Why Should You Focus on Compound Exercises?

In General Health by Ian Izaguirre0 Comments

To many newbies desiring a healthy and fit body, the magic solution always lies in gym machines and equipment. Doing quadriceps extensions and biceps curl – which are common isolation exercises – on gym machines will be of little or no help.

The fact is, only those who already have a solid foundation in performing compound exercises and seek to become body-builders with rippling muscles should ideally use the equipment. So the first focus of anyone kick-starting an exercise regimen should be on compound exercises.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises involve multiple joints and  muscle groups. More calories are burnt and your body gets a fast and full workout. Compound exercises are a good option for building strength and size. Deadlifts, lunges, squats and step-ups are some examples.

Isolation exercises exert only one joint or muscle group at a time. They are best for supplementing compound exercises. Basically, isolation exercises are used to correct weakness in a specific muscle occurring after surgery, illness or injury.

Case Study

A case study proves why compound exercises should be on your priority list. As discussed in ‘The Effect of Supplemental Isolated Weight-Training Exercises on Upper-Arm Size and Upper-Body Strength’, Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, IN. NSCA Conference Abstract (2000) by Roger et al, researchers studied the results of a weight training program on 5RM (repetition maximum) strength and arm circumference. The test subjects were divided into two groups.

Four compound upper body exercises were performed by Group 1. The same was followed by Group 2 but with the inclusion of biceps curl and triceps extensions. Significant increase in strength and arm size was observed in both groups. But it was observed that the arm training performed by Group 2 did not have any additional effect/benefit on arm circumference or strength after the 10-week training period.

Theory and Practice

In his book ‘Personal Training: Theory and Practice’, James Crossley discusses exercise sequencing principles. He advises that compound exercises like the simple squat, which involves complex co-ordination of movements at more than a single joint must be performed before isolation exercises like a simple leg extension, which involves only one joint.

If isolation exercises are performed first, they will cause unnecessary fatigue in muscles that you may use in compound exercises. Steer clear of injuries by following the right sequence. Some more tips from Crossley (a) Train large muscles first before moving to smaller ones (b) move from high-skill to low-skill exercises – the logic behind this is high-skill exercises can increase risk of injury when performed under fatigue and low concentration (c) prioritize exercises that workout muscles you are targeting primarily. Once again, when you do them first, you’re at your peak concentration level and more likely to achieve the highest intensity.

The Bottom Line

Compound exercises are the foundation upon which you should base your exercise regimen. You can always add localized training through isolation exercises when you find the need to do so. When you begin training you should begin by training large muscles first before moving to smaller ones, and move from high-skill to low-skill exercises.

Show Article Sources
“Why Should You Focus On Compound Exercises”
Deadlift: Damien Rogers via Compfight cc.
Squat: Sakulchaisikitikul via Compfight cc.

“Why Should You Focus On Compound Exercises”
Book: ‘Personal Training: Theory and Practice’ by James Crossley.
Article: The Effect of Supplemental Isolated Weight-Training Exercises on Upper-Arm Size and Upper-Body Strength’, Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, IN. NSCA Conference Abstract (2000) by Roger et al.

Ian Izaguirre

Hi, I'm Ian Izaguirre, I enjoy writing articles that educate and help support healthier lifestyles. My #1 goal is to make a positive impact in other people's lives.

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