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Compound vs Isolation Exercise: Which is the best for Muscle Growth

Compound vs Isolation Exercise: Which is the best for Muscle Growth

To compound or not to compound? That is the question. At least for anyone targeting muscle growth, but is caught on the fence between compound and isolation exercises. The endless debates about what exercises spur muscle growth continue to rumble louder every day. We get tons of questions at our gym in San Diego, with muscle seekers turning to us for counsel on the best path to take. To put this issue to bed, once and for all, we deep dive into the world of compound vs isolation. If you’re at this crossroad, welcome aboard as we pick apart what each brings to the table so you can make a more informed choice. Let’s get going!. 

So what are compound exercises anyway? 

Compound exercises work to simulate everyday movements, in accordance with how we use muscles daily. They are multi-joint exercises that bring several muscle groups into action at the same time. 

Examples in this category encompass: 

  • Push-ups 
  • Pull-ups
  • Deadlifts 
  • Squats

What about Isolation exercises? 

Isolation exercises, on the flip side, target just a single muscle group at a time. Because of this, isolation exercises tend to get a bad rap, but they can make for really good strength training options too as you’ll soon discover. 

Some examples include: 

  • Calf raises 
  • Leg extensions 
  • Triceps extensions
  • Bicep curls

When compound exercises are more appropriate

A personal trainer San Diego will, without a moment’s pause and almost by reflex, tell you to straight-up go for compound exercises if you’re a beginner looking to set up your foundation. That’s quite understandable when you consider the following about compound exercises: 

  • They enable you to work with greater loads

Challenging multiple muscles at the same time is key to building your overall strength, and expanding your energy reserves. Your body’s testosterone production is higher when you work several muscles compared to just focusing on one.

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for skeletal muscle and muscle mass growth at large, and the more of it your body produces, the stronger and bulkier you’ll get. Compound exercises, therefore, accelerate muscle growth faster, enabling you to take on greater loads progressively. It’s for this reason that they earn favor among many fitness enthusiasts and experts. 

  • Compound exercises are functional and time-efficient

Compound exercises often reflect and train everyday movements like squatting, reaching for things, and more. Thus, they double up as excellent options for functional exercises that will ease your daily life. This overall strengthening adds to your ability to lift heavier weights over time. 

What’s more, as opposed to performing exercises targeting muscle groups one at a time, compound exercises enable you to get them all in one sweep, so to speak. This means you can work on building several muscle groups simultaneously so you’re out of the gym quicker. 

  • Core strength improves which is great for strength training

Most compound exercises challenge your core, which means your:

  • Obliques
  • Hips 
  • Deep stomach muscles (Beyond your six-pack)

Compound movements make your spine and core more stable, giving you a nice and strong pivot which is key to improving your posture and overall enhancing the effectiveness of all other workouts you perform. This is why you may have heard your female personal trainer San Diego emphasizing like a broken record that compounds are the foundation of any muscle-building regime. 

Where isolation exercises come out tops

Just because compound exercises are more popular for muscle growth doesn’t mean isolation exercises have nothing to offer. They more than pull their weight, often helping to correct what compound exercises might have missed, and here’s how: 

  • Isolation exercises are great for correcting imbalances

When you overuse certain muscles and others go neglected, may be due to an uneven workout routine or the nature of your job perhaps, muscle imbalances or weaknesses can set in. These imbalances can also be down to: 

  • Injury
  • Bad posture
  • Inactivity 

In such cases, our San Diego fitness experts may point you in the direction of certain isolation exercises, the exact nature of which will depend on what opposing muscle groups require more targeting. An improper form could also be the cause of muscle imbalances, so you may need to consider getting yourself a professional trainer. 

  • They keep you building muscles through injury 

Because you’ve torn a tricep doesn’t mean you have to take a raincheck on your workout routine in its entirety, and that’s the beauty of isolation exercises. You can still preserve some of the gains from your workout, as you continue to build muscle growth in unaffected muscle areas while you nursing your injury or as you give overworked muscle groups some time off. 

What’s more, isolation exercises are great for wetting your feet and feeling your way into a regime as you concentrate on technique and good form by reinforcing supporting muscles. This can help prevent injuries and muscle imbalances in the first place. 

  • You’ll never miss a muscle again and you’ll get past strength plateaus 

Compound exercises can leave certain smaller muscle groups on the sidelines. For instance, if you’re performing rows or pull-ups, your biceps, although somewhat in the heat of the action, aren’t being properly worked. 

To channel a lot more intensity and volume their way, isolation exercises such as curls are certain to give your biceps proper attention. Consequently, this also means isolation exercises become key if you have really specific muscle groups in mind that you’d like to develop or strengthen. Moreover, isolation exercises are essential to getting past your strength plateau if your training is stuck in a rut. 

And the winner is… 

Given all we’ve learned today, it suffices to say that if compound exercises are the foundation of your power, isolation exercises are your muscle-building partner. It’s not really a question of compound vs isolation rather a well-balanced, muscle-building approach is about compound and isolation. Although, depending on your specific goals, you may find yourself advised toward one side or the other. Let an expert San Diego personal trainer come up with a balanced compound plus isolation regime to get you the all-around burgeoning physique you’ve always dreamed of. Or, build specific muscle groups you’d like to steal the show. Contact us today. 

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