Compound vs. isolation exercise; Part 1

Photo: Usodesita CC-BY-2.0

Photo: Usodesita CC-BY-2.0

This is a first in a series of articles on compound versus isolation exercises. In the series we will discuss the pros and cons of each of the two types of movements. From there you will be armed with the knowledge of whether one or the other is better for you.

In Part 1 we are discussing compound exercises. What are they? Why use them?

Compound exercises are simply the movement involving more than one muscle group, and more than one joint. For instance, a pull-up uses the middle back (rhomboids), shoulders (deltoids) and biceps (biceps brachii). Also in this example the shoulder and elbow joints are utilized.

The Big Three
There are a number of exercises that fall into the compound category. These are commonly referred to as the “Big Three”. The barbell squat, dead lift and bench press. These are often used as examples because between them, just about every body part is being utilized.

  • Squats – You will bend at the waist, hips, knee, and ankles. While performing this movement, a majority of each muscle group will be used.
  • Bench press – The press bends at the elbows, and shoulders. Primarily the chest and triceps are used, however there are others that are tapped as well.
  • Dead lift – Similar movements to the squat, however more of the middle back, and shoulders are used.

Some other examples include pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, and push-ups. There are many variations to each of these, which increases the number of exercises. Mixing these variations is a good way to vary workout plans, and avoid boredom.

The Benefits
We are all strapped for time. Spending more than an hour in the gym can be a big stumbling block, causing many to stop training. One of the beautiful things about using compound movements in your routine is that you can do few exercises. In addition, since just about every body part is effected in each session, doing resistance training every other day is recommended. So not only do you spend less time in the gym when you are there, you also do not have to go there as often.

As already mentioned, compound exercise works multiple body parts. In addition, heavy weight can be lifted. This, in turn, helps to use even more muscles, especially when having to call upon stabilizing muscles. To be able to hit all of them within a 45-60 minute window every other day is very valuable to most everybody.

When done correctly, there is arguably nothing better for adding muscle, mass, and strength. Sticking to the basics, and observing proper technique will be sure to take you to the next level.

For more info:

Compound Exercises for Maximal Muscle Mass

A 3×5 approach to strength training

Weight training and Wing Tsun

Compound Exercises Offer Multiple Benefits

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8 Responses to “Compound vs. isolation exercise; Part 1”

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