Isolations vs Compound lifts

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MikeVanTso
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Isolations vs Compound lifts

#1 Postby MikeVanTso » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:42 pm

Can someone point me to a good reference, or take the time to outline the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of different styles of lifting and how they relate to strength and performance. I would be lieing if I said appearance wasn't a factor in my weight training but it is only a small fraction of the goal.
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#2 Postby VeganResistance » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:39 am

I know this isn't totally what you're asking for, but I'm halfway reading this which is inspiring me to start a 5x5 routine once I get back into the gym work:
http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=article_ryantraining
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#3 Postby adrianisgnarly » Sun Jan 15, 2012 2:46 pm

I'm going to start incorporating more compound lifts to my routine. For beginners-intermediate builders, I've heard that this is a wise choice. Once you've been doing compounds for a while, then you can add more isolation workouts.
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#4 Postby awaken375 » Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:07 pm

I read somewhere that you shouldn't do isolation lifts for at least a year of lifting, because your frame is still growing, and if you add isolation moves to your growing frame it will disappear into the larger size muscles.

In other words, wait until you have a frame size you're happy with before doing isolation moves.
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#5 Postby VeganEssentials » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:08 pm

1. Nobody needs to really worry about isolation work when they're still trying to build their base. You don't need to worry about "getting better visible pec tie-ins" if you don't have a big chest to begin with or low enough body fat (which would clearly show a lack of need for isolation work if there isn't enough muscle to worry about trying to fine-tune), but countless people end up in the gym every day floundering away with sub-par movements when they'd be better off doing what pays off the best returns, and that would be by doing compound movements.

2. People tend to want the isolation work because there are still countless people who gauge their workouts by the pump or how sore they feel (a big mistake, but one that never seems to cease). I've said it here a million times as example - I could curl a soup can for an hour straight and my arm would be sore as hell from it, but it won't make my bicep larger and won't make me stronger. But, if I were after a "feel" that I thought was the indicator of a good workout, that soup can curling would seem to be the way to go, despite it being worthless. Some of my best gains were made training hard and heavy with low reps and near max weights, and rarely did I have any residual soreness after those sessions. I still left plenty of time for growth and recovery, though, as just because I wasn't limping for days after a leg workout didn't mean I wasn't gaining from it.

3. Doing isolation work removes stabilizer muscles from coming into play, and increases chances of injury. Not a lot of risk when trained along with quality compound freeweight lifts, but if all you did was machine work and isolation stuff thinking it's "safer", then you'd be quite wrong.

Best bet is to always start building your base off compound lifts that will give the best overall returns on your invesment of time training, and worry about the small stuff when you're, say, 3/4 of the way to where you want to get. Focusing on the wrong thing from the start just means more hard lessons learned, so don't neglect those compound lifts!
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#6 Postby Fallen_Horse » Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:23 pm

VeganEssentials wrote:1. Nobody needs to really worry about isolation work when they're still trying to build their base. You don't need to worry about "getting better visible pec tie-ins" if you don't have a big chest to begin with or low enough body fat (which would clearly show a lack of need for isolation work if there isn't enough muscle to worry about trying to fine-tune), but countless people end up in the gym every day floundering away with sub-par movements when they'd be better off doing what pays off the best returns, and that would be by doing compound movements.

2. People tend to want the isolation work because there are still countless people who gauge their workouts by the pump or how sore they feel (a big mistake, but one that never seems to cease). I've said it here a million times as example - I could curl a soup can for an hour straight and my arm would be sore as hell from it, but it won't make my bicep larger and won't make me stronger. But, if I were after a "feel" that I thought was the indicator of a good workout, that soup can curling would seem to be the way to go, despite it being worthless. Some of my best gains were made training hard and heavy with low reps and near max weights, and rarely did I have any residual soreness after those sessions. I still left plenty of time for growth and recovery, though, as just because I wasn't limping for days after a leg workout didn't mean I wasn't gaining from it.

3. Doing isolation work removes stabilizer muscles from coming into play, and increases chances of injury. Not a lot of risk when trained along with quality compound freeweight lifts, but if all you did was machine work and isolation stuff thinking it's "safer", then you'd be quite wrong.

Best bet is to always start building your base off compound lifts that will give the best overall returns on your invesment of time training, and worry about the small stuff when you're, say, 3/4 of the way to where you want to get. Focusing on the wrong thing from the start just means more hard lessons learned, so don't neglect those compound lifts!

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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#7 Postby MikeVanTso » Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:37 pm

what are some examples of compound lifts that you would recommend?
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#8 Postby VeganEssentials » Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:18 pm

In order of what I feel is the best way to go for building a base on compound movements -

Squat (barbell, front squats or plain 'ol back squats, always going to parallel or below), deadlift (regular or Romanian), barbell or dumbbel row, pull-ups/chin-ups, overhead barbell or dumbbell press, and barbell or dumbbell bench press. That range of 6 lifts covers all the major bases (I listed two options for upper back since it can be trained in two planes of movement), each lift a good base for a body part to focus your training around, other movements will be supplementary or complementary to those main lifts.

