Compound vs. Isolation: What’s Optimal for You

Compound vs Isolation, neon dumbbell, neon pink border, Created by LWL

Do you hear people refer to some exercises as compound or isolation movements, but don’t have a clue what they’re talking about? Don’t fret, once you get it, it’ll be easier to create a workout plan for yourself. Both movements are important for building strength and muscle mass.

What are Compound Movements?

Let’s talk about compound movements. These movements work for multiple muscle groups at once, and it’s recommended that you incorporate at least 1-2 of these movements in a workout. A few examples include the bench press, squat and deadlift. Compound movements are great for building muscle because it allows you to apply progressive overload and lift heavier while engaging more muscles, which this article talks about. On another hand, this can be exhausting on your muscles, so I would advise putting your compound movements at the beginning of your workout so you have the most energy.

For example, the bench press can often be done on push days, chest and back, or total upper body days. Squats can be done on leg day, and deadlifts can be done on either back day or leg day. Ensuring you fit these in your workouts multiple times a week, you’ll work towards those gains.

What are Isolation Movements?

Isolation movements isolate one muscle group to help that muscle grow. Examples include bicep curls, chest flies, seated rows, and tricep extensions, to name a few. You should have most or all of these included in your workout plan.

The downside is that isolation movements alone won’t get you results. They are usually done with lighter weights and it takes more time to apply progressive overload.

Which Movement is Better?

This honestly depends on your goals, but technically speaking, you should prioritize compound movements to see results in terms of muscle growth and strength. Gymshark recommends incorporating both into your routine for optimal results. Ultimately, this won’t be the same for everyone. For instance, I hate squatting, so I’m guilty of not doing them often on leg days. And compound movements might not be ideal for people with injuries. So the takeaway is to do what feels right, but consider the benefits of both compound and isolation movements when deciding what your workouts are gonna include.

Until next time, contact me for more!

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