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Compound vs isolation....???

Discussion in 'Weight Training/Bulking' started by Demon Knight, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. Demon Knight

    Demon Knight Well-Known Member

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    I'm confused and I don't think I'm the only one that is....yes, I'm talking about the compound vs. isolation debate. Now, having been working out for almost a year, reading through 4 books and dozens of internet articles, I feel more lost now than when I first started off! I have always included isolation exercises. In fact, with my current 4 day a week, I spend a whole day on arms & shoulders. It was suggested to me by a trainer. And I have had great gains. Whether it has been my isolation exercises, my compound exercises or a combination of both I don't know! My curiousity has arisen since chris mason (highly respected person in the bodybuilding world) over at AtLarge nutrition suggested a compound-only program to gain 15lbs of muscle in a month.

    http://forums.johnstonefitness.com/showthread.php?t=20699&page=1&pp=20

    All over the internet they say compound is better than isolation. Its a fact yes but is it suggested that isolation is simply worthless? Are we overworking small muscle groups like biceps resulting in much less gains? Who here does a compound-only program? Should we include isolation at all in our program if we're not a pro bodybuilder?
     
  2. doordude42

    doordude42 Senior Member

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    I say isolation is 100% nessessary to obtain any kind of "sharpness" and/or peak in smaller AND larger muscle groups. I don't really care who says what. ( no offense intended to anybody) I'm speaking from MY personal experience. I just couldn't imagine getting a satisfying bicep pump without doing a variety of curls. Again, my opinion.
     
  3. Bluestreak

    Bluestreak Well-Known Member

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    :tucool:

    I use a mixture of both compound and isolation movements. I use isolation exercise at the start of my workout to fatigue the major targeted muscle group, then move to compound movements thus (it is my belief) causing stabilizer muscles surrounding the larger groups to pick up the slack as well as develop more completely. It may be contrary to popular belief, but... I could care less. It works for me.

    -R
     
  4. jsbrook

    jsbrook Well-Known Member

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    When have you ever done only compound work at a level of leaness comparable to where you were at the end of your last cut? I actually agree that isolation work has its place in addition to compound work. But I can't see how your statement has any legitimacy unless you were at the same bodyfat when doing a well-planned compound-only work program.
     
  5. jsbrook

    jsbrook Well-Known Member

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    But what is works? What are your goals? As far as I know, you don't want any additional size or at least are not actively seeking it through diet. In any case, I think it's infinitely preferable to do compound work first except for advance lifters using specific, well-planned pre-isolation techiniques. To really experience hypertrophy, you want to be lifting heavy loads and eating right. If your muscles are too fatigued from isolation work to lift as hard as you should on the big compunds (squats, deads, chins, rows, bench, dips, etc...) growth will be compromised and not what it optimally could be. For example, one is not going to be building as big a back as possible if biceps are too fatigued to add enough weight on weighted chins.
     
  6. JeremyLikness

    JeremyLikness Well-Known Member

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    The best way to work your biceps is to contract them. That means bending your arm around the elbow. The best way to work your back muscles is to contract them, i.e. rows or pull-ups.

    So, whether it is isolation or not, if your biceps contracts, it is receiving work.

    Which is better?

    It depends on your goals. You said yourself you are doing isolation and seeing gains, so why change it? Are you in a race and worried you are gaining as quickly as possible? If so, why not try the compound movements for awhile and compare notes?

    Every exercise has it's place. Some hardcore bodybuilders will scoff at something like thigh adduction/abduction ("Oh, it's worthless, just do squats") but I've found beginners benefit by learning what it feels like to contract those muscles. They learn the mind-muscle connection and then get more benefit when they move to squatting and learn how to contract those specific muscles.

    Isolation movements can allow you to stimulate the target muscle in new ways. For example, if you are always doing pull-ups for your biceps, eventually your body becomes extremely efficient at the movement. The biceps get stronger, but not necessary larger. Doing an isolation movement like a cable or concentration curl doesn't necessary allow more load, but it changes the angle and load vectors and challenges the central nervous system. Typically, the response is additional hypertrophy.

