For all of you bodybuilder types out there, I’m dedicating this article to YOU!

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of isolation or “single-joint” exercises. I feel you can get a lot more work done with compound movements that work multiple muscles and joints in concert. However I’m also a realist. And I do feel there is a time and place for everything.

As I mentioned in the start of this article, bodybuilders benefit from isolation exercises because they place a lot of emphasis on one particular muscle. This enables you to promote symmetry and good definition. People rehabbing from injuries have to be guarded with their training and isolation exercises are a good place to start as well.


Regardless of what your own belief is, something is always better than nothing. And if you want to spend your gym time doing isolation exercises, go for it!

Here are a few that I like to blend into my mix from time to time and I invite you to do the same.

Dumbbell Flys

Dumbbell flys target the inner part of the chest and create that nice, jagged defined look. These are good to throw in at the end of your chest workout for a finisher.

Lie face-up on a flat bench and hold the weights straight above your chest with your palms facing each other. Keep your arms straight or maintain a slight bend in your elbows as you lower your arms out to your sides.

Stop when your arms are parallel to the floor and you feel a good stretch in your chest. Push the dumbbells back to the starting point and squeeze your pecs for a second. Repeat the movement.

Make sure to not let the weights bang into each other when you bring them up. Stop them about an inch apart.

Hamstring Curls

The hamstrings sit on the back of the upper legs and are responsible for knee flexion. This movement occurs when you move your heel toward your butt. The hamstring curl machine does a good job of isolating these muscles, but I like using a stability ball instead because it’s more fun.

Lie flat on your back on the floor with the backs of your lower legs resting on the ball. Your knees should be bent 90 degrees at this point.

Press down into the ball to lift your hips and form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Keep your hips high as you roll the ball toward your body. Stop when your heels are by your butt, extend your legs back out and repeat.

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Triceps Kickback

The triceps are the large muscles on the back of the upper arms. These are the muscles that actually make your arms look big and because of that you should never neglect them. A triceps kickback targets the triceps and it is done with a single dumbbell.

Kneel on a flat bench with the weight in your right hand, right knee on the bench and left foot on the floor behind you. Place your left hand on the front of the bench to brace yourself, look straight ahead and lift the dumbbell up by your side.

Your right arm should be bent 90 degrees at this point and your upper arm should be parallel to your side. Turn your palm inward, form a straight line from the back of your head to your butt and push the weight in the air behind you.

Stop when your arm is fully extended and parallel to the floor, and squeeze your triceps for a second. Slowly lower the dumbbell by bending your elbow, repeat for a set of reps and switch sides.

Concentration Curls

Curls target the biceps on the front of the upper arms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen these done with the worst of form because people swing the weights and sway their backs to gain momentum. This occurs from a standing position.

You don’t have to worry about that happening though because you’re going to do them from a seated position on a preacher bench. You will need one dumbbell to do these.

Sit on the bench and drape your right arm over the top while holding a dumbbell in your hand. Place the back of your upper arm on the padded support and fully extend it with your palm facing up.

Keep your upper arm tight to the pad as you bend your elbow and move the weight up toward your face. Stop at the top and squeeze your biceps for a second. Slowly lower the weight all the way down, repeat for a set of reps and switch sides.

Long Lever Scissor Crunches

The “abs” consist of the rectus abdominis and obliques. The long lever scissor crunch zeroes in on the upper part of the rectus abdominis, which resides on the front of the stomach between the ribs and pelvis. You won’t need any equipment to do this exercise.

Lie face-up on the floor with your arms extended straight behind your head and legs extended straight in front of you. Keep your arms in line with your ears as you lift your shoulders and head off the floor into a crunch.

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As you do this, lift your left leg slightly off the floor. You will form a wide “V” shape with your body at this point. Squeeze your abs as if you were about to get punched in the stomach and lower yourself down. Repeat, lifting the other leg and continue to alternate back and forth.


Now you have a collection of isolation exercises to throw into your workouts. If you are ever in doubt of your form or whether an exercise is isolation or compound, give me a shout and I’ll set you straight!

Good luck and remember to always have fun with what you are doing!

Connect here with Expert Kevin Rail.

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