Compound vs. Isolation Exercises*

Monday, 22 February 2016, By Dom Graham

 

It is known that a proper resistance training program is necessary to increase lean muscle, decrease fat, and create your ideal body. The hard part is deciding which exercises to include in your regime. More specifically, should you compound or isolation movements? While both can play an important role in your progress depending on your goal, it is important to know the difference between the two, and which ones to spend the majority of your time completing.

 

A compound movement is one that requires the stimulation of two or more muscles and joints. Examples of these include a squat, bench press, deadlift, pull up, etc. An isolated movement is one that requires the stimulation of only one muscle or joint. Examples of these include biceps curls, triceps extensions, pectoral flyes, etc. So which should you use to burn fat?

 

It's important to remember that when fat loss is your goal, you need to be living in a calorie deficit. What this means is that you are burning more energy every day than you are consuming. One effective way to quickly burn energy and therefore fat is through exercise, including resistance training. The more you are able to move your body, the more energy it requires to complete the movement. This means that because compound movements use several muscles and several joints to complete a selected exercise, it is going to be much more effective and efficient in terms of calorie usage compared to an isolated movement. For example, while you arms may feel like they're on fire after a set of biceps curls, this does not mean it is burning through more energy than a large compound movement such as a squat or deadlift. These exercises require the use of your entire body, and consume more calories and ultimately more fat. Compound movements are also much more efficient for lean muscle growth.

 

Your resting metabolism is your body's ability to utilize energy at a relaxed state. The amount of energy you consume through your resting metabolism can differ depending on various factors, the most significant one being lean muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the harder your body has to work to sustain movement. This means that by increasing your lean muscle mass, your body will have to work at a higher intensity every day, resulting in more energy (including fat) being consumed just by performing everyday tasks. So what are the most effective exercises to increase your lean muscle mass? Compound exercises. As you are stimulating several muscles every time you complete a compound movement you are getting much more bang for your buck compared to an isolated movement, where you only stimulate one muscle group. Of course you will increase lean muscle mass by isolating your muscle groups; it will just be at a slower rate.

 

So what are the advantages of isolation exercises then? Firstly isolation exercises are important to fix any muscular imbalances. For example, when someone has dominated with a certain side of their body compared to the other (e.g. after a shoulder or knee injury), isolation exercises can be used to strengthen a particular muscle group so it doesn't lag behind. This is also important for bodybuilders. Genetically everyone develops lean muscle in certain areas of their body compared to others at different rates. Isolated exercises can be used to prevent this from happening.

 

In summary, if fat loss is your goal, compound exercises are king. It is recommended you seek the guidance of a health professional to create a resistance training program that will most effectively help you reach your goals. A long with a balanced diet and proper cardio program, you will be able to hit your goals in no time!

 

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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