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compound movements and isolation movements

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  • #31
    Slightly off track but it all boils down to exactly what you are wanting to achieve. Many so called compound exercises fail to allow maximum stress possible to the main movers due to the fact that they also rely on weak links.

    Take the Pull up, I could probably do a static hold using way in excess of 100 lbs around my waist but couldn't do full reps because of the weak link...my biceps.

    Most people could probably do close to twice as much in the leg press that they could in the squat, thus you are selling the quads short of what they can lift because of the weak links that come into play during a squat. Does this make one exercise better than the other, of course not it just means that they need to be chosen according to your specific needs.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
      If you have something to say, spit it out!
      If you think a heavy barbell curl is what people mean by a full-ROM multi-joint movement including the greates possible amount of muscle mass, you're absurdum. Pardon my latin.
      The Champagne of Beards

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      • #33
        Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
        If you think a heavy barbell curl is what people mean by a full-ROM multi-joint movement including the greates possible amount of muscle mass, you're absurdum. Pardon my latin.
        My point is that the distinction is not very fruitful and that it depends on how you perform the exercise! Doing cheating overload curls with heavy dumbells with lots of hip movement is not an isolation exercise in my book and strict close-stance squatting targeting quads look more like an isolation movement to me, so it depends on how you are performing the exercise maybe?
        "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

        - Schopenhauer

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        • #34
          Originally posted by Gorbag View Post
          My point is that the distinction is not very fruitful and that it depends on how you perform the exercise! Doing cheating overload curls with heavy dumbells with lots of hip movement is not an isolation exercise in my book and strict close-stance squatting targeting quads look more like an isolation movement to me, so it depends on how you are performing the exercise maybe?
          Compound movements are not just about the quantity of muscles involved, but also about the degree of involvement. You can do wrist curls, which is certainly not a compound, exercise, but you can make it multi-joint by hopping on one leg. However, that doesn't make it a compound exercise because you're just throwing more muscle needlessly into the movement.

          In your curl example, while you used a bunch of joints, none of them, except for wrists and elbows, were used that heavily. It was still just a bicep exercise with some forearm involvement.

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          • #35
            Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
            I would highly doubt someone who is strong in the bench press would suffer weak triceps. The bench press to me is a primary tricep/shoulder exercise that also happens to involve the chest albeit to a limited degree. I'd expect the more likely scenario would be that their pec development might suffer if they are the type that uses a lot of front delt during their presses.
            For sure. Some argue that you don't need isolation exercises at all to build a great body. I do agree with that. But that doesn't mean that isolation exercises can't help. They surely can. And that was the point I was trying to make.

            To put it a different way, if you have a big bench press your triceps will be strong. But with weak triceps, you won't bench much. If your triceps are weak, adding in some direct work for the triceps should help strengthen them and bring up the bench press.

            In Brooks Kubik's book "Dinosaur Training", he said that you could eliminate isolation exercises without ever having to regret it. I agree with that for the most part. But I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go to hell for throwing in a few sets of triceps extensions at the end of my workouts.

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            • #36
              Originally posted by Ripped View Post
              For sure. Some argue that you don't need isolation exercises at all to build a great body. I do agree with that. But that doesn't mean that isolation exercises can't help. They surely can. And that was the point I was trying to make.

              To put it a different way, if you have a big bench press your triceps will be strong. But with weak triceps, you won't bench much. If your triceps are weak, adding in some direct work for the triceps should help strengthen them and bring up the bench press.

              In Brooks Kubik's book "Dinosaur Training", he said that you could eliminate isolation exercises without ever having to regret it. I agree with that for the most part. But I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go to hell for throwing in a few sets of triceps extensions at the end of my workouts.
              Yeah, I don't think anyone disagrees that some isolation work can be helpful for certain individuals in certain instances. Is that the argument?
              The Champagne of Beards

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              • #37
                Originally posted by quikky View Post
                In your curl example, while you used a bunch of joints, none of them, except for wrists and elbows, were used that heavily. It was still just a bicep exercise with some forearm involvement.
                Plenty of deltoids involved, the core, calves, neck, butts, whatever! Try it for yourself, grab two heavy dumbells, so heavy that you can't curl them, 75 pound or more and swing them up as fast you can using your hips. On the way down you'll kick them back to involve triceps and deltoids posterior. It's not just biceps with some forarm involvement, which you may notice on DOMS the days after, you may be sore in most of your body...
                "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                - Schopenhauer

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                • #38
                  Here are some of Drew Bayes thoughts on the subject:

                  A major reason for belief in the physique versus function dichotomy is probably the greater use of isolation exercises in bodybuilding, which are often erroneously considered “non-functional” by many in the functional training crowd. They believe that an exercise must be performed in a manner that mimics how the body moves during activities of daily living, work, or sport for the strength or other aspects of fitness gained in that movement to effectively transfer to those activities. However, it is not necessary to work the muscles involved in a particular movement using a similar movement for the strength gained to transfer. Regardless of how a muscle becomes stronger, the greater strength can be applied to any movement involving those muscles, and any program that effectively addresses all of the major muscle groups will improve function, even if it includes isolation exercises.

                  While it is my opinion that the basis for any strength training program should be heavy, multi-joint movements – my own routines are built around squats, deadlifts, presses, chin-ups, dips and rows – isolation movements have their place. Single joint exercises are often the best way to address areas that are disproportionately weak to correct imbalances. While some trainers claim these imbalances will correct themselves over time if the muscles are worked during multi-joint movements, what often happens is the trainee will alter the way they perform those movements to compensate for the weaker muscle groups, possibly increasing the imbalance and the risk of injury. Also, research conducted by Nautilus at West Point showed the muscles of the neck – of extreme importance to athletes in contact sports – respond much better to direct, isolated exercise than through indirect involvement in other movements.

