Comparison between isolation and compounds

Lifeforce

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I see so many people who got really crappy form at the gym and also lift way too heavy for an effective workout. The current dogma in the weightlifting world seem to be that you should aim to lift heavy to get big. While this is true in a lot of ways I think it is a bit oversimplified.

When you decide to start lifting you actually need to understand what your goal is to get the best results. If your goal is to get very muscular then you should definatly not only lift to get big numbers or only use compounds.

I see some serious misuse of certain exercises in the gym. Basically there are three types of lifts. The really intense ball breaking compound movements such as deadlifts and squats (and a few similar variants), the compounds such as bent over rows, bench presses, dips and pull-ups. Then there are the isolation exercises such as biceps curls, triceps extensions, etc.

The problem I see is that a lot of newbie people use the same compound/lift heavy mentality when it comes to isolation exercises. The thing is, the heavier the exercise, the less you need to worry about hitting the right muscles. When I do squats I don't feel which muscle is working, I just feel that it's really heavy and I aim to get the weight up (with good form).

When I do compound I still use force but I also make sure that I get a decent muscle activation of the right muscles. Say I bench press, I make sure that my chest is activated. To do this I might need to use a slightly lighter weight so I can target the right muscles and my stronger muscles don't overtake my chest. I find this is the best way to avoid stalling in exercises, adding small weights every workout but working with slightly lower weights than I am capable of lifting (i.e. not going to failure too often). It is easy to train the activiation of motor units (nervous system activation) than training muscle if one lift as heavy as possible all the time.

When I do isolation I care very little about weight. In my head it is all about mind-muscle connection. If I do a biceps curl I close my eyes and I become my biceps, I can feel the weight tearing it up. The purpose of isolation exercises is to isolate your target muscle. There is no point in lifting very heavy in the curls for example, it will only activate the wrong muscles. Lift as heavy as you can while maintaining the right muscle activation. It might take a bit of practice and you might need to lower the weight. I know a few guys who do like 3-5 reps on the curls, this is counter productive and gross misuse of isolation exercises. Do a bit higher reps on isolation so you can target the right muscles.

So in conclusion, the fewer the muscles an exercise activates, the more you need to aim towards muscle activation instead of just lifting heavy. If you have a lagging bodypart, then it might be a good idea to focus on activating this muscle using isolation exercises.

my 2 cents.
 
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TheStig

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Good post. It all depends on goals.

Strength = heavy compounds + some assistance
Bodybuilding = lighter compounds + a lot more isolation assistance

One thing you didn't mention, is that isolation movements have a greater potential to bring out joint problems, since all the weight is being put on one single joint. It's never happened to me, though. I would venture to guess it would only happen with overuse of isolation exercises.

Me personally, I like to stick to heavy ass compounds, because I couldn't give a sh1t less about bodybuilding. Bench press, back/box/front squat, conventional/trap bar deads, pullups, chins, dips all types of rows, ab wheel, basically if it involves multiple joints and the potential for heavy weight, I do it. I like to use bodybuilding parameters sometimes, but never include all the isolation work (I do some for a pump), because my goal is to get as strong and conditioned as possible. Form follows function. If I stick to the goal I just mentioned, looks will come. And they are.
 

Lifeforce

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Yeah, I basically only use isolation for lagging body parts, for me it being the arms and somewhat chest. No mass building program should really rely on isolation, it is just for the muscles that need extra attention that the compound doesn't give imo. Just makes me sad seeing people at the gym throwing their time away by using isolation exercises with the same mentality as compound mass builders.

Looking good shouldn't be underestimated, it's nice to be strong, but nice to look good as well. Bit much emphasis on strength nowadays. :)

PairPlusRoyalFlush: Yeah I do get what you're saying. Stiff leg deads, or romanian (still don't know the difference after all these years :crackup: ) can really tear up your hamstrings good with some good mind muscle, allthough it isn't really needed imo.
 

DanZy

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"lift way too heavy for an effective workout" This statement is truly awful. If you're lifting heavy as **** singles, triples and less commonly doubles with shortish rest periods in-between sets, you're going to grow like crazy.

Noobs should start out lifting for strength using compounds to provide a base and structure for their body to grow, look at Arnold for example.

Only once you're at a solid strength base, have been lifting for a decent amount of time and have a good body as a result should isolation be used to bring up lagging body parts. Most people simply don't need to
 

TheStig

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DanZy said:
"lift way too heavy for an effective workout" This statement is truly awful. If you're lifting heavy as **** singles, triples and less commonly doubles with shortish rest periods in-between sets, you're going to grow like crazy.
I think he means lifting so heavy that your form goes to sh1t and it basically becomes a pointless exercise. case in point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BunvrI9Q9PA. Also, heavy triples or less would never be done in an isolation movement. Actually I'm sure some people out there do, but they're fvcking retarded.
 