    If you are looking to do more than read the debates online and really want to LEARN about what's behind training, there are a few options. There are some great books like "Get Buffed" by Ian King, and "Designing Resistance Training Programs" by Kraemer and Fleck, and there is of course the option of certification.

    Jeremy
     
  7. Bluestreak

    Bluestreak Well-Known Member

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    You don't know.

    Heavy is subjective. I'm experiencing plenty of hypertrophy and strength gains utilizing my methodology. John is using it now and experiencing gains. It's Swolecat's program, with a twist approved by Swolecat himself. It's another way of skinning the cat... I didn't say it was the only way.

    I should be doing? You're telling me what I should be doing? *I* know what I should be doing. Optimally? How many times have I said I don't give a shit what's optimal... I care about (a) what works, and what (b) I'll stick with.

    Don't present things like there's only one way to do them... it's a sure way to raise my hackles because new people will read that kind of closed minded drivel and think that there's only one way to approach fitness. As Jeremy said, variety is a key. Changing things up is the key to hypertrophy; not necessarily only lifting heavy and using compound movement first. I don't always perform isolation first; I only recently went back to that after trying it for a couple months the more conventional way.

    -R
     
  8. doordude42

    doordude42 Senior Member

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    JS, i'm not new to this game. During my early training years I carried 9-10% BF steady. While training for football (for years) my workout consisted of compound movements only. Off season it was a combination of both.I always became "sharper" in the off season. There is NO DOUBT ABOUT IT, for me, isolation sharpens and "elevates" peak. This proved true time and time again.Therefore I consider my statement VERY legitimate.
    What I accomplished on my last cut ( BF% wise ) has nothing to do with my training techniques. Eating clean within my caloric target range and lots of cardio had EVERYTHING to do with it.
     
    #8 doordude42, Sep 26, 2005
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2005
  9. doordude42

    doordude42 Senior Member

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    Isolation movements can allow you to stimulate the target muscle in new ways. For example, if you are always doing pull-ups for your biceps, eventually your body becomes extremely efficient at the movement. The biceps get stronger, but not necessary larger. Doing an isolation movement like a cable or concentration curl doesn't necessary allow more load, but it changes the angle and load vectors and challenges the central nervous system. Typically, the response is additional hypertrophy.


    Jeremy[/QUOTE]

    I couldn't agree more. As i've stated in past threads, (although unconventional) I NEVER do the same routine twice in one week. I constantly change excercises, rep schemes, loads, etc. I believe hitting each and every muscle from different angles IS optimal for ME. My body never knows what's coming next.
     
  10. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    There is also the consideration of range of motion and speed of contraction. Squats do things. Leg abduction/adduction does another.

    In fencing, the drive in the lunge, and other big amplitude footwork, comes from the back leg in a coordinated extension and abduction at the same time. And since the front leg is relaxed, it's all back leg, all the time. In training, a fencer will do this sort of move for hundreds of reps. There are other martial arts where stances and footwork is huge, and even other sports like soccer and football which have big demands on leg power and coordination. Fencing is just an example that I know well.

    I am pretty sure that only doing squats wouldn't prepare you for this sort of movement. It makes your legs strong enough in one sense, but the speed and coordination are quite different.
     
  11. jsbrook

    jsbrook Well-Known Member

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    Touchy. I don't have time to really respond right now. I'm headed to class. Most of my post was not directed at you. It was speaking generally. And I'm not saying there's only one way to do thing. The only thing that was directed at was the hypertrophy comment because you don't seem to be eating to gain mass, and indeed, I remember a recent post that said you're not really looking to add weight anymore or seeking appreciable body composition changes. But I could be wrong. This may not be what you meant More later.
     
  12. Bluestreak

    Bluestreak Well-Known Member

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    I get that way on Monday mornings before the coffee takes effect. My apology if I stepped on any toes.

    I know it wasn't directed at me... but your post comes across as a blanket statement that a person must perform (A) to achieve (B) - and if you do it any other way, results are not achievable. I am extremely careful to stress that my views are opinions based on empirical evidence. And I back those results and opinions with progess pictures periodically. Please take the same care in posting your information and my pre-coffee angst will likely remain in check.

