When it comes to muscle building, all exercises can be separated into two different camps. On one side are the compound exercises, on the other side are the isolation exercises. They each have very different functions.
As the name might suggest, compound exercises are workouts that exercise multiple muscle groups at the same time. Isolation exercises are exercises that target a specific muscle group.
If you’re trying to build muscle, using compound exercises is a much better way to go about it. Both for building overall tone and putting on muscle, compound exercises will get you there faster.
Compound exercises work out your muscles, your tendons, your joints and your ligaments. It puts the most strain on the area of your body that’s the weakest, strengthening the overall system. It’s the “broad strokes” of building overall muscle quickly.
Is There a Time When Isolation Exercises Are Better?
Yes, there is. Isolation exercises are great for targeting and improving a specific muscle group that’s out of balance.
If your right triceps is larger than your left for example, you might want to do some isolation exercises targeting just your left triceps.
Compound exercises are the fastest way to build muscle mass in your body in general. However, compound exercises aren’t great for laser-targeting specific parts of the body to develop.
Isolation exercises also have an additional benefit of being able to put on short-term mass quickly. Professional bodybuilders will often do isolation exercises before a major competition to add an inch or so of muscle. This muscle doesn’t last, however, and will disappear if you stop working out.
To build muscles that really last, start with compound exercises, then refine your body with isolation exercises if imbalances come up.
A Few Popular Compound Exercises
What are some of the most popular and proven compound exercises in bodybuilding?
Perhaps the most popular is the bench press. The bench press works out many of the muscles in your upper body, including the many muscles in your arms and your back.
Squats are another popular compound exercise. Everything from your calves to your thighs to your buttocks is worked out by squats.
Deadlifts are another popular compound exercise. Deadlifts will work out your abs, your leg muscles, your back muscles, your hips and your forearms.
Of course there are many other compound exercises you can choose from depending on your fitness goals. Pick the exercises you use based on the kind of body you want to develop.
In summary, compound exercises are the main building block to a solid workout routine. While isolation exercises are definitely important for sculpting the body and perfecting muscle balance, the actual work of building muscle should be done primarily with compound exercises.