Are Isolation Weight Training Exercises Counterproductive For Maximum Muscle Building?

By: Francesco A. Castano

A widely held bodybuilding concept asserts the superiority of compound weight lifting exercises as compared with isolation movements; proponents preach that the most effective method of muscle gain involves choosing weight lifting workout plans that utilize the greatest number of muscle groups. Moreover, those who follow this form of weight training believe that because the amount of weight used in compound exercise is larger than isolation movements, total muscle gain should also be far superior, and therefore a weight lifting session should center around compound exercises as its foundation. But many propel this notion further, removing all isolation exercises from their weight lifting routine, focusing completely on compound workouts alone, with the feeling that this will provide the most dramatic muscle mass gains.

As is customary with bodybuilding folklore, the truth is far different from the popular claims, as although compound weight lifting exercises certainly will be extremely potent, and should become the basis for any effective weight lifting workout routine, a few isolation exercises are also a necessity for any bodybuilder who wishes to produce the most dramatic muscle growth, and those who ignore isolation weight lifting techniques can begin to produce a disproportional physique, with smaller muscle groups, such as the arms, becoming less impressive as the back and chest begin to burst with muscularity, and this disparity stems from a lack of proper isolation methods.

Arms are in fact one muscle group where this is extremely common, with some saying that heavy compound back exercises are sufficient to promote complete biceps development, and consistent compound chest and shoulder exercises will provide the triceps with massive amounts of muscle, all without isolation exercises to target these particular areas. Performing heavy compound weight lifting movements will no doubt force the smaller muscle groups such as the biceps to improve, but the emphasis of the workout set when performing a compound weight training exercise such as seated rows is the back, with the biceps, in this example, used for support in completing this exercise. The goal is to fatigue the back muscles during seated row, and therefore, the arms will not receive considerable overload since the back muscles are to achieve maximum emphasis, meaning that the biceps are only trained to a small percentage of their possible capacity. This same concept applies to triceps during bench press, where the goal is to fatigue the pecs, and the triceps are not to fail prior to the chest in order for the weight training movement to function as intended, therefore, the triceps only receive a fraction of the necessary overload.

Because of this, isolation exercises focusing on smaller muscles become necessary if those areas are to reach their genetic potential, meaning that isolation weight lifting exercises rejected by some bodybuilders, such as curls, side laterals, and triceps dips become essential in offering sufficient overload to reach failure for smaller muscles, as a bodybuilder, with these additional exercises, is then able to push those isolated muscles to complete failure, and therefore lead to the greatest muscle growth.

There is no doubt that a potent weight training workout system cannot be built upon isolation exercises alone, and certain bodybuilders on the other extreme unfortunately become obsessed with performing every available weight lifting variation of a particular exercise, extending workout length to the point of emotional breakdown. Therefore, the correct pairing of compound and isolation movements are necessary for those who wish to produce the most dramatic gains in muscle growth, without bypassing any particular muscle group. The mistake many make is to either surround their weight lifting workout plans with insufficient isolation exercises, where smaller muscle groups suffer, or they instead perform such a substantial quantity of isolation exercises that their weight training workout sessions lack intensity, which harms the potential for maximum muscle gains.

Remember that the most effective bodybuilding methods involve a perfect blend of both compound and isolation weight training exercises to dodge any of these possible pitfalls. If you currently feel that smaller muscles such as the forearms, triceps and biceps are lagging in size when compared with your larger muscles (chest, back, quads, etc), then you should strongly consider implementing some isolation exercises for these particular muscles so that they can grow to their maximum genetic limits.

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Francesco Castano owns, where you will find his natural weight loss program.

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