Compound Exercises
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Compound vs Isolation Exercises – Comparison

The differences between compound and isolation exercises are easy to understand, but what do these differences mean for your training programme? Uncovering the differences can help you create a more effective programme that meets your training goals.

What Are Isolation Exercises?


Isolation exercises are exercises that are performed by engaging only one muscle group or cause movement at one joint. In reality, there are no exercises which only engage a single muscle group because muscles usually work in pairs and because stabilising muscles may become engaged to help us complete them.

Nevertheless, isolation exercises will target one specific area and a great example is a bicep curl. This exercise targets the bicep and works it in isolation. Yet, when performing bicep curls, the muscles do perform in conjunction with the triceps.

When Should You Perform Isolation Exercises?

In general, isolation exercises should be performed by people who have already built up a solid foundation of fitness. Compound exercises can be used to build such foundations – more on that soon.

Anyone incorporating isolation exercises into their gym routine should do so by also training the opposite muscle group as well. This is to make sure you achieve muscular balance. For example, if you were to complete bicep curls, it would be beneficial to follow these up with some triceps exercises, such as pushdowns.

What Are Compound Exercises?


On the other hand, compound exercises are those that target more than one muscle group at one time and can be easily recognised because they create movement at more than one joint. Examples of compound exercises include squats and deadlifts. If your current routine does not include compound exercises you can easily add them, browse our compound exercises by muscle groups.

Who Should Perform Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are excellent for building general fitness and strength, and are recommended to newcomers as well as elite athletes. Yet, if you are executing compound movements as a newcomer in the gym, it is best to start with supervision from a qualified personal trainer. This is because their complex movement patterns are more likely to cause injury when performed incorrectly.

Compound exercises afford an array of benefits including strength and power gains, weight loss and also prepare you for movements completed in daily life. These exercises often overlap with functional fitness programmes, which is a type of training that focuses on preparing the individual to complete common activities, such as twisting, pulling and pushing.

Should You Do Compound or Isolation Exercises?


If you are just starting out at the gym, it is recommended that you create a personal programme that includes different compound exercises. When performed correctly without the risk of injury, they can help create a solid base of fitness. Isolation exercises could then be added to future training programmes.

For people wanting to focus on building significant strength or power, compound exercises are also recommended. Nevertheless, one recent study suggests both compound and isolation exercises have the potential to improve muscular strength.

If you are training to lose weight, compound exercises may also be the preferred option. This is because compound exercises raise your heart rate due to engaging more muscle groups, and thus burn more calories.

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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