Compound vs. Isolation Exercises – Which is More Effective?

You’ve purchased your amazing workout clothes and shoes. Your motivation is in check, your refrigerator is stocked with healthy food and you have a pumping playlist ready to help you rock your workout. But do you really know which workouts are best for your goals? 

When it comes to weight training, there are two major types of exercises; compound and isolation. If you don’t know the differences between these two types, or the benefits of each, then read on my friend. I’ve got you covered!

Compound Exercises

  • What they are 
    • Compound exercises are exercises that target and incorporate two or more muscle groups at one time. Compound exercises are also ones that should be done at the beginning of each training session you’re feeling strong.  They maximize muscle growth and should be the biggest foundation of your workout. 
  • Benefits of compound exercises include:
    • They save time. By targeting two or more muscle groups in one movement, you can literally cut your gym time in half while still reaping all the muscle building benefits.
    • They burn more calories. While the time you spend doing the exercises may be cut in half, your calorie burn could actually be doubled. 
    • They increase strength. When doing compound exercises, your body is forced to use more muscles which also boosts your testosterone levels. This boost in testosterone helps to repair your muscles faster, which in turn, helps you gain strength.
    • They improve your coordination and flexibility. If you play a sport, or are just a constant multi-tasker, compound exercises train your body (and your brain), to be able to move different parts simultaneously and seamlessly.
  • Examples of compound exercises include:
    • Deadlifts
    • Squats
    • Shoulder press
    • Bench press
    • High plank with twist

Isolation Exercises

  • What they are
    • Isolation exercises are exercises that only target and work one muscle group at a time. 
  • Benefits of isolation exercises include:
    • You can strengthen a specific muscle that needs extra focus. Many physical therapist use isolation exercises to strengthen muscles that are weak due to injury or surgery.
    • Isolation workouts are generally safer. If you find that you lack coordination, you may find isolation exercises easier to do. By focusing on one movement and one muscle group, there is less of a chance of injury. 
    • If you crave variety, there is more variety in isolation exercises, meaning – there are many more to choose from. Isolation exercises are also perfect if you have limited access to equipment.
  • Examples of isolation exercises include:
    • Chest fly
    • Tricep extension
    • Bicep curl
    • Dumbbell side raise
    • Crunches

So now that you know the difference between these two types of exercise, which one should you be focusing on? The answer is – both! 

If you truly want to build a better and balanced body, you should be mixing up your workouts to include both compound and isolation exercises. When you’re short on time or in need of a higher calorie burn, focus on compound moves. On days when you have a little more time to spend in the gym, have a specific muscle that you’re wanting to see more growth from, or if you’re recovering from an injury – this is the time to shift to isolation moves. 

By incorporating both compound and isolation exercises into your weekly workouts, you’re ensuring that you’ll get the most out of your sweat sessions! For customized plans and workouts that incorporate both compound and isolations exercised, click here, and checkout my weekly workouts.