Friday, September 9, 2011

Compound Exercises versus Isolation Exercises


Compound exercises are far better in building overall muscle than isolation exercises.  Muscles work in systems or groups no matter what exercise you're doing.  With compound exercises there are many muscles being worked at the same time.  They're much harder than isolation exercises therefore when done with proper performance, you get superior results in building muscle.  Examples of the best compound exercises are squats, leg presses, Dips, overhead shoulder presses, Pull Ups, bent over rows, upright rows, and stiff legged dead lifts.  A few properly done sets of each of these exercises 3 times per week is all that most people need for maximum results.

Isolation exercises involve only one joint and very few muscles.  A common myth is that you can not only isolate a muscle but emphasize and build a certain part of it.  An example of this would be concentration curls for the biceps, either done on a cable or DB that supposedly focuses on the "bicep peak".   I am sure people learned this somewhere in a muscle magazine or Arnold's Encyclopedia of bodybuilding.  This is physiologically impossible, you can't isolate let alone isolate a particular part of a muscle.  A muscle's shape and especially "bicep peak" is dictated by your genetics not an exercise.

Another example would be preacher curls.  Many people see a "big guy" in the gym doing them and figure, he has big arms...I want big arms...therefore I'll do preacher curls.  The myth here is that preacher curls emphasize the "lower bicep" and builds muscle closer to the elbow.  This is so far off base it's rediculous.  If you ever have a someone that recommends preacher curls you should run!  There's almost no bigger waste of time doing these.  You can't emphasize a part of a muscle.  Lower bicep development is a product of genetics.  If you have long muscles and short connective tissue, you'll not only have the potential for huge arms but your lower bicep will be developed fully.  Nothing short of surgery can change this!

There is a place for isolation exercises which are best used in a pre-fatigue fashion before a compound movement and that's another chapter.  For most us, getting as strong as we can at the major compound lifts will build you the best physiques you've ever had.