Weight Training

Compound vs Isolation Exercises For Weight Training

weight training




When it comes to resistance training, all exercises can be separated into two groups. Compound and Isolation.

Muscle building, muscle toning, strength training, and resistance based aerobic workouts will all include compound or isolation exercises. Each type of exercise has different benefits and I will explain the two below.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are workouts that exercise multiple muscle groups at the same time, through two or more joints.

If you’re trying to build muscle then including compound exercises is a must. These should be your main exercises for your weight sessions.

The great thing about compound exercises is that they are functional movements. This means that they are movements you would use in the real world. An example of this is a deadlift, which in a real life situation would be someone picking a box up off the floor.

Examples of Compound Exercises

Bench Press – The bench press works out many of the muscles in your upper body. It is normally used to assess the strength of someones upper body. It focuses on the muscles within the chest, arms, and shoulders.

Squats – A squat is a common exercise to use to strengthen the muscles in your legs. It focuses on the muscles within the upper thigh and buttocks along with other muscles in the lower body playing a part.

Pull Ups – Pull ups are a great body weight exercise to include in your workout. This exercise focuses on the muscles within the back and arms.

Deadlifts – A deadlift is another compound exercise that should be included in everyone’s leg workouts. This exercise focuses on the muscles within your legs and back.

There are many other compound exercises you can choose from, depending on which part of the body you are looking to workout. Other examples are bent over rows, shoulder press, or lunges.

Pick the exercises you use based on the area of the body you are looking to train. Use compound exercises as  the main bulk of your workout.

Isolation Exercises

Isolation exercises are exercises that target a specific muscle group with movement through one joint.

They are great for targeting and improving a specific muscle group on its own. Isolation exercises are also great to do if you have a muscle imbalance and need to work on a specific side of the body.

One of the great things about isolation exercises are that you can put a greater emphasis on a single muscle. Lets say on your bench press you have bulkier arms, then you can use an isolation exercise on the chest to make sure the chest is being worked enough.

Isolation exercises also have the additional benefit of changing the shape of the muscle to improve the appearance of a muscle. Lets say once again you do a bench press to add bulk, it is beneficial to do some pectoral flys to improve the shape of your chest.

Examples of Isolation Exercises

Bicep Curls – A bicep curl is probably the most common isolation exercise. It is a great way to work your bicep on its own.

Pectoral Fly – A pectoral fly is an exercise that will work your chest. You can use the cable machines in the gym or you can complete this exercise with dumbbells.

Lateral Raise – A lateral raise is an exercise that works your shoulders, in particular the medial deltoid which is the main part of the shoulder muscle.

Calf Raise – With a lot of focus in your leg workouts being on your upper thigh and buttocks, it is an ideal exercise to include. This is because it isolates your calf muscles in your lower leg.

Tricep Kickback – A tricep kickback works the muscles in the back of the arm, the tricep. A great exercise if you want to add additional emphasis on this part of your body.

So Which Ones Should I Do?

Compound exercises are the fastest way to build muscle mass and should be included in everyone’s workouts.

Make sure that you complete the key exercises for each part of the body such as squats and deadlifts for the lower body, and bench press, pull ups, and shoulder press for the upper body.

If you are new to the weight training game then I would advise you to stick with mastering the compound exercises.

They are great exercises to add functional movements to your workouts and you can also do a relatively quick full body resistance workout by just using compound exercises. This will allow you to do other things in the gym such as your aerobic exercises or interval training.

If you have been doing weight training for a while and are wanting to add volume to your resistance sessions then isolation exercises are the way forward. Remember that the main bulk of your training should still be through compound exercises.

If you have a muscle imbalance then it is also advisable to include specific isolation exercises in your training plan. This will balance your body out preventing you from poor posture and injuries.

Overall compound exercises are the most important exercises to do a solid weight training session. Start off with these exercises and then you can add some isolation exercises to sculpt your body at a later date. Isolation exercises are also beneficial for people with a muscle imbalance.

Don’t go in to the weights section of your gym aimlessly and do some bicep curls or use the adduction machine. Focus on the compound exercises and focus on doing them properly. Your results will come flying if you have these exercises in your weight training plan.



4 comments on “Compound vs Isolation Exercises For Weight Training

  1. Not much of a workout person, but this was a great piece of education for me! Thank you(:

  2. Great read! I have recently started lifting again and this was super helpful! Thank you!

  3. I love using both in my workouts depending on the goal. I’ve had a few knee surgeries, so sometimes isolated exercises is where it’s at for me, to try and balance out my atrophy. Then, when I’m able to get back to compound exercises, my body loves me so much for it!!

  4. This is a fantastic post, I agree that compound exercises are the best way to approach weight training or to build muscle mass. I have also recently posted an article on why compound exercises are more healthier to do than isolation exercises.

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