw a fews curls in the mix =) & I am also far from big & strong
Excellent post OP. Repped!brb eating...
04-02-2013, 09:54 AM #20
07-23-2014, 02:10 PM #21
07-28-2014, 01:23 PM #22
Personally I do both, at different speeds, both slow and fast. I find that it really pushes me and challenges the different types of muscle fibers your muscle groups of composed of. I want the deep stretch and isolation of a squat, and the benefit of requiring my muscles to respond as they do 90% of the time.Jonathan C. Smith | The Spyder 360™
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08-03-2014, 11:39 AM #23
08-03-2014, 03:50 PM #24
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I've been doing just mostly isolation movements, working out with dumbbells and machines, the only compound movement I've been doing are deadlifts mostly because I workout alone. I want to try and do more bench press and squats though. I've also only done dumbbell bp and flys. But yes for good overall effectiveness I'd say do both compound and isolation movements.
08-23-2014, 07:26 AM #25
Interesting post, I've tried compound exercises for over 5 years but since I changed my workout routines, combining both compound and isolation exercises I was able to scult and reshape my body whatever way I wanted. And it doesn't mean you need to spend more time at the gym either to do both, 90 mins max works best for me!Check out and support my natural bodybuilding website. Contains tips on workout and nutrition, etc.
08-25-2014, 05:47 PM #26
09-06-2014, 11:54 AM #27
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I went through a phase of doing only compounds - the 5x5 programme. But I've recently changed my programme. I add weight every week to my compounds, not every exercise. I also have a few isolation exercises.
Compound: deadlifts, bench, squat, overhead, rows,
Isolation: tricep extension, hammer curl, calf raise, chest flyes, plank
09-07-2014, 08:17 PM #28
Well compunds are really really heavy compared to isos. So I kinda hate compounds, especially squats.
Usually I do compounds first then finish off with isos. But sometimes I do oposite if I want a pre-exhaust.
Like seated leg raise on low weight high rep, then do squats, to get a clearer burn in my quads.
Or work forearm flexors, then do biceps curls
Superset calf rise and leg press.
09-21-2014, 12:25 PM #29
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A lot of people are saying that you don't need to do isolation exercises. I disagree.
Sure, if someone told me I am only allowed to do 4 exercises in my workouts, I wouldn't be choosing leg extension and bicep curls, but isolation exercises are vital for hypertrophy. It might not be as important for strength training, but it's very useful for squeezing out that last bit of energy out of a muscle before leaving the gym.
Take traps for instance. You won't hit the traps properly without doing shrugs. You won't hit lateral deltoids properly without doing some isolation exercises to hit them. Same goes for rear deltoids. And it's those smaller muscle groups that sets apart a good bodybuilder / physique model from a great one.
All in all I'd say that you should base your workout around your compounds movements, and do an isolation exercise or two at the end of your workout to hit your weaker muscle groups. Personally I do many sets of 2 compound exercises and 2 isolation exercises that I superset / dropset accordingly to my weaker muscles. Depends on the muscle.
In that same breath though, my legs have been sore for 2 weeks once from doing only 8 sets of squats.
09-21-2014, 12:35 PM #30
I'm one of the ones who doesn't think isolations are absolutely necessary. I focus on my 4 big compounds (squat, deadlift, bench, shoulder press) and my goals are to increase those lifts. The biggest constraints for most people is time: extra time in the gym to do exercises, and extra time for recovery.
That being said, when I'm doing 5/3/1 I always throw in some isolation for aesthetics anyway. The BBB is too... boring and there's areas it just doesn't hit enough. After my 5/3/1 main lifts are done, I like to throw in some reasonably heavy dumbbell work for ~ 8 reps, with no more than 1 minute rest between sets. I still opt for compound exercises tho, like dumbbell flies (incline), weighted dips and incline press on bench days; lateral side raises and seated dumbbell presses, trap pulls and pull ups on shoulder days; maybe some dumbbell rows and pull ups on back days.
Those are not exactly 'isolation' exercises in the purest sense of the word isolation. But it works for me. The key is variety; not hitting just one very specific muscle.
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