There are many different exercises focused on building muscle in the body, but they are mainly grouped into two types of exercise. These exercises are called isolation and compound exercises. Each type of exercise has benefits, but which is the best for building muscle?
Compound vs. Isolation Exercises
In order to spot the differences between isolation exercises and compound exercises, carefully watch a demonstration of the exercise or imagine the mechanics of the exercise. Isolation exercises can be spotted by noting if only one area of the body is moving during the exercise.
For example, bicep curls while lifting barbells requires no movement of the torso or legs. The entire focus of that exercise is to work out the biceps. While they do work the forearms a bit it is minimal. Since the entire focus is on one area of the body, it is an isolation exercise.
Bicep Curls primarily work the Biceps.
Leg curls require no movement of the torso or arms. They only require movement of the legs. The focus of that exercise is to work out the hamstrings. Since the focus of the exercise is entirely on the hamstrings, it is an isolation exercise.
Leg Curls only work the Hamstrings.
Bench presses primarily work out the chest area, but they also build muscle in the shoulders and triceps. Movement is not isolated to one area of the body as it is in isolation exercises. Since there are numerous areas of focus in this exercise, it is a compound exercise.
Bench Presses work the Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps.
Seated Cable Rows work the Middle Back, Lats, Biceps, and Shoulders.
When Should You Perform Isolation Exercises?
Isolation exercises do have their benefits. They are great for people who want to focus on building one area of their body. In addition, these exercises are also great for training body parts that have a hard time keeping up with the progress of other body parts.
Isolation exercises are also good for targeting smaller muscles that might not get a lot of exercise during a compound exercise.
The Benefits of Compound Exercises
Compound exercises work out many different muscles at once instead of focusing on one area. This allows for a more thorough work out in less time than it takes to do a full work out using isolation exercises. Working out more muscles in a shorter amount of time means building muscle faster and more efficiently.
In addition, compound exercises also produce more positive hormones than isolation exercises. Building muscle doesn’t just make people look good, it makes them feel good. Exercising triggers the production of various hormones. Some of these hormones help people lose weight, increase energy, build muscle and improve health. Isolation exercises trigger the production of these hormones, but compound exercises produce a higher level of positive hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone.
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Compound exercises are also more beneficial to the human body than isolation exercises because the human body usually works out numerous areas at once on a daily basis. Even doing a menial task can work out numerous areas of the body. Throughout an average day, most people probably put work into every muscle in their body. There are few moments when a person is only moving an isolated area of their body. Working out in the same way the human body functions on a daily basis will allow for a more natural and fluid work out.
In addition, this will improve performance while playing sports. Most sports implement the use of practically every muscle in the human body. Using exercises that work out numerous groups of muscles instead of isolating specific areas will improve performance while playing these sports.
Compound exercises also burn off more calories than isolation exercises. Working out several groups of muscles at once instead of just one group of muscles works the body harder. Working the body harder will burn off more calories and will stimulate weight loss faster.
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Finally, compound exercises can decrease a person’s chance of injury. Compound exercises work out several groups of muscles spanning over the body at once. This improves balance, coordination and stability, which will reduce the risk of injury.
Isolation exercises have their place in the world, but compound exercises are far more beneficial to building muscle than isolation exercises are. They help build muscle faster and more efficiently than isolation exercises and have numerous other benefits on top of that. Anyone unsure of their exercising regimen or which areas of their body need work should ask a personal trainer to see which compound exercises will be best for them.
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts on compound and isolation exercises? Do you only do compound? Do you do both types of exercises? Leave a comment below.