For the last years this type of exercises have become the go for many in the gym and even when I can´t agree with this the reason is simple, “the pump”. To look bigger faster which is not what I´m looking for.
I consider isolation exercises a great tool if you know how to use them to get the best results, for resistance training it´s a complex balance between the 3 types of exercises, variables of training (which we´re going to talk about in the next posts), and training techniques (we´re also going to talk about them in separate posts).
Isolation exercises are single-joint movements and they work one muscle at a time so you can´t lift heavy weight with this exercises. They may not be the best option to gain strength but they have their space on some workouts.
If your goal is to lose fat and get lean you can create a great workout program with just bodyweight and compound movements but if your goal is to gain muscle you can add some isolation exercises to hit weaker muscles.
While for compound movements you can lift heavy weight and work on myofibryllar hypertrophy, strength and power, with isolation movements you can´t lift heavy. You´ll be using a weight you can lift for around 12 to 15 reps, you can go a bit heavier and hit the 10 to 12 reps. In both rep ranges you´ll be working on a sarcoplasmic hypertrophy range (if you want to learn more about types of hypertrophy click here).
If you feel like a muscle group needs more work then you can use isolation exercises to give that muscle the extra work they´re missing.
There are so many isolation exercises and variations for every muscle group that it can get overwhelming, to keep it simple if you can stick with some few exercises for 2 or 3 months so that you can see your progress do it, especially if you are starting your fitness journey. You need to get familiar with the movements using lighter weight before you can add more weight and that process takes time.
When you focus on bodyweight and compound movements you may feel like some muscles are weaker or lagging and you want to work them more, for this you use isolation movements to hit those muscle specifically. 1 or 2 exercises for the weaker muscles is all you need, there´s no reason to do a lot more, if you feel like you still need more you can use some of the variables we´ll be talking about on future post or what I call advance techniques like rest pause, failure training or dropsets.
When your goal is gaining muscle you may be looking to gain muscle mass on one specific muscle so the way to do this is by adding more volume which you can do by combining bodyweight, compound and isolation exercises, you can use bodyweight and compound for heavy weight low reps and you can add 1 or 2 isolation exercises with lower weight and high reps, this way you can hit that muscle with both types of hypertrophy and more volume.
For anyone new to working out the best option is to focus on bodyweight and compound movements, start with lighter weight until you get comfortable with the exercises and start increasing weight, you can get in really good shape and build a great physique with those 2 types of movements, to lose fat faster add some cardio.
After a few months you can start to add some isolation exercises to your workouts to add more volume and variation. As you get more train you need to keep changing things constantly and isolation movements give you a lot more options.
Sticking with compound movements even when there are some variations for each exercise you may get stuck at some point, bodyweight exercises also have a lot of variations which keep your workouts challenging and fun but isolation movements have a lot more options considering that you can use them with almost all advance techniques.
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