A long-standing debate in the world of weight lifting and exercise is between what types of weight-lifting exercises to use. The two choices are generally broken into either compound lifts or isolation lifts. Each of these has pros and cons to consider before making a final decision. Another thing to consider is what type of training you are going to be using as well as the reason for training. For example, someone who is training for football will have different concerns than a competitive body builder. Either way, do not neglect your preworkout nutrition, as it is important for any serious weight lifter.
What are Compound Lifts?
Compound lifts are those which use multiple joints in an effort to work several different muscles or muscle groups at the same time. The best example of such an exercise is the squat. This seemingly simple movement is really anything but. It can be felt in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back, and even your core.
What are Isolation Lifts?
Isolation lifts are those which work only one muscle or muscle groups at a time along with only one joint. A great example of an isolation movement would be the biceps curl. Curling a single dumbell or performing this movement on a machine will really only work the biceps and its tie-in or connecting muscles.
Why Use Compound Lifts?
There are a lot of great reasons to use compound lifts. Since they work more of the body it usually means more calories burned and simulates real-world movements and activities. It also serves to improve things like coordination, reaction time, balance, joint stability, and it decreases the risk of injury. Additionally, it keeps your heart rate up and offers cardiovascular benefits. Plus, you will be able to lift more weight and train harder.
Why Use Isolation Lifts?
The best reason to use isolation lifts is to correct muscular imbalances or weaknesses. This imbalance is often created by injury, so isolation lifts can help you to recover. In many cases after an injury the hurt muscle needs to be retrained and isolation movements can really do this retraining much more effectively. Many people also use these types of movements when wanting to focus on a particular muscle or muscle group. For example, a bodybuilder getting ready for a contest might feel that their biceps are a little small in relation to their shoulders, so they spend some time doing curls and maybe even chin-ups.
Conclusion—Which is Best:
In general, compound lifts should be used much more often. These are going to be the bread-and-butter or foundation of your training routine. They will help to build more muscle, strength, power, and provide a good base to build upon. Isolation lifts can be used from time to time, but they should be seen more as finishing pieces.