Compound Exercise VS Isolation Exercise

In the world of strength training and exercise the king of all strength movements are compound exercises. If you want to build the most strength and size these are the key to your success. But what are compound exercises and why are they so beneficial? Compound exercises are movements that use multiple muscles and joints to move the weight. Examples of these are bench press, barbell squats, deadlifts, military press and many more. If you have ever been to a weight room you might be familiar with these exercises. But for some reason, many people avoid doing these lifts because of some fear of getting hurt. Every gym has that one older guy in there that tells his horror stories of why is back, knees, and shoulders are messed up from heavy lifting. This is usually the same guy who used to bench press “500lbs” when he was younger…. This is 99% of the time an old fish story.

Compound exercises are not something to be feared but a tool every lifter should have in his or her tool belt. If you want to build the most strength and size these are an absolute MUST! But you should be smart when doing them… leave your ego at the door. Too many times have I seen guys at the gym loading weight on the bar that they clearly are not ready for. They then make a big show as they get ready to barely move the weight and using a form that will scare small children.

Don’t be that guy!

Form comes first always and if you are building a foundation of muscle in the church of iron. Start by building good habits because of it easier to learn things right the first time than it is to unteach bad ones. If that means you have to use a lighter weight that’s fine! Your joints will thank you and you will have more lasting results in the gym.

Compound exercises are so beneficial because of the greater amount of muscle recruitment. Think about it you are training more muscles doing one exercise. This means you can use heavier weights and you stimulating more muscle fibers at one time. This is key for strength and muscle growth.

The goal of weight training is to create stress or demand that the body has to adapt to in order to grow. By using the compound exercise you will be able to create that stress or demand on many muscles at once.

By moving weight using multiple joints and muscles through a greater range of motion (ROM) you are able to move more weight than in isolation exercises. This will cause greater progressive overload in the muscles.

Isolation Exercises

These exercises are commonly used by bodybuilders in order to improve lagging body parts. This for the symmetry aspect of bodybuilding and creating an aesthetic physique. For example, maybe the bodybuilder needs to have bigger arms to match their legs.

So he will need to put more focus on just the bicep and tricep to stimulate growth. By being able to isolate those individual muscles and eliminating any other muscle recruitment.

Isolation exercises are great to really work on building muscles you might struggle with. This is why they are a staple in bodybuilding training.

A common mistake I see in every gym is that these machines and isolation exercises are the only thing new gym-goers do! I love iso-exercises and perform them regularly. But I have a foundation, a base to build off of, I know what muscle groups I need to put more focus on. I also train compound exercises with every workout.

It's all about balance and knowing where to focus your energy.

So now you know what isolation exercises are used for but I want to talk about when to use them.

If you are just starting out with strength training and also want to burn fat. These exercises have no business being a priority in your routine.

Isolation exercises are easy to get lazy with and if you have weight to lose you need to be working hard. Though there are ways to kick up the intensity on these exercises it’s not the most effective thing you should do.

Build that foundation by learning how to do compound exercises with proper form. Build that core strength and stability with these big lifts. You will also be burning more calories.

That’s why I consider compound lifts the KING of weight lifting exercises.

After you have put in the work and built a strong base now it’s time to isolate and develop lagging muscles. These are an accessory to your big core lifts. Use them in that way, add isolation exercises in as finishers at the end of your workout. Superset and giant set them in between compound lifts.

Now that you know a little about the differences between the 2 put that into effect! Your workouts should have compound lifts at the core of the workout. Isolation exercises are there to add intensity through supersets, giant sets, and pre/post-exhaustion. They are used to add extra attention to those areas that just won't grow as fast as the others.

If you want to know more about how to incorporate both of these exercise styles into your workouts. I will be more than happy to build an exercise program just for you. You can request more information or email me directly at

I also just made a 12 Week Shred Transformation Challenge available by request. In this program, you will learn how bodybuilders burn fat and build lean muscle. The workouts are core lift focused on isolation exercises as accessories. The plan is great for beginners and experienced gym-goers.


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