On one hand you have Isolation exercises and on the other you have Compound exercises. What would you choose?

It’s a no brainer for me. I’d take compound over isolation any day of the week. Why? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you…

Isolation vs. Compound


As the name indicates, isolation exercises “isolate” a particular muscle

Take a look at a triceps kickback, for example. Your upper arm stays fixed, as you extend your lower arm to a straight position.

The triceps end up being THE focus muscle group.

Pay attention to the joint activation here. Your elbow bends your arm from flexion to extension. This is the only range of motion it is capable of. Only one joint is being activated. When this happens, you get an isolation exercise where only one muscle is being worked.

Now, let’s move to compound exercises

Quite simply, more than one muscle and more than one joint is activated. These are also referred to as multi-joint exercises. Feel free to call them what you want, but don’t call me lazy!

A squat is a good example of a compound exercise. Pay attention to what your body does during a squat. Your hips, knees and ankles all bend simultaneously. The end result is recruitment of the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. You can’t say the same for seated leg extensions. All you’re getting there is quadriceps activation.

Benefits of compound exercises

Since you are activating multiple muscles, you can lift more weight and gain more mass. By default, this leads to fat loss. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.

compound exercise routine_2Additionally, these exercises are intense so you burn a high amount of calories performing them.

If you’re pressed for time, you can get a smoking workout in about 30 minutes. You just need to strategically plan your exercises and take short rest breaks. Your workouts don’t have to be complicated either. Barbell clean and presses, for example, work nearly every muscle in the body.

Here is a list of some of the most popular compound exercises that I have not mentioned above.

Some may be familiar and some might not be.

1. Bench Presses

2. Military Presses

3. Upright Rows

4. Back Rows

5. Lat Pulldowns

6. Deadlifts

These exercises involve the use of free weights or machines, but you can also do them with just body weight. Push-ups, pull-ups, dips, walking lunges and bicycle crunches are all examples.

If you find yourself out of town with no gym, but an apparatus to hang from, use these exercises to get a complete workout.

Don’t forget the importance of proper technique

You never want to get sloppy. Here are some pointers to always take into consideration.

– Move through a full range of motion

– Use a weight that is taxing but not excessive

– Exhale on the exertion of force

– Never use momentum

By this point you should have a good understanding of compound exercises.

Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with isolation exercises. I actually use both in my programs, but I spend most of my time doing compound movements because they give you more bang for your buck.

If you’re going to do both in the same workout, always start with a compound exercise routine since they are more labor intensive. Have it and let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. My hotline is always open.

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