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Krueg

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I agree, isolation exercises aren't really meant for going balls to the wall. Though I believe some "Assistant Work" can be pushed harder to get your weak area(s) strong(er)... Depending on the Individual and their specific needs.

I have a purpose and reason for my exercise selection. I know it will help me meet my personal training goals. Everyone is going to be a little different. People just need to know what their doing, why their doing it and believe in it. Train smart! and if its not working, try something different.
 

TheStig

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Krueg said:
I agree, isolation exercises aren't really meant for going balls to the wall. Though I believe some "Assistant Work" can be pushed harder to get your weak area(s) strong(er)... Depending on the Individual and their specific needs.

I have a purpose and reason for my exercise selection. I know it will help me meet my personal training goals. Everyone is going to be a little different. People just need to know what their doing, why their doing it and believe in it. Train smart! and if its not working, try something different.
You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to Krueg again.
 

DanZy

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TheStig said:
I think he means lifting so heavy that your form goes to sh1t and it basically becomes a pointless exercise. case in point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BunvrI9Q9PA. Also, heavy triples or less would never be done in an isolation movement. Actually I'm sure some people out there do, but they're fvcking retarded.
In that case he's spot on
 

Lifeforce

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DanZy said:
"lift way too heavy for an effective workout" This statement is truly awful. If you're lifting heavy as **** singles, triples and less commonly doubles with shortish rest periods in-between sets, you're going to grow like crazy.

Noobs should start out lifting for strength using compounds to provide a base and structure for their body to grow, look at Arnold for example.

Only once you're at a solid strength base, have been lifting for a decent amount of time and have a good body as a result should isolation be used to bring up lagging body parts. Most people simply don't need to
Doesn't really matter what new people does in the gym, they will grow anyway. Most people should be vary about going for really heavy work though the first half year of training. Bones, ligaments and sinews take longer time to adapt to heavy load than muscles. There is also the problem with people who lift heavy without knowing which muscles to target or how to perform the lift properly.

Unless instructed, most people will have pretty bad form when starting out (while themselves thinking they have perfect form). Learning to do the stuff properly before going heavy is quite important imo. I mean if a person is young they can probably get away with crap form and lifting heavy while growing like crazy. Most people will **** up the back, knee or the shoulder on their way though.

When it comes to compounds vs isolation, the advice I got ten years ago was to not do isolation. The GH release from the heavy exercises and the synergist role these muscles play in compounds will help them grow anyway. Ofc this was bull**** for me. Lagging bodyparts limit the growth of the rest of the body, compounds wont fix that problem because the lagging bodypart limit the amount of weight you can use in the compound. Might work for other people, who knows.

Not saying people shouldnt do low rep, I think people got the potential to grow from most rep ranges and should explore them to find what fits them. Personally I enjoy going for more reps the lighter the exercise is, I find it easier to do progressive poundage increase that way. Sub 5 reps is something I seldom do, though it works for others.

Krueg said:
I agree, isolation exercises aren't really meant for going balls to the wall. Though I believe some "Assistant Work" can be pushed harder to get your weak area(s) strong(er)... Depending on the Individual and their specific needs.

I have a purpose and reason for my exercise selection. I know it will help me meet my personal training goals. Everyone is going to be a little different. People just need to know what their doing, why their doing it and believe in it. Train smart! and if its not working, try something different.
Yeah definatly. Everyone with some experience can find exercises that fit them and the rep ranges that fit their bodyparts.

Assistant work kind of works differently. If you wanna up your deadlift and your hams are **** then the focus would be to increase the strength of the hams. Like glute-ham raises for example. It's all about the goals as you say.


TheStig said:
I think he means lifting so heavy that your form goes to sh1t and it basically becomes a pointless exercise. case in point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BunvrI9Q9PA. Also, heavy triples or less would never be done in an isolation movement. Actually I'm sure some people out there do, but they're fvcking retarded.
Well I mean two things. People who lift heavy all the time and burn out and people who approach lighter work with heavy compound mentality. I see this in the gym every day. Form doesn't need to be ****, just the intensity might be wrong for muscle growth.
 

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DanZy said:
"lift way too heavy for an effective workout" This statement is truly awful. If you're lifting heavy as **** singles, triples and less commonly doubles with shortish rest periods in-between sets, you're going to grow like crazy.

Noobs should start out lifting for strength using compounds to provide a base and structure for their body to grow, look at Arnold for example.

Only once you're at a solid strength base, have been lifting for a decent amount of time and have a good body as a result should isolation be used to bring up lagging body parts. Most people simply don't need to
so true.ive experienced this exact same thing myself. start with strength,then hypertrophy and isolation of ****ty body parts.wanted to write this myself but its already done
 
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