A Short Guide to Compound and Isolation Exercises

Weight training exercises fall into two categories, such as compound and isolation. As its name shows, a compound exercise uses the combination of muscle groups and joints. For instance, the squat, which operates the core, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and lowers back. An isolation exercise target single joint or one particular muscle group. Bicep curls, for instance, only operate the biceps by using the elbow. For most people, it’s a kind of contradiction. (1)

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They’re in the gym to work hard and encourage their bodies to develop, yet they’re choosing the simplest and least hard exercises to do that. Instead of chin-ups, they will do lat pull-downs, leg presses rather than squats, machine flies instead of barbell presses, or cable rows instead of barbell rows.

The Basic Compound Exercises

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Overhead presses
  • Dips
  • Lunges
  • Leg presses
  • Bench presses
  • Barbell rows
  • Chin-ups

Isolation lifts have their place in a workout routine, but not in place of basic compound exercises. The basic movement of the compound exercise will enable you to raise the maximum weight, train the maximum quantity of total muscle fiber, and encourage muscle growth. Adding weight should be the foundation of your entire workout routine.

Related article: 10 weeks of tri-phase muscle training for maximal growth


Compound exercise is a multi-joint movement that trains several muscles at the same time. Isolation exercises target a particular muscle group. There’s a lot of controversy about what’s better for muscle building. You need to focus on primary compound exercises to build as much muscle as you can. These compound lifts are the absolute most effective lifts in a workout routine, although they are difficult to execute.

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Gentil P, Soares S, Bottaro M. Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy. Asian J Sports Med. 2015 Jun;6(2):e24057. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.24057. Epub 2015 Jun 22. PMID: 26446291; PMCID: PMC4592763.

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Naeem Durrani BSchttps://defatx.com/
I am a retired pharmacist, nutrition expert, journalist, and more. My interests include medical research, and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices, which empower people to transform their lives.

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