If you have been doing the same workout for the last 6 months (or more) and still haven’t seen progressive results, it is a pretty good sign that you need to change something. While putting together a strength workout programme, selecting the right exercises is crucial for achieving your fitness goal.
Compound vs Isolation exercises
Compound and isolation exercises are two important components for achieving maximum results in a strength training programme.
Compound exercises: These utilise combinations of joints and muscles groups at the same time. Squats are a great example as they work the core, hamstrings, calves, glutes and lower back, all at the same time. Other examples of compound exercises are dead lifts, bench press, pull ups, push ups, lunges, rows, etc.
Why are they important
Improve functional strength: Compound exercises tend to mimic movements that you perform in everyday life (squatting, pushing, pulling, hinging, etc) and are therefore more effective in improving your functional strength.
Are efficient: You can work more muscles in less time by utilising compound movements. This is especially helpful for those who are short on time or have limited days per week to workout.
Absolute strength gain: Utilising multiple joints in a lift leads to greater strength gains because you are able to increase the weight at a significantly higher rate than with single joint exercises.
Isolation exercises: These isolate one joint and one specific muscle or group of muscles. For example bicep curls work only the biceps and use the elbow. Tricep extensions, front raises, calf raises, wrist curls, tricep kickbacks, are all isolation exercises.
Why are they important
Enable rehab/prehab: While rehabilitating from an injury, we often need to spend more time targeting specific muscles that atrophied during the recovery process. It can also be beneficial to isolate small stabiliser muscles for prehab work.
Allows targeting weak links: Sometimes we have areas that seem to hold us back from our full strength potential and it’s helpful to target those areas with extra isolation work. An improvement in such weak links will enable you to realise your full potential.
Targeted hypertrophy: Isolation exercises allow you to target specific muscles that you want to grow. While compound exercises are more efficient, isolation exercises can help to put emphasis on specific area of body without other muscle groups taking over.
How to split time between Compound & Isolation Exercises?
While there are certainly benefits of isolation exercises, prioritising compound exercises, while supplementing with isolation exercises, should be the main focus. Training the muscles individually is not the most efficient, natural or productive way. As compound exercises provide the greatest overall training effect, more time shall be spent on these. However, you should also allow some time for isolation exercises for areas which either require rehabilitation or which hinder you from achieving your ideal fitness.
The next time you put together a new strength training programme for yourself, make sure that compound exercises make up the base of the workout, with isolation exercises complementing your fitness goals. If you do that, you can be rest assured that you are making the most out of your valuable gym time.
Note:As discussed in the previous article, make sure that your workout programme is well rounded and incorporates aerobic, mobility, balance and core trainings, in addition to the strength workouts discussed here.
Start small, stay consistent!
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