Compound vs isolation

If you’re new to lifting then you may wonder what a compound exercise is, you may have heard the term being used but never told what it was.


Compound exercises use several muscle groups in one movement. These are exercises like the squat, using the quads, hamstrings, glutes, core and upper body when holding weight. The deadlift, using hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders, core and grip strength. Bench press, using chest, back, shoulders, core. Pull ups, using back, core, shoulders, chest, grip strength…you get the idea.

Isolation exerices use just one muscle group maybe 2. A lot of the resisitance machines you find in the gym are isolation exercises. Things like bicep curls, use just the biceps. Tricep push downs-triceps. Leg extensions-quads. Leg curl- hamstrings. Rear delt raises-rear delts…you see what I’m getting at.

So how should you programme these into your training? Well, it all depends on your goal. For conditioning purpose compound exercises would be the base of your training sessions. These burn the most calories due to the amount of muscles they use. They’re a great way to increase your strength all over and build a solid frame.

Isolation work will come in to sculpt areas you feel need a little more work. For example to get a bicep peak you’re going to want to work the biceps with some isolation exercises. For emphasis on the hamstrings you’ll need to isolate them. To increase the size of your lats then you’ll be looking at exercises that work primarilly the lats. These are all used to build and shape the phisique as we want it. Remember, we can’t spot reduce fat but we can build muscle where want.

All of my clients have both compound and isolation exercises in their programmes. The focus point of isolation exercises depend soley on the cleints goals and areas he or she wants to work, develop and progress. ALL of my clients have deadlifts, squats and bench press in their programmes! Everyone should do these!


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