Compound V’s Isolation Exercises

Fitness is a personal thing and the goals and ambitions vary from one person to another.  However, the base understanding of what provides more overall benefit to the human body is very clear.  Compound exercises will bring the best results for fat loss, cardio vascular capacity, strength, proportionate shaping and in the shortest time frames.   However, I personally believe that a balanced program of both compound and isolation brings the best results in regard to true strength, fat loss, and muscle development in the long term.   It is all relative to how effective your training sessions are, your effort and your ability to present a constantly varied program with consistency (This includes rest and sleep).  
A good muscle structure will support a long term fat loss solution as the body simply burns more energy via a larger muscle structure in an idle state.   Compound exercises on their own generally will bring the best results for fat loss, mass building and are more efficient in building overall strength but be aware that if you want to keep the fat off your body on a more permanent basis you need to be specific about your training, your nutrition, your lifestyle, and your mindset.  Seek to learn more about yourself and what works for you.
You will also need to look at anaerobic thresholds and include several X-Element45 HIIT sessions per week along with your compound and isolation work.   Again this comes back to the balance and variation of your programming.  Isolation supports independent strength and size of a particular muscle/s and can be a crucial way to develop muscle stability for the correct execution of some major compound exercises.   This is dependant on the individual.  
If you are deficient in one muscle line that is effecting your capacity to execute a compound exercise effectively then isolation work is required with the understanding of effective progression.
– Sebastian Jago 

What Are Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time. A great example of a compound exercise is the squat exercise, which engages many muscles in the lower body and core, including the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the calves, the glutes, the lower back and the core.  Add an understood level of progressive linear resistance to these exercises and you have a major stimulant to the nervous system.

What Are Isolation Exercises?

Isolation exercises traditionally work only one muscle or muscle group and only one joint at a time. Examples of isolation exercises include the biceps curl or the quadriceps extension. These exercises are often performed with the commercial weight machines found in most commercial health clubs.  Isolation exercises are important and are frequently used in physical therapy clinics and rehab centres in order to correct a specific muscle weakness or imbalance that often occurs after injury, illness, surgery or certain diseases.  Isolation is best used for the development and hypertrophy (muscle growth) of an individual muscle due to the focused load and resistance.  

Why Use Compound Exercises?

For healthy Elements4Life athletes who are trying to get the most out of a training program, compound exercises are generally preferred and recommended. There are many reasons to use compound exercises during your workout, including the following:

Compound exercises use more muscles:

  • more calories burned during exercise.
  • simulates real world exercises and functional activities.
  • allows you to get a full body workout faster.
  • improves coordination, reaction time, agility and balance.
  • improves joint stability and improves muscle balance across a joint.
  • decreases the risk of injury during sports.
  • keeps your heart rate up and provides cardiovascular benefits.
  • allows you to exercise longer with less muscle fatigue.
  • allows you to lift heavier loads and build more strength.

Why Use Isolation Exercises?

Isolation exercises are often recommended to correct muscle imbalance or weakness that often occurs after an injury.  However lets be clear, isolating a specific muscle is sometimes necessary to get it to activate and increase its strength which can support better execution of other exercises. Often, after an injury, a muscle becomes weak and other muscles compensate for that weakness and genetically, a person may be imbalanced through various muscle lines inhibiting effective mechanics.

Imagine how much stronger you would be if all the muscles were firing at maximum contraction and the muscle lines were working together efficiently.  This alone is a good reason to do isolation exercises.

Another reason to perform specific isolated exercises is to increase the size, mass or shape of a specific muscle group. If you want big biceps, you’ll probably want to add some bicep isolation work to your regular exercise routine.  It again comes back to variation and an understanding of your own body structures and goals.

All Elements4Life athletes will use compound exercises for the majority of a our effective training programs and use isolation exercises to complement that program as needed and to fill the gaps as to speak.   Variety is also the spice of life.

Examples of Isolation exercises:

  • bicep curls
  • tricep kickbacks
  • lateral raises
  • front raises
  • rope pull-downs
  • leg extensions
  • hamstring curls
  • calf raises

The Summary

If you are interested in getting a complete, efficient and functional workout, doing predominantly compound exercises during your training is ideal. But there are times when isolating a specific muscle, muscle group or joint is necessary and recommended. If you aren’t sure what is best for you, a Elements4Life personal trainer can help locate any muscle imbalance or weakness you may have and design a program to fit your needs.


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