Compound VS Isolation Exercises

Compound Exercises

Compound movements have stood the test of time for delivering incredible muscle growth.

Compound movements use a combination of muscle groups and joints.

Using multiple muscle groups allows you to lift heavier weights in general. You also engage and strengthen your core muscles, which helps posture and prevents spinal injuries.

They form the foundation of any good strength & conditioning program. However, they alone will fail to deliver an optimal physique, you still need to add isolation movements into your routine.I always start my workouts with Compound movements as this is when I feel the strongest.

Benefits of Compound Exercises

  • Allows you to get a full body workout faster and burns more calories
  • Allows you to lift heavier loads and build more strength
  • Decreases the risk of injury during sports
  • Keeps your heart rate up and provides cardiovascular benefits
  • Simulates real-world exercises and activities

Examples of Compound Exercises

  • Hip Thrusts
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts (Conventional, Sumo, Romanian, Straight Leg)
  • Bench Press
  • Rows
  • Military Press
  • Chin Ups
  • Dips

Isolation Exercises

Isolation movements target and work one joint and one specific group of muscles. Example, bicep curls work only the biceps and use the elbow.

If there is an area of the body which needs greater attention than isolation movements are ideal. Depending on the muscle worked, a seated position when doing isolation movements is usually preferable and more effective, as even standing still uses a range of muscles that you may be unaware of.


  • Allows you to add isolate areas you’d like to bulk up, such as pecs or biceps
  • Can help in rehabilitation following an injury
  • Improves strength in specific muscles
  • Isolates individual muscles

Examples of Isolation Exercises

  • Bicep Curl
  • Hammer Curls
  • Hamstring Curl
  • Leg Extension
  • Abductions
  • Tricep Pushdown
  • Calf Raises
  • Crunches

It is important to focus most of your workout on compound movements.

If you are just starting out or looking to get into weight training, it’s a great idea to build overall strength first and identify areas of improvement later. Isolation exercises can be beneficial in certain circumstances (including injury recovery and appearance) but are less effective and efficient than compound weight training.In addition, sometimes isolation exercises are better suited for stretching a particular muscle or creating a deep burn or pump.

When I train I prefer to hit compound movements for low to medium rep ranges with a focus on setting personal records and adhering to progressive overload. But when I perform isolation movements, I aim for medium to high rep ranges with a focus on quality and building an intense mind-muscle connection.

Always incorporate compound movements into your training, but don’t skip isolation movements or your physique will suffer.They are both important.

If you aren’t sure what is best for you or where to start, a personal trainer can help you map out a plan that is specific to your goals, as well as designing a plan designed around any prior injuries you may have.

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