Compound vs. Isolation Exercises


We’re all really busy people, and trying to fit everything into such a short amount of time.  Exercise is no different, and it really is a case of quality over quantity.

People always ask how much exercise they should be doing per session and per week, but it really depends on the amount of time you can spare.  If I tell you that 3-4 times a week for about 60 minutes should be what you aim for, then if you can’t commit to that, you already feel like you’re failing before you even get started.
If you have 30 minutes, that’s fine – it’s what you do in that 30 minutes that makes the most difference.  You need to get the most out of whatever time you have available.

This is where whole body, big movements come in – compound exercises.
Compound exercise work more muscles, so give you more bang for your buck – if you’re really short on time, a few compound exercises are better than nothing.  Think of burpees, jumping jacks and high knees….. all really good exercises that get most of your body working hard.

In comparison, isolation exercises towards the end of your workout will ensure the single muscle is tired and worked adequately, but you can save these singular types of exercises until you have a bit more time.  To try and work each muscle individually takes such a long time, so adding them altogether makes much more sense.  You may not even realise the amount of muscles that are working in a particular exercise, and each muscle that is working means a higher level of calories being burned.  Added to that the higher number of calories being burned at rest through your higher lean body mass, they really are worth the extra effort.

I’ve noticed more definition and growth in my biceps since I’ve started doing pull ups, much more than when I was concentrating on bicep curls alone.

Whenever you structure a workout, you should work big to small – big muscle groups and compound exercises, to small and individual muscle isolation exercises.

A great example of this is your abs – they’re stabilisers, so just need concentration at the end of a session to make sure they’ve been worked enough and you get the best results.  The truth is that they’ve been ‘working’ throughout the session, during the compound exercises, but the isolation work causes fatigue and really has the effect.

Examples of compound exercises (list not exhaustive):
Deadlifts
Squats
Press Ups
Pull Ups

Examples of isolation exercises (list not exhaustive):
Bicep Curls
Leg Extension
Leg Curl
Tricep Pushdown

What’s your favourite exercise to do?
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or drop me an email.

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