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  • compound movements and isolation movements

    I was almost going to make this a compound movements vs isolation movements thread, but I didn't want it to turn into an "either or" thread. I just wanted to talk about my experience.

    Over the last year or so, I focused most of my workouts on a few main compound movements and didn't bother much with isolation movements. It works. Compound movements are certainly the most time efficient movements you can do. For example, someone was asking recently on a different forum about how to get over their chicken legs. Of course squats was my answer and the truth is if hard sets are done one can get phenomenal growth in the legs with as little as a few sets done twice per week, maybe even less.

    But what about isolation movements? Over this summer (due partially to sickness and injury) I got slightly out of shape and lost a bit of strength and consistency. I've been trying to get back into eventually being more regular and strong again. My lifts seem to be down to 80% since a few months back. So last week I did great working in a few full body workouts including a few isolation exercises at the end for arms and calves.

    The results? I noticed that while my compound movements are down a bit, I seemed to also be VERY weak with the isolation movements and they made my muscles very sore. Isolation movements require zero skill. So from that I can only conclude that the muscles I was targeting (biceps, triceps, and calves) are in fact relatively weak. It also tells me that with triceps for example, bench press alone isn't working them to their fullest extent, because if it was, my triceps would be stronger, but they aren't.

    So at this point in time I don't care what anyone else says anymore. People go way too extreme with things. Surely compound movements are the most time efficient. But if you have even a small amount of time to spare, even as little as 15 minutes at the end of your workout, providing you aren't beat up, adding in a few isolation movements is probably only going to help you if anything. It goes back to one of the books I originally read 17 years ago that had a chapter on exercise selection. They said that isolation movements shouldn't comprise of any more than 30% of your workout.

    But at this point in time, I'm steering more towards the belief that you should include isolation movements in your routine. They are the only exercises that can target certain muscles to their fullest extent. And because of that, I think you'd be dumb to leave them out. But I'd still stick to the 30% rule.

    Peace folks.
    Last edited by Ripped; 10-15-2013, 08:48 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Ripped View Post
    My lifts seem to be down 80% since a few months back.
    Do you mean down 20%? I can't believe your squats are down from 500 lbs to 100, or from 250 to 50...
    The Champagne of Beards

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    • #3
      What is a "compound exercise" anyway? Benchpress and squats can also be performed in a way to target -"isolate"- certain muscles... And machines can be performed as a multijoint exercise, so I am not sure that the distinction between compound and isolationwork can be related to the equipment used per se. And zero skill to isolation movements? Hmmm, some might disagree with you upon that...
      "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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      • #4
        It's true that you can do isolation exercises with a barbell and some machine exercises are multi-joint exercises, but bench press and squats, no matter how they're performed, can't be performed as single-joint exercises, so I'm sure that's excluded from the OP's definition of isolation exercises.
        The Champagne of Beards

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        • #5
          Alright, bench press with a machine is a compound exercise, and leg-extensions using the hip flexors also and standing curl with barbell or dumbbells are compound exercises as well...
          "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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          • #6
            Does this just mean that the particular compounds you were using had inadequate bicep and tricep involvement?
            I think compound pulls in particular have little bicep work unless you adjust form to make sure they do. Except undergrip chins.

            How are the delts,pecs,lats in iso exercises?

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            • #7
              The whole compound/Isolation thing dumfounds me at times. People should start looking at the bio-mechanics of the muscles a little more and then decide what exercises best serve that function.

              Take the Bench Press for example, it is very poor at fullfilling the function of the pecs yet people swear by it as a chest builder, it would be the equivalent of doing a squat from the floor up to parallel, pretty sure not many people would let that squat go by without negative comments.

              And before anyone jumps in with a comment.....yes I'd say the bench press can build a decent sized chest, this is in part because I also don't think a muscle has to be worked over a full range of motion to cause adaptation.
              Last edited by OldSchhool; 10-15-2013, 01:45 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                The whole compound/Isolation thing dumfounds me at times. People should start looking at the bio-mechanics of the muscles a little more and then decide what exercises best serve that function.

                Take the Bench Press for example, it is very poor at fullfilling the function of the pecs yet people swear by it as a chest builder, it would be the equivalent of doing a squat from the floor up to parallel, pretty sure not many people would let that squat go by without negative comments.

                And before anyone jumps in with a comment.....yes I'd say the bench press can build a decent sized chest, this is in part because I also don't think a muscle has to be worked over a full range of motion to cause adaptation.
                I don't understand your squat: bench press analogy. Can you elaborate? What would be a more full-ROM "chest" exercise?
                The Champagne of Beards

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                  I don't understand your squat: bench press analogy. Can you elaborate? What would be a more full-ROM "chest" exercise?
                  Your chest is only fully contracted when your elbows meet above your sternum as in with the old style pec-decks or a cable cross-over.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                    Your chest is only fully contracted when your elbows meet above your sternum as in with the old style pec-decks or a cable cross-over.
                    what about dumbbell flyes?
                    The Champagne of Beards

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                      what about dumbbell flyes?
                      No, they kind of try in that they allow the arms to come together but the resistance starts to act in the wrong direction after a certain point. You squeeze them together at the top but there is no resistance on the pecs per se. Doing flyes between a cable crossover from the bottom pulleys would provide resistance through the full arc.


                      Regarding the bench press I think there is actually a bar with moveable sleeves seperated by a spring, that would go a long way to providing a full ROM even though the tension at the top is caused by the spring and not the resistance.
                      Last edited by OldSchhool; 10-15-2013, 02:25 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                        No, they kind of try in that they allow the arms to come together but the resistance starts to act in the wrong direction after a certain point. You squeeze them together at the top but there is no resistance on the pecs per se. Doing flyes between a cable crossover from the bottom pulleys would provide resistance through the full arc.


                        Regarding the bench press I think there is actually a bar with moveable sleeves seperated by a spring, that would go a long way to providing a full ROM even though the tension at the top is caused by the spring and not the resistance.
                        Man, pecs are weird. Like there's no way in nature to really use them fully.
                        The Champagne of Beards

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                          Man, pecs are weird. Like there's no way in nature to really use them fully.
                          Pectoralis Mayor is more like a cluster of different muscles focusing on different tasks...
                          "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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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                            Man, pecs are weird. Like there's no way in nature to really use them fully.
                            A boxers cross punch would be one of the few ' real life ' actions !

                            I guess this guy had a similar idea when he made this video:

                            Last edited by OldSchhool; 10-15-2013, 08:33 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                              Do you mean down 20%? I can't believe your squats are down from 500 lbs to 100, or from 250 to 50...
                              Yes. Sorry, I edited that sentence. Thanks.

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