Working out is more than pushing through several movements and calling it a day. There are several details to consider including the type of exercises you’re doing in the gym.
One of the most intriguing discussions revolves around compound vs isolation exercises. Which one is better? Which one is the right option for your workout regimen?
Here’s an in-depth look into compound vs isolation exercises.
- 1 What are Compound Exercises?
- 2 Benefits of Compound Exercises
- 3 Top Compound Exercises
- 4 What are Isolation Exercises?
- 5 Benefits of Isolation Exercises
- 6 Top Isolation Exercises
What are Compound Exercises?
Compound exercises refer to multi-joint movements targeting several muscle groups at once. For example, a multi-joint movement would be a squat as it’s working the hip and knee joints at the same time.
These movements can include any combination of joints and muscles depending on the exercise.
Benefits of Compound Exercises
1) Target Multiple Muscles
This is the most important benefit of compound exercises. Instead of only focusing on one muscle, you’re able to target multiple muscles at the same time. This keeps things simple and ensures you’re not missing out on specific muscles over the course of a workout session.
These compound exercises can vary based on the muscles being targeted. Of course, compound exercises do not put the same level of emphasis on each muscle group.
For example, a bench press is going to put a heavier load on the chest in comparison to the shoulders/triceps. However, there is a decent amount of distribution where those muscles are also targeted during the movement leading to noticeable growth over time.
For individuals hoping to spend less time in the gym, it’s never a bad idea to shape your workout around compound exercises. The body is able to grow properly when these movements are included in the regimen.
Please note, there will come a time where isolation exercises are necessary but many beginners are able to solely focus on compound exercises. This keeps things organized and all of the major muscle groups are targeted without wasting energy.
The right combination of compound exercises can make a significant difference in a person’s strength and appearance. Plus, a good amount of time is saved because of how many muscles are targeted per exercise.
3) Better Intermuscular Coordination
Developing the muscles is more than simply working them out. It’s about building that mind-muscle connection and ensuring the muscles work together. Otherwise, there are many situations where the muscles don’t work together and injuries happen.
Compound exercises are ideal because they’re designed to push muscles to work as a team. This means the movement cannot be completed until all of the muscles (large and small) work in unison towards a common goal (i.e. lifting/pushing the weight).
This is ideal because real-life movements require such coordination on a regular basis. It’s rare to find a situation where a single-joint movement is going to be completed whether you’re lifting boxes, pushing a sofa, or climbing a fence.
4) Improve Flexibility
Flexibility is important and it is something you are going to value with age.
However, compound exercises are a wonderful way to maintain your flexibility and improve over time. A lot of people tend to become rigid, which means their muscles don’t do as much as they want them to.
With the help of compound exercises, you are able to get the muscles to stay warmed up and strong while you move around throughout the day. This also allows you to lift heavier weights when it’s time to progress.
Top Compound Exercises
1) Pull Ups
This is a wonderful compound exercise and one most beginners start with. The pull up can be done in a number of ways (i.e. palms facing forward, palms facing to the body, or palms facing together). This movement is ideal because it helps target a good portion of the upper body including your shoulders, biceps, and back.
Over time, you are able to add weight to this movement by wrapping weights around your waist using a weightlifting belt. It’s an excellent exercise that pushes the body and promotes healthy growth over the long-term.
The idea of picking up a weight off the ground and slamming it down is as natural as any exercise can be. This is a movement that is used in all walks of life whether you’re picking up boxes, moving furniture, or putting away the groceries!
This compound exercise is a staple for “back days” where you hope to work out the lower back.
This movement is simple as you look to lift a barbell with weights off the ground by straightening at the hip. There are several variations a person can do but the primary purpose is to get that weight off the ground without bending your back. It targets multiple muscles including the traps, back, shoulders, triceps, and hamstrings.
When it comes to leg day and working out your lower body, there’s nothing better than squats.
These are well-regarded as one of the best strength and muscle builders. The idea is simple, you are going to stand with a barbell and look to squat without dropping the weight. This puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body but is well-regarded for how well it works.
The squat works multiple joints including the hip and knee joints.
4) Bench Press
Chest day is a fun one and it’s always smart to start with the bench press.
This is a traditional compound exercise that has been used for generations as a way to build the upper body. This movement involves lying down on a bench and pushing the weight upwards. In general, this is going to work multiple muscles including the shoulders, triceps, and the chest.
It’s important to make sure this movement is done wisely and with the right form to maximize results. When it comes to compound movements, there’s nothing as popular as the bench press because of how useful it can be in building the pecs.
In general, a person may see different variations of this compound exercise including the decline and incline bench press.
