Weight Training – Compound Vs Isolation Movements

Weight training is a great way to build muscle mass and reshape your physique, but which movements are best? A combination of compound and isolation movements provides the correct balance of stimuli for building muscle mass.

A compound movement is one involving 2 or more major muscle groups, or 2 or more joint movements. For example, the bench press is a classic compound movement. It involves the chest, shoulder and arm muscles, and required movements of the shoulder and elbow joint. The squat is another classic compound movement, involving the gluteus, quadriceps and hamstring muscles, and requiring movement of the hip and knee joints.

Isolation movements involve only one major muscle group, and one joint movement. Bicep curl would be a isolation movement, because it involves the bicep muscles and only the elbow joint is moving. Leg extension is another isolation movement, focusing only the quadriceps muscles and requiring only the knee joint to move.

Compound movements should be performed first when working a particular muscle group. For one, multi-joint movements require a lot of energy so its best to do them first, and they also help to warm up the other muscles in the group to prevent injury.

For example, if you are working your leg muscles, the squat should be performed first because it is a compound movement. It should be followed up by isolation movements such as leg extension, hamstring curl and calf raise.

If you are working your chest muscles, you will want to start with the bench press as a compound movement, then move into incline bench press, cable fly and dumbbell pullover.