    You have no idea the ignorance I am often shocked to read in some of the PM's I receive from board users. Posting in a manner that makes it seem like there's only one way to fly this kite makes that battle more difficult - especially when I suggest to new people in open forum that they should be researching the forum's information for themselves.

    Mount Everest pales in comparison to the mountain of ignorance the general public has when it comes to body composition manipulation. Making them think there's only one way to do it is further discouraging.

    -R
     
  13. Kino

    Kino Well-Known Member

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    There is No Correct Way to Train. :rolleyes:
     
  14. doordude42

    doordude42 Senior Member

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    I agree. :D However - there are incorrect ways to train. Many of which I have experienced in the past. :rolleyes:
     
  15. karatetricker

    karatetricker Well-Known Member

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    First things first. What are your goals right now? Are you bulking, cutting or maintaining?

    That is because for gaining mass, it is generally true. If you were to do a lifting routine with all compound exercises or all isolation exercises, I don't care who you are, you will see bigger mass gains with the all compound workout. That said...

    In some people's opinion, yes, they are worthless. In mine and obviously several others here, they are very useful. I have never done a routine without a good mixture of both compound and isolation exercises and have always seen good results. I happen to do compound first, then isolation for each muscle group. I also, however, have never done an actual bulk where gaining mass was my main goal. Therefore, I can't say if isolation exercises aid in gaining mass or not. I just know they make my workouts more enjoyable for a number of reasons and aren't going anywhere for the time being.
     
  16. doordude42

    doordude42 Senior Member

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  17. Demon Knight

    Demon Knight Well-Known Member

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    Interesting points. So, say we have a couple of identical twins, George and Bob. Consider all factors same i.e. diet, weight lifted etc. George does simply compound exercises 3 times a week. Bob does the same compound exercises 3 times a week PLUS some isolation exercises. Who do you think would grow more, George or Bob? Will the isolation help him, do nothing or be counterproductive? Sorry if I'm being repetitive and I know no one can give me a straight answer as we're all so different but I'd like to hear your opinions. As a note, no I'm gaining at a steady pace but I'm always willing to learn. Right now I'm cutting but I've actually added some muscle mass in the past few months.
     
  18. RTE

    RTE Well-Known Member

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    Do compounds.
    Do Isolations
    Do freeweights
    Do Machines.

    They all are good for you, if you do them. As Kino said there is no one best way to train. There are some that are so much better than others that you would be foolish to ignore them. 80% of the things you see in these forums would work for 80% of the people if the the people would work at them.

    Some people get good results just walking into a gym and breathing the air. Some require just the right diet or combo of exercises for months before they see any results.
     
  19. Bluestreak

    Bluestreak Well-Known Member

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    DK,

    What you're asking depends on a great deal more than just training protocol. Nutrition. And most especially, "genetic gifting" means more - as RTE just said, that some people can drive past a gym and make gains, whereas I must fight tooth and nail for every ounce of lean mass I acquire and must carefully tailor my nutrition to preserve that lean mass.

    My opinion is that if Bob and George were on equal ground genetically speaking, I think Bob comes out only slightly ahead because he'll have a harder, more defined look in the muscles he targets specifically with isolation.

    I can confidently state that I have noticed a very distinct peak in my biceps and a greater increase in definition in my quads (near the insertion at the knee) from isolating those muscles. Isolation has not made me appreciably stronger - I simply seem to look leaner and harder than before according to progress pictures. I don't care nearly as much for the softer look I sported when I was only lifting through compound exercises; I had more of that blockier bodybuilder look, which is something I personally don't like the looks of.

    -R
     
  20. kmfisher

    kmfisher Well-Known Member

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    This depends on what the exercises are and what his diet is like. The isolation could help or hurt him, as could the compound exercises.

    I think the majority of people here would agree that compound movements should make up the bulk of your workout, otherwise you are wasting your valuable workout time. Isolation is not required, but in some cases may be desired or recommended.
     

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