A good place to start, no filler, all good, so consider adding some of those in your training regimen!
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#9 Postby awaken375 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:20 am

Dips are also compound lifts.. I don't know if you could say the same about its reverse motion, the side raise, but I do those & shrugs too to stay in balance.
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#10 Postby boardn10 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:38 am

VeganEssentials wrote:In order of what I feel is the best way to go for building a base on compound movements -

Squat (barbell, front squats or plain 'ol back squats, always going to parallel or below), deadlift (regular or Romanian), barbell or dumbbel row, pull-ups/chin-ups, overhead barbell or dumbbell press, and barbell or dumbbell bench press. That range of 6 lifts covers all the major bases (I listed two options for upper back since it can be trained in two planes of movement), each lift a good base for a body part to focus your training around, other movements will be supplementary or complementary to those main lifts.

A good place to start, no filler, all good, so consider adding some of those in your training regimen!


Yep, I am 42 years old and the core of my workout right now is back squat, Romanian deadlift, chin ups, pull downs and rows, overhead dumbbell press, barbell and dumbbell bench press and weighted dips. I will throw in some other lifts from time to time but I find I need to reach a certain size or bodyfat %, before I start in on the isolation moves. I am 6'3", 216 lbs right now so I have a little way to go before I start hitting the iso movements.

I never understand when I see these young guys (not all) in the gym who say they want to get huge, but they spend half their workouts on curls, tricep exercises, flys, lateral raises and smith machine work. That drives me nuts as well. I see people doing squats on the smith machines thinking it is much easier on the lower back and knees and essentially better overall than barbell squats. I always find it funny when someone comes up next to me on the smith machine when I am doing barbell squats and they are so impressed with themselves doing more weight than me, not realizing the leverage the smith machine provides, of course you can do more weight.
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#11 Postby veggiesasquatch » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:07 pm

Great advice from Mr Essentials there!!! I do love proper lifters!!!

As a start point as stated, Military, bench pressing & sqauts (squat x2 a week I would recommend) with dead lifts should be the base of all you do.

People get obsessed with thinking they need to do something for everything where in reality a compound with 2-3 assistance moves will get the job done.

Also regards assistance, make sure they have a point, ie are you trying to improve your military press. If so dips, chins, hypers along with your bench would all
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#12 Postby veggiesasquatch » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:11 pm

Check out starting strength by Mark Rippetoe btw
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#13 Postby veggiesasquatch » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:14 pm

boardn10 wrote:
VeganEssentials wrote:In order of what I feel is the best way to go for building a base on compound movements -

Squat (barbell, front squats or plain 'ol back squats, always going to parallel or below), deadlift (regular or Romanian), barbell or dumbbel row, pull-ups/chin-ups, overhead barbell or dumbbell press, and barbell or dumbbell bench press. That range of 6 lifts covers all the major bases (I listed two options for upper back since it can be trained in two planes of movement), each lift a good base for a body part to focus your training around, other movements will be supplementary or complementary to those main lifts.

A good place to start, no filler, all good, so consider adding some of those in your training regimen!


Yep, I am 42 years old and the core of my workout right now is back squat, Romanian deadlift, chin ups, pull downs and rows, overhead dumbbell press, barbell and dumbbell bench press and weighted dips. I will throw in some other lifts from time to time but I find I need to reach a certain size or bodyfat %, before I start in on the isolation moves. I am 6'3", 216 lbs right now so I have a little way to go before I start hitting the iso movements.

I never understand when I see these young guys (not all) in the gym who say they want to get huge, but they spend half their workouts on curls, tricep exercises, flys, lateral raises and smith machine work. That drives me nuts as well. I see people doing squats on the smith machines thinking it is much easier on the lower back and knees and essentially better overall than barbell squats. I always find it funny when someone comes up next to me on the smith machine when I am doing barbell squats and they are so impressed with themselves doing more weight than me, not realizing the leverage the smith machine provides, of course you can do more weight.


Regardless of how big/experienced someone is, if they squat using a smiths machine I just assume they have low IQ. Same applies for people subbing barbell benching with dumbbells
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#14 Postby VeganResistance » Sat Jan 21, 2012 1:49 am

My gym doesn't have a squat rack, nor any barbells actually ( minus the zig-zag curling ones). They do have a smith machine though, so I've been hitting that for the squats, and bench I've been substituting with dumbell bench press. I'm hoping that this will work well enough for me....
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Re: Isolations vs Compound lifts

#15 Postby veggiesasquatch » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:53 am

VeganResistance wrote:My gym doesn't have a squat rack, nor any barbells actually ( minus the zig-zag curling ones). They do have a smith machine though, so I've been hitting that for the squats, and bench I've been substituting with dumbell bench press. I'm hoping that this will work well enough for me....


Then I would find a gym that does......
"Don't fall for that crap that people are peddling on the message boards, in magazines or on TV. Get your shit in order, and get your training in order. Start kicking ass, and take out the crap that doesn't matter" Jim Wendler


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