The Differences Between Isolated and Compound Exercises

July 27, 2020 2 min read

As you start to form your workout plan, you may see exercises referred to as being either isolated or compound. It’s important to know the distinction between the two because they each have a different impact on your body. Continue reading to understand the differences between isolated and compound exercises.

Isolated Exercises

Isolated exercises only focus on a specific muscle group. If you are looking to grow one muscle group, then you will want to take advantage of isolated exercises. These are also great because you don’t get the extra help of other muscle groups during a lift, so you can truly build the muscle group you want to focus on. When it comes to your workout, you should typically do more sets and reps in the 4x12 range using a lower weight.

Here are some examples of isolated exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine:

  • Biceps curl
  • Triceps pushdown
  • Leg extension/curl
  • Hamstring curl
  • Dumbbell fly

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are another common category you’ll run across. Unlike isolated exercises, compound exercises will work out more than one muscle group at the same time. Compound exercises are usually the most beneficial for those who are looking to build muscle and mass. It’s recommended you start your workouts with compound exercises because they tend to require more energy. Instead of doing more sets and reps, do a 5x5 structure for compound exercises to gain strength as well.

Compound exercises are defined by what is known as “the big three lifts”:

  • Squat
  • Bench press
  • Deadlift

The Differences Between Isolated and Compound Exercises

Understanding the differences between isolated and compound exercises can help you define your workout. You should work both types of exercise into your routine to achieve the best results. The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is by knowing that isolated will work one muscle group and require more reps, while a compound exercise will work more than one muscle group and require fewer reps with more weight. Isolated exercises will also generally use exercise machines, while compound exercises will require the use of free weights. If you are looking to build your body at home, shop at Top Fitness Store, where you will find a large selection of Precor home fitness equipment for both isolated and compound exercises.


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