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                  • #39
                    Using sloppy multi-joint form = "compounds" while using strict single-joint form = "isolation"? Anyway, I prefer to use both methods, to get the best from both "worlds" - why does it have to be either or?
                    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                    - Schopenhauer

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                    • #40
                      Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                      Here are some of Drew Bayes thoughts on the subject:
                      I think Drew's right on. Except that I'd say a good coach should be able to prevent his athlete from performing a lift in a way that contradicts the model in order to avoid a weak area.
                      The Champagne of Beards

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                      • #41
                        Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                        Can we just talk about "single-joint" and "multi-joint" exercises then? With the understanding that there's such a thing as isometric contraction, and certain muscles, like abdominals, are actually more suited to being worked isometrically than concentrically/eccentrically?
                        I think that is a better way to think about it. As far as I know, the definitions of compound and isolation movements have been around for a very long time. We aren't making up anything new here.

                        I think the main comparison I was getting at was that many people recommend only a few basic movements, claiming that isolation exercises are nearly useless. Truthfully, such certainly would be good food for thought for a newbie that only knows benching and curls. It also might be good food for thought for someone who is strapped for time. Clearly there are other situations/examples where a simplified routine would be best.

                        But my question is, how far is too far and for what purpose? Cossfitters say they want to be good at everything, but my bet is that most of them have skinny weak calves because they don't do any direct calf work. Martin Derkhan and Drew Baye both say don't bother with direct ab work, but put two lean twins on the same exact program and diet except one adds in direct ab work while the other doesn't, and it shouldn't take a genius to guess who will probably have the better abs.

                        You definitely can build an incredible body with a very basic program. I've done it. For example, if you had a guy do nothing but squats, bench press, and cleans, work really hard at them, and then diet to shed the fat, he'll have a body that's better than perhaps 90% of the population. Why? It's simple. Because he'll be both strong and lean and most people can't do that because they simply don't know how. Sure, he might have a few muscles that are lagging, but for the most part most of his muscles will be big and strong, and he'll look good because he's lean.

                        I think I was getting a bit off topic there. But I'm just saying, on the other hand, if you had the time, there's certainly nothing wrong with throwing in a few isolation exercises. Personally I don't like to bother with them while cutting, because in such a case my main aim is simplicity, hard work on basics, and diet, and that works. But in my regular strength training, I know it helps, even just a few exercises. Calves I know for sure is one muscle that responds well to isolation exercises, that which only requires a few sets per week, which could only take a few minutes. If I don't include any calf work at all, they shrink over time.

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                        • #42
                          Many ways of training can make you stronger, here some compound incline dumbell curls:

                          "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                          - Schopenhauer

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                          • #43
                            Originally posted by Ripped View Post
                            I think I was getting a bit off topic there. But I'm just saying, on the other hand, if you had the time, there's certainly nothing wrong with throwing in a few isolation exercises. Personally I don't like to bother with them while cutting, because in such a case my main aim is simplicity, hard work on basics, and diet, and that works. But in my regular strength training, I know it helps, even just a few exercises. Calves I know for sure is one muscle that responds well to isolation exercises, that which only requires a few sets per week, which could only take a few minutes. If I don't include any calf work at all, they shrink over time.
                            But take a look at big fat guys, they nearly all have huge calves just from walking around steadily carrying their bulk. Also think about strongmen competitors, most of them also do no calf isolation work but also have huge calves from doing heavy farmers walks etc. I doubt many of those perform any direct calf work.
                            Last edited by OldSchhool; 10-16-2013, 11:01 AM.

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                            • #44
                              Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                              But take a look at big fat guys, they nearly all have huge calves just from walking around steadily carrying their bulk. Also think about strongmen competitors, most of them also do no calf isolation work but also have huge calves from doing heavy farmers walks etc. I doubt many of those perform any direct calf work.
                              I think so too. But I can just comment based on my own experience. Calves have always responded well for me, even when only doing say 5 hard sets per week. I stopped training them directly (most of the time) several years ago due to an injury. I do believe my calves got smaller ever since, even though I've competed in powerlifting and strongman and continued to stay strong for years. They didn't get too small though, just a little bit. In later years I noticed when I tried, they showed a noticeable difference even when I only did one hard set every 2 weeks.

                              Along the lines of what you are saying, I'll note an interesting experience I had several years ago. I had some problems with my shoulder, so I gave up benching for about a year if I recall correctly. Instead, I worked military presses, that which I hadn't previously worked as hard on. Then one day I went to the gym and decided to try to max out on bench presses just to see how much I could do. Mind you I hadn't benched in probably a year. I ended up benching about 25 lbs more than I ever did in my life.

                              My lesson learnt from that one is that your body truly does work together as a whole. With bench presses, you won't be able to isolate your chest from your shoulders. And with military presses you won't be able to isolate your shoulders from your chest. In such cases, one muscle gets worked better, but it still involves the other muscle to a significant extent.

                              Speaking of that, I remember someone asking Jesse Marunde (2nd place in worlds strongest man) how much he benched. He claimed that he never did bench presses because it wasn't necessary for strongman. But he believed if he tried he might be able to bench 700 lbs. With him weighing 300 lbs with abs showing, it wouldn't surprise me.

                              Anyways, it's clear that overall, compound exercises and basics are king when it comes to overall mass. There are certain exercises that I would never bother to do at all. No leg curls, leg extensions, or leg presses. For isolations to be specific, I might on great occasion do calf work, tricep work, bicep work, or neck extensions, but that's about it. I wouldn't even bother with shrugs because traps get worked well enough from deadlifts, cleans, high pulls, and/or farmers walk; any of those exercises make my traps very sore.

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