Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises

First of all lets discuss what Compound and Isolation Exercises are,

Compound Exercises can be described as:

Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and multiple muscles. So for example the Barbell (Back) Squat, is one of the most common Compound lifts.

Isolation Exercises are:

A single joint exercise, in which only the target muscle is being activated and the movements are done in a way where activation of all other muscle groups is avoided, which leaves one muscle group isolated and able to do all of the work. For example, the Bicep curl if done properly is an isolation lift.


Multi-joint movements like squats or dead lifts should make up the basis of your training. I like to talk about going back to the basics and mastering the big lifts, which happen to be the compound movements we have been talking about, getting a good technique in these movements will lead to a safe and strong platform for you to really work from going forward. However, multi-joint exercises are not always the best for training certain muscles, and that’s where the isolation exercises come into play.

For instance, if you have weak biceps they probably aren’t going to grow to a great degree from rowing and may require some more targeted work to respond. also if you have one or two weak muscle groups that aren’t covered by the major compound lifts and you aren’t doing any isolation work at all then you’ve pretty much doomed that muscle to always being under developed.

Verdict: Emphasize compound lifts, but also incorporate single-joint exercises to strengthen and target muscles that may have been missed so that no muscle is left lagging behind the others.

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