Compound vs. Isolation Exercises

February 9, 2015
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There are hundreds of exercises with basic muscular movements that hit every body part but there are only a certain set that you really have to do, based on your intention and goals. In this article, we are going to classify them by definition and purpose but first, let us identify the major muscle groups. The major muscle groups of the body are as follow; chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

These muscle groups can be classified according to their function. Any movement that involves pushing with your arms will make use of your chest, shoulders and triceps. Any movement that involves pulling with your arms will involve your back, biceps and forearms. And. any movement that will involve pushing with your legs will make use of your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Thus, we can classify muscles into these 3 basic movements; upper body pushing muscles, upper body pulling muscles and lower body pushing muscles.

There are two types of exercise movements.

Compound Exercises

Compound Exercises-GymMembershipFeesThe first group of exercises are the compound exercises. These are the exercises that involve compound movements that make use of 2 to 3 muscles at the same time.

Any exercise that involves pressing or pushing your arms against a resistance is a compound exercise that works out the chest, shoulders and triceps. Some sample exercises are the bench press, incline bench press and decline bench press. The overhead press is also a compound exercise but only works out the chest in a small degree, just those chest muscles by the collar bone.

Any exercise that involves pulling your arms against a resistance is a compound exercise that works out the back, biceps and forearms. Some sample exercises are bent over rows, pull ups and pull downs.

Any exercise that involves pushing with your legs against a resistance is a compound exercise that works out the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Some sample exercises are squats, leg press and lunges.

The deadlift is the king of all compound exercises because it involves both upper body pulling muscles and lower body pushing muscles. The deadlift is the exercise that works out the most number of muscles in a single compound movement.

Compound exercises are best suited for overall strength and muscle mass building because, with the use of several muscles, you are able to lift heavier weights that will stimulate more muscles into growth.

Compound exercises are best suited for sports use because it mimics basic natural movements that are used in most sport activities. Training all related muscles at the same time will insure proportionate development for all coordinating muscles used for basic movements like jumping, running, throwing, pulling and pushing.

Isolation Exercises

Isolation Exercises-GymMembershipFeesThe next group of exercises are the isolation exercises. These are the exercises that only work out one muscle group at a time. For chest; any flye movement whether on a flat, decline or incline bench will work out the chest in isolation from the shoulders and triceps.

For shoulders; any form of arm raising whether to the front, side or bent over will work out the shoulders in isolation from the triceps. For triceps; any arm extension exercise whether upright or lying down will work out the triceps.

For back; pullovers and straight arm pull-downs are the only known exercises that work the back in isolation from the biceps and forearms. For biceps; any arm curling movement, without twisting your palm, will work the biceps in isolation from the forearms. Keeping your wrist steady will work the forearm only as a stabilizer.

For forearms; wrist curls work the forearm belly and reverse wrist curls work the brachialis muscles in isolation from the biceps. For quadriceps; leg extensions work best in isolating it from the hamstrings and calves. The sissy squat done in strict form will also isolate the quads.

For calves; calf raising movements whether upright or seated will work the calves in isolation from the other leg muscles. Isolation exercises are purely for aesthetics and bodybuilding purposes. Isolation exercises are usually used for the purpose of building up a lagging body part.

While compound exercises work several muscles and increase their strength in one movement, there is no assurance that, visually, all the muscles will increase in size proportionately. Isolation exercises are used to cure this visual imbalance.

You can choose to perform all the types of exercises mentioned with the use of a barbell, dumbell, cable or complex motion specific machines. The best way to design your fitness routine is with the aid and guidance of a fitness professional.

You can visit any Life Time Fitness Gym outlets and consult their fitness experts on the best combination of exercises and seek their assistance in the setup of a complete weekly routine that will best suit your fitness and bodybuilding goals.

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