What are Isolation Exercises?
Isolation exercises are single-joint movements where one specific muscle is targeted. For example, a bicep curl as the name suggests would target the muscle involving a single joint (i.e. elbow). There are several isolation exercises available to people depending on the muscle they’re hoping to target.
Benefits of Isolation Exercises
1) Help Target Weaker Muscles
In the compound vs isolation exercises comparison, it’s important to understand the benefits of isolation movements. In general, this is a noteworthy benefit to keep in mind with isolation exercises.
Your weaker muscles can often get neglected while putting together a workout regimen. For example, your forearms can easily get ignored while focusing on compound exercises. To make sure the forearms can grow, you want to make use of well-designed isolation movements.
The weaker muscles are able to catch up and look proportionate when these movements are included in your routine.
2) Improve Muscular Imbalances
To avoid dealing with unnecessary aches, it’s important to look into the value of isolation exercises to fix muscular imbalances. Some people become biceps-dominant or triceps-dominant, which means it’s important to work out the neglected muscle group before the imbalance worsens.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bodybuilder, muscular imbalances can be damaging and it’s important to pinpoint those weaker areas as quickly as possible.
By doing this, you are able to set aside time to target those imbalances and bring them back to normal. Otherwise, injuries are bound to occur as the weaker muscle won’t be able to keep up.
3) Ideal for Rehabilitation of Muscles
There are many times where a person won’t be 100% healthy. For example, imagine you broke your ankle and have just started recovering. In such cases, you do not want to head to a squat rack and start lifting heavy barbells. Instead, you will want to pursue the use of isolation exercises to keep things as simple as possible.
Many athletes use this as a way to stay in shape and still get in a good workout without hurting themselves. Over time, they are able to transition back into compound exercises when the injured part heals.
4) Good for Circuit Training
Many people enjoy the idea of going through a circuit to train their body. This is ideal but can’t be done as easily with the use of compound exercises.
Therefore, it makes sense to incorporate the use of isolation exercises to get through a circuit. The heart rate goes up without increasing the likelihood of injury.
Many professionals are seen using these exercises as a way to build up their stamina and also get stronger at the same time. It can be a wonderful way to push the body hard and go through a proper circuit. Of course, it’s important to choose the right isolation exercises!
Top Isolation Exercises
1) Shoulder Flys
The shoulders have three different heads and its incredibly difficult to hit the sides.
Therefore, shoulder flys are wonderful as an isolation exercise and hold value while putting together a workout regimen. Since the front of your shoulders will help with pushing movements, you don’t want the sides to lag behind.
Shoulder flys are an ideal way to isolate the side of your shoulder and make sure it is able to grow properly.
2) Reverse Barbell Curls
Your forearms are one of the most neglected body parts in the world.
People simply assume compound movements will be enough to grow their forearms and that’s untrue. While your forearms are used to grip onto weights, they aren’t contracting properly unless isolated.
As a result, you will want to make use of something as simple as reverse barbell curls. These are ideal for targeting the forearms and getting them pumped up quickly. This is a prime example of why isolation exercises do play a role in a good workout program and shouldn’t be ignored.
A good round of reverse barbell curls will help the forearms grow!
What about the traps when it comes to your workout routine?
The traps will often be used in compound movements such as deadlifts but still don’t get emphasized as much as they should be. As a result, it’s never a bad idea to tack on a few shrugs at the end of the workout to make sure they are being used appropriately.
When shrugs are incorporated, this is a great way to correctly strengthen the traps for regular use. In some people, the traps are ignored because most of the emphasis is put on their back. This is a way to balance things out.
4) Cable Crunches
The abs are important in putting together a beautiful physique but most people don’t stress them enough. This is a resilient muscle group, which means it’s important to target them in isolation. To do this, the cable crunch is a wonderful movement and is one that is used by professionals to pump up the abs.
This movement looks to use the resistance as a way to push upwards against the abs as you go into a “crunch.” When done right, this is going to push the abs to work hard and will truly turn them into a rock solid mass of muscle.
In general, this compound vs isolation exercises comparison is all about your needs. A well-rounded workout regimen is going to include a bit of both.
However, your priority should remain on compound exercises since they’re time-efficient, great for well-rounded growth, and promote rapid muscular growth. Take the time to build out an all-encompassing routine where everything works in sync and your body has the best opportunity to grow.
If you are going to include both types of exercises, it’s best to put the compound exercises first. These are the most energy-intensive movements and should be done when the tank is full.
Otherwise, you are going to risk injury and that can lead to severe long-term consequences. Be smart, prepare ahead, and make sure you are using a healthy balance of exercises to target all muscle groups evenly!