In general, exercises can be grouped on the basis of how many muscle groups are involved in the movement and what the movement entails. With that in mind, there are two well-known types of exercises: isolation and compound exercises. Prior to determining whether compound exercises are more effective than isolation exercises, it’s important to know the difference between the two. Additionally, you need to know the benefits of each type of exercise as well as how to incorporate them into your fitness routine. There is definitely a time and place for both.

Fitness model performing a glute kick-back

Isolation Exercises

First, let’s discuss isolation exercises. Just like the name suggests, isolation exercises only focus on one major muscle group. Therefore, that muscle group is “isolated” and left to do all the work by itself. When performing isolation exercises, all other muscle groups are avoided in order to ensure that all the focus is on that one particular muscle group that’s being worked. One of the main benefits of isolation exercises is that you are able to focus on that muscle group, especially when other muscle groups are fatigued from previous workouts or you are already satisfied with how developed they are. Furthermore, isolation exercises may be the only way to train certain muscle groups.

Fitness model performing a barbell curl

Two examples of those muscle groups are biceps and triceps. Not only that but by focusing on one muscle group you are able to create a more balanced physique, especially if it is not developed enough. For example, if you already have huge pectorals and deltoids, but your biceps are small in comparison, then you should be doing bicep curls to develop your biceps. A bicep curl is an example of an isolation exercise. Bodybuilders often use isolation exercises in order to fine-tune their physiques and develop specific muscle groups.

Compound Exercise

On the contrary, a compound exercise involves multiple muscle groups and/or joints. Although a compound exercise involves more than one muscle group, there is still a focus on one major muscle group. An example of a compound exercise is bench press. Although it primarily focuses on the pectoral muscles, your shoulder muscles and triceps will also have to do some work. Another example of a compound exercise is the deadlift. Although it primarily focuses on the glutes, hamstrings and back, other muscles of the core, as well as lower and upper body, are also involved in the movement.

Fitness model performing a box jump exercise

Since compound exercises involve having to move more muscles, you are bound to burn more calories when performing them. Additionally, many people will argue that compound exercises are more efficient because you are able to work more than one muscle group at the same time.

Final thoughts: Isolation vs. Compound Exercises

To conclude, your workout program should include both isolation and compound exercises. Please note that if you are doing a lot of compound exercises during the week, you will need to pay attention to all the muscles that are being worked. For example, if you did bench press and push-ups one day, you will have worked the chest muscles as well as your shoulders and triceps. Therefore, the next day, you will need to be careful not to do your triceps again, but your biceps are fair game. In any given week, you will need to make sure that you work the opposite muscle groups to keep your body balanced. At the same time, you will also need to make sure that you cover all muscle groups without significantly overworking any particular muscle group using a combination of compound and isolation exercises. You will need to plan your workouts carefully in order to avoid injuring yourself, overtraining a particular muscle group and inhibiting your recovery.