Updated: Mar 11, 2019
Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups and joints are considered compound exercises. Whereas, exercises that focus on one muscle at a time are considered isolation exercises. Simple...right?
A lot of "fitness experts" *Inserts applause* have their on opinion on which one is better for you, which one you should do first, which one you should do first/last, which one you should/shouldn't do...etc. Continue reading to learn a little bit more about compound and isolation exercises, their benefits and finally, my opinion on when and how to perform these exercises and then you can choose for yourself which works for you.
Compound exercises have many benefits:
Burns more calories thus burning more fat
Provides an overall increase in strength
Allows you to work your whole body in less time
With multiple stabilizers working, it aids in coordination thus improves joint stability and muscle balance
Closely resemble real world exercises and activities
Keeps your heart rate up and provides cardio benefits
Barbell squats are a great example of a compound exercise as they incorporate your legs(hamstrings and quads) glutes, core, and back along with your ankles, knees and hip joints.
Other examples of compound exercises are as follows:
Like compound exercises, isolation exercises also have a ton of benefits but one main benefit of them is that they are recommended to correct muscle imbalance or weaknesses incurred by injuries, or just make a particular muscle more defined. Isolation exercises are very important if you've had an injury. If you do not workout/through the injured muscles, it may cause an irreversible issue.
Common isolation exercises include:
Bent over dumbbell row
Compound exercise should be done first in a workout if not the entire workoout for the day. If you're in a rush, compound exercises are the way to go. Building overall strenght and stability while burning more calories in a workout just makes sense. However, if you notice that your chest are not looking the best or your right bicep is more defined than your left, isolation exercises are a plus. When done together, you're looking at a well balanced workout. Complete and function workout equals Compound, targeting a specific muscle equals isolation.
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