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Compound vs Isolated: Know Your Movements to Get Bigger and Stronger

There are only two types of movements when it comes to working out for strength and size; compound movements and isolated movements. Both serve a critical purpose when it comes to building size and strength.


Isolated movements are movements that involve one joint or one muscle group. On the other hand, there are compound movements, movements that use more than one joint or muscle group.


Examples of isolated movements are:


  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Pectoral Flies
  • Leg Extensions
  • Leg Curls
  • Lateral Delt Raises
  • Seated Calf Raises
  • Shrugs
  • Rear Delt Flies

Examples of compound movements are:


  • Pullups
  • Dips
  • Military Press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Cleans


Training for mass (size) usually involves a particular approach where isolated training on certain muscle groups are performed through numerous forms of movements. Isolated training is when one focuses on a particular muscle group, such as arms or back, doing in general 3-6 movements for that muscle group. Rep ranges vary but the common range is usually around 6-12 reps which will put the muscle in a hypertrophy stage. This is when the skeletal muscle grows due to the increased size of its component cells.


Training for strength offers a different approach and, in many cases,, is more intense than training for mass. The training is fewer when it comes to the movements and reps. The foundation of the movements is compound based and many times revolves around big movements such as the squat, deadlift, bench, and even cleans. A person may only perform 2-3 movements per muscle group and focusing on anywhere from 1 to 4 reps per set of the movements. Set counts are higher and can go anywhere from 3-6 sets per movement. The weight load is much higher and dances around the persons 1RM (Rep Max). Due to the strain on the body to move the heavier weight, rest periods should be around 3 to maybe even 5 minutes in between sets.


Make sure that you incorporate these two types of movements into your daily workout routine for balanced results. Many people will shy away from one or the other and end up getting only half of the results they could be getting. If you focus too much on isolated training, you could be missing out on some awesome strength gains (which in return allows you to move more weight during your isolated training). If you focus simply on compound movements, you could be missing out on some well rounded and balanced size that comes with isolated movements.


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