Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Compound vs. Isolation Exercises

Well, if you have been reading my blog, you know that I am mostly doing compound exercises, and I thought I would do a little break down of the two different types of exercises.

The Basics:
Compound exercises involves multiple joints, such as a regular push-up, which targets multiple joints - shoulders and elbows - and multiple muscle groups - the chest, shoulders, and overarm muscles (well, the triceps at least).
Isolation exercises are the opposite of compound exercises as they only involves a single joint, and most often only a single muscle group, such as the good old Biceps Curl - which targets the elbow joint and the biceps muscle group.

So, now that we have the basics down, what are the benefits of the two various types then?

Some of the benefits of doing Compound exercises are that you can spend less time in the Gym, or wherever you work out, because you're targeting more muscles groups in the same amount of time spent on doing Isolation exercises.
By using more muscle groups, you have more power or strength, which means you can progress quicker, load-wise. You can quickly add 10 more pounds or kilos on a bench press compared to a biceps curl.
Often the movements in the compound exercises are similar to everyday life movements, such as the squat, which you use every time you sit down into a chair, or get up from one. The same with a push up, you use the same muscles when pushing a door open.

What are the effects of using more muscle groups:

  • You burn more calories during exercise,
  • Simulates real-world exercises and activities,
  • Allows you to get a full body workout faster,
  • Improves coordination, reaction time, and balance,
  • Improves joint stability and improves muscle balance across 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

So, that were some of the benefits of the compound exercises, so what about the isolation exercises...
The isolation exercises are good for targeting specific muscle groups.
Say you want more muscle volume in your shoulders, but your triceps are beat after doing compound moves, what would you do. Well, do some lateral raises, which targets the shoulders without targeting your triceps.
It is also the easiest way to target the smaller muscle groups like the triceps, biceps, or calves.
Isolation exercises are also often used in Physical Therapy rehab, when trying to correct specific muscle weaknesses or imbalance after injuries - some muscles becomes weak after an injury, and other muscles take over.

So, what would I recommend for people working out, or wanting to start working out?
I would recommend people to primarily use compound exercises and complement with isolation exercises.

Check out this post about creating the Perfect Weight Training Program, with some great compound exercises.

Physical Therapy School