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Compound VS Isolation Exercises

Compound Vs. Isolation Exercises

Have you ever heard the terms compound exercises, or isolation exercises? Both of these methods definitely have their advantages, but which should you be doing more often. In this blog, we’re going to talk to you about compound vs. isolation exercises.

Compound Exercises

Compound movements have stood the test of time for delivering incredible muscle growth as well as use a combination of muscle groups and joints.

Using multiple muscle groups allows you to lift heavier weights in general while also engaging and strengthening your core muscles. At the same time, it helps improve 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 exercises into your routine. I always start my workouts with compound movements as this is when I feel the strongest.


  • 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

Some Compound Exercises

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

Isolation Exercises

After performing compound movements, then you should move into isolation exercises. These 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 exercises are ideal. Depending on the muscle worked, a seated position when doing isolation movements is usually preferable and more effective, in order to minimize muscles you may be unaware of when standing.


  • 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. Additionally, 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 simultaneously 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. We have online and in-person trainers here in Cabo. We’re happy to have a free initial consultation, you can contact us here.

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