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Isolation and Compound Exercises: 4 Key Differences

For most beginners looking to begin a work out routine, they are faced with the seemingly difficult task of choosing to use compound exercises or isolation exercises. There are many differences between isolation and compound exercises. It is important to realize the difference between the two exercises and how to benefit from them because both forms of exercises are useful for people of all stages to implement.

The essential difference between these two exercises is how much muscle is utilized during a workout. Isolation exercises isolate a muscle and work that specific muscle. Compound exercises work multiple muscles in one exercise.

  1. Compound exercises are exercises that require multiple muscles throughout the body to perform at the same time. These exercises include the squat, dead lifts, bench press and many more. The idea of compound exercises is to build more overall body strength, burn more calories during an exercise or to improve muscle balance. For most compound exercises, the core is heavily used and strengthened. For bodybuilders, compound exercises are essential for building muscle mass.
  2. Compound exercises are most useful for people looking to maintain or improve overall body strength. Most athletes require body strength as opposed to massive bicep development. Also, compound exercises improve muscle balance and stability. Squats will make it much easier for a person to jump up and down and run the length of a basketball court than relying on an isolation movement such as leg extensions. Also, compound exercises are good for people looking to lose weight due the amount of calories it burns using multiple muscles at one time. It would make no sense for an overweight person to continually do sit ups in order to lose belly fat. Instead, dead lifts and squats would be more beneficial because of its emphasis on core muscles, an area where large amount of fat is stored around. Lastly, a benefit of compound exercises is the way it increases your heart rate and increases blood flow, thus giving you more endurance.
  3. Isolation exercises are exercises that are used to improve strength of performance of a specific part of the body. Exercises such as bicep curls, sit-ups or triceps extension all focus specifically on one muscle. Typically, machines in the gym are used for isolation exercises and are intended to be used all together to work the entire body. Isolation exercises can be used to create greater size and definition in a chosen muscle group.
  4. Those that have a strong desire for one particular muscle, isolation exercises would be the best option. That muscle can be given special focus and built to desirable strength and size. Additionally, therapists utilize isolation exercises for rebuilding muscle or strengthening injured or damaged muscle.

Bodybuilders use both forms of exercise to build overall body strength as well as building specialized muscular body parts. For sports, some people like to maintain overall body strength in addition to have especially strong legs or arms in order to perform a sport more efficiently.

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