Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises

A big controversy throughout social media recently is whether compound or isolation exercises are more effective. There is a lot of conflicting information and questions out there, like is one is better for muscle growth or fat loss? Should you stick to one or the other, or a combination of both for maximum results?

For starters, compound exercises are defined as multi-joint exercises that work several muscle groups at one time. Isolation exercises on the other hand, are exercises that involve only one muscle group. An example of a compound exercise could be squats, deadlifts or bench press. An isolation exercise could be bicep curls, lateral raises or dumbbell flys which all target one specific muscle group.

Advantages of compound exercises:

  • Progressive overload is easier since multiple muscles are working to lift the heavier weight togetherWorking multiple muscle groups in a shorter period of time
  • Working multiple muscle groups in a shorter period of time
  • Gets your heart rate up faster
  • Good for functional training purposes/making daily tasks easier

Advantages of isolation exercises:

  • The ability to target specific muscle groups without using others (great if you are injured or sore)
  • Strengthens one are that could potentially be weaker than other muscles
  • Helps to develop better mind to muscle connection/activation of one specific muscle group

The verdict:

After reviewing the benefits of both compound and isolation exercises, research supports the fact that both have their place in an effective workout routine. Focus should be made mostly on compound exercises because they burn more calories in a shorter period of time, use a greater amount of muscle at once and aid more in the everyday functionality of your body. Isolation single joint exercises are a great addition to any workout and provide a lot of benefits in combination with mostly compound movements.

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