ISOLATION VS. COMPOUND EXERCISES: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
BY GAINZ STAFF
Most muscle building exercises can be broken down into one of two categories: isolation and compound. So, what’s the difference between these two exercises, and which one should you choose?
As the name suggests, isolation exercises are characterized by their ability to isolate a particular joint while training a single muscle group. A common example of an isolation exercise is a leg extension. When performing leg extensions, only your knee joint bends, thus targeting the quadriceps muscle group (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius).
In addition to leg extensions, other isolation exercises include:
- Bicep Curls
- Leg Curls
- Chest Flyes
- Dumbbell Side Raises
- Leg Curls
- Leg Extensions
- Calf Raises
- Triceps Pushdowns
- Triceps Extensions
- Triceps Kickbacks
Unlike compound exercises, isolation exercises only target a single joint and muscle group. This makes them particularly effective at working out specific muscles and muscle groups. They isolate the respective joint and muscle group, allowing for a more intense workout session.
Compound exercises, on the other hand, are intended to work out two or more muscle groups and joints, simultaneously. While a leg extension is considered an isolation exercise, a leg press is considered a compound exercise. It targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and even abdominal muscles.
Compound exercises such as this are designed to target multiple muscle groups, whereas isolation exercises target only a single joint and muscle group. This is the fundamental difference between isolation and compound exercises.
Examples of compound exercises include:
- Shoulder Press
- Bench Press
Now for the million-dollar question: should I perform isolation exercises or compound exercises? There’s really no easy answer to this question, as it varies depending on your goals. Compound exercises are designed to build body-wide strength, while isolation exercises are best performed for building a specific muscle group. With that said, you’ll typically lift lower amounts when performing isolation exercises as opposed to compound exercises.
Without a second group of muscles for support, the primary muscle group targeted by isolation exercises is under heavy stress. This is why most bodybuilders focus on compound exercises like bench presses and squats.
Rather than trying to choose one or the other, why not add both to your fitness routine? Incorporating compound and isolation exercises into your fitness regimen encourages a full body workout. Additionally, it allows you to target secondary muscle groups that you otherwise miss by performing only isolation exercises.
Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the nuances between isolation exercises and compound exercises. The key thing to remember is that isolation exercises target a single joint and muscle group, whereas compound exercises target two or more joints and muscle groups. GAINZ
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