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Workout Basics: Compound Movements vs Isolation Exercises

By Edited Nov 2, 2015 1 2

Body composition

Our bodies are wonderful and super-efficient at improving and healing. When we engage in physical activities our bodies are uniquely made to work hard and keep the engine going for quite a while. Our muscles and body in general is designed with compound movements in mind where instead of choosing one muscle group, we use many as a whole to get the job done. When we do heavy labor we aren't using just our biceps or just our quads, but instead a whole host of muscle groups to get the task complete. Read on to find out why isolation exercises are dangerous and what can be done to improve our workouts.

Isolation is deadly

What I mean by an isolation workout is when people decide to lift weights to work out their biceps for a while, and then do tricep extensions afterwards. The p

Isolation movements
roblem here is that if a person engages in isolation exercises they are increasing the strength of one particular part of their body and ignoring everything else. This can easily cause muscle imbalance as certain parts of the body will be strong and others weak. Isolation exercises are dangerous and have a severe tendency to cause injury because when one muscle is stronger than another it will tear the weaker one up. If you have huge biceps but your forearms are weak you are going to try to live 65 lbs but your forearms can only really handle 30. You can only imagine what will happen next when one part of the body is straining to keep up with another. Broken bones, pulling muscles, and permanent injury can easily take place in this scenario.

Our bodies are built for compound movements

When you play football you aren't working one muscle group at a time, but instead you are working a multitude of muscle groups working as a whole to get the job done. This is key for healthy and effective muscle growth and fitness health. If all the muscles in the area you are working are strong and worked well then they can

bench press
perform a heavier lift or greater stress. Stabilizer muscles aren't strained while bigger muscles are worked each day, but instead all muscles are worked and come together as a stronger unit. It's a lot like a chain link. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If the weakest link breaks then the whole chain is worthless and falls apart. When we do compound movements everything gets used and everything gets strong together.

Isolation exercises aren't very good for people looking to get fit and in shape because of this imbalance. We don't want to be huge in some areas and tiny in others. A healthy individual will have a general strong balance and core for all of their muscles and this will lead to less strain and injuries on the job and in sports and activities. It's also much more efficient to work a whole group of muscles at once than individual muscle groups because it saves time and gives you a greater opportunity to let everything grow evenly in your workouts.

Examples

Here are some examples of great compound movements and exercises that work a whole host of muscle groups.

1. Deadlift - The deadlift is a motion where you stand with your feet shoulder length apart with a bar on the ground with lots of weight on it. You bend down, pick up the bar, stand up straight, and then bend back to put it down. This one lift works your forearms, traps, abs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and lower back. Talk about one awesome movement! If you were to do isolation exercises individually not only would it take you ten times as long to get the same workout, but all the stabilizer muscles that work as a unit with this lift wouldn't get a workout and would still cause you to be weaker than if you just did deadlifts.

2. Bench Press - The bench press is a compound movement where you are lying on your back and lift a bar with weight on each side up from your chest and back down. This exercise works your pectoral muscles, abs, triceps, biceps, and shoulders. Another winner of a movement and all of this is done with one action instead of many isolation movements.

While I could make quite a list now, you get the picture. The point is that movements that work multiple muscle groups at the same time are more efficient and also cause your body as a whole to work together to stabilize the lift and get the job done.

Now you know

Now you understand why compound movements are superior to isolation exercises. Our bodies are not made for isolation but instead group movements. Next time you work out at the gym or at home make sure that all of your workouts include exercises that work multiple groups of muscles each time and you are on the road for success in your fitness journey.

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Comments

Apr 23, 2013 8:10am
Locke
Nothing beats deadlifts for a balanced compound exercise. Great posture builders also.
Apr 23, 2013 12:12pm
aronnax
Deadlifts are my favorite compound lift by far :)
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