More often than not, we hear trainers at the gym emphasizing on compound exercises and their importance in our bodybuilding or fitness routine. This does not mean that isolation exercises are not important. Isolation movements are a significant part of a good fitness routine if you want to get that ripped look. These exercises are considered equally important as they offset the heavy workouts and get you closer to achieving your fitness goals. Let’s learn more about isolation exercises, its benefits and role in bodybuilding. Also, this blog will shed light on incredibly effective isolation workouts.
What are Isolation Exercises?
In the world of CrossFit training and heavy weightlifting, isolation exercises are not too high on the pedestal. Many times, they are neglected and are not even included in workout routines. However, experts suggest that isolation exercises should be a part of every workout for its numerous benefits.
So, let’s first understand what these isolation exercises are. Isolation workouts make muscles work in isolation. In weight training, isolation exercises refer to workouts that make only one joint or one muscle group work. For example, the leg extension exercise works your quadriceps muscles. In contrast, compound exercises train more than two muscle groups at one time. For example, squat exercise involves hip joints, knee joints and works the quads, hamstrings, lower back, and glutes muscles.
Generally, curls, extensions, flys, and raises are examples of isolation movements. These exercises are performed when you must avoid the usage of other muscle groups. This enables you to focus on just one muscle group and do all the work. When it comes to bodybuilding, it is a great way to focus on your concerned area and train your muscles to exhaustion and rebuild it.
Many gym machines facilitate training muscles in isolation. However, the technique is important. Only, if the machine is set to right adjustments will you be able to exercise properly and train the target area efficiently. Usually, isolation exercises are performed as a part of circuit training at the gym.
It is important to understand that isolation workouts are vital to muscle development, strength training, as well as fast recovery from injuries and muscle imbalances. Many times, people develop muscle imbalance by overtraining one muscle group. It is then, people use isolation workouts to rectify the difference and develop the opposing muscle group. Isolation exercises are used as a part of therapy and rehabilitation. Physiotherapists use isolation movements for joint and muscle injuries. Patients going through joint surgery are also recommended to perform isolation movements for fast recovery.
Difference Between Isolation Exercises and Compound Exercises
As mentioned above, isolation exercises train one muscle and compound exercises train more than one muscle. Compound exercises are considered best for muscle building because they save a lot of time by training multiple muscles at one time. Unfortunately, this may not be the best way to work out. This is simply because when performing compound exercises, the focus is wider, and it may not properly work all the muscles.
Meanwhile, compound movements are more functional as they resemble everyday movements, which is why they are considered better than isolation exercises. Isolation movements do not look anything like our everyday movement, but they are a great addition to any fitness program and incredibly effective in enhancing the size and strength of a specific muscle group. With the help of isolation exercises, you can easily strengthen the muscles which lack strength. This is not possible with compound movements.
Moreover, compound exercises are more challenging and demanding than isolation workouts. They make you expend more energy and leave you feeling exhausted than you would while performing isolation exercises. This is why, it is recommended to perform compound exercises at the beginning of your workout and practice isolation movements at the end, especially leg isolation exercises.
Benefits of Isolation Exercises
There are numerous benefits of isolation exercises, such as:
- These exercises can be performed at all fitness levels: beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
- It is great to improve looks, get a shredded and ripped body.
- These exercises help you achieve a proportionate body.
- It is incredibly effective to rectify muscle imbalance.
- It helps you focus on your problem area specifically.
- It enables you to build muscle strength and endurance
- Isolation workouts allow the person to control volume for each muscle group.
- These exercises allow you to train individual muscle without impacting the other. No matter how heavy you train that muscle group, it will not affect the other muscle group.
- The best way to train biceps, triceps, and calf muscles is through isolation exercises as it creates a direct impact on these muscles without increasing the volume on larger muscle groups.
This is why, any fitness program must include both compound and isolation exercises. Compound movements might be great for creating a solid foundation, but isolation is important to further enhance the growth of specific muscle groups and contributes to your overall appearance.
Best Isolation Exercises for Ripped Body
1. Side Lateral Raises: This is a perfect exercise to develop your deltoids and build broad shoulders. It is a great exercise for developing width in the upper body and gives you that much-coveted V-taper look. It is a beginner’s level workout, but it goes a long way.
Technique: Grab hold of a pair of dumbbells, stand straight with your torso upright and palms holding dumbbells on the side. Keep your back straight and keep the feet shoulder-width apart, start to slowly lift your arms up. Make sure that you do not lock your elbows and maintain a soft bend. Continue to go up until your arms are completely parallel and are at shoulder level. Lower down the dumbbells and repeat the movement.
2. Cable Crunches: This is a killer abs exercise that will get you closer to your six-pack abs dream in no time. This is for anyone who is tired of regular crunches with zero results. It’s time to switch to cable crunches and make the difference.
Technique: To perform this workout, you must have access to a high pulley machine. Start in a kneeling position in front of the high pulley machine. Make sure it has a rope attachment. Now grab hold of the cable rope and pull it down to the level of your face. Now pull the rope on both sides and perform a crunch. Your elbows will become parallel to thighs. And now return to the starting position.
3. Dumbbell Fly: To work your chest muscles, this is a wickedly effective exercise and quite popular among bodybuilders and athletes. It requires great power in your arms; however, it is easy to perform. Beginners can perform it under the supervision of a professional.
Technique: This isolation exercise for chest must be performed on a flat bench while lying in a supine position. Keep the dumbbells in both your hands on your sides, palms facing each other. Now, lift the dumbbells in your hand and bring them in front of your shoulder. Your elbows must be bent at slightly less than the 90 degree angle. Now bring the dumbbells together like you are pressing them into each other and lower them back to the sides. Keep repeating the movement.
4. Hamstring Curls: Also, known as lying leg curls, this hamstring isolation exercise trains one of the largest muscle groups that is located at the back side of the upper leg. This is an important leg workout as it prevents injuries from weak hamstrings. It is a strengthening exercise that can be performed in multiple ways. Here is the most basic manner of practicing hamstring curls.
Technique: For this workout, you must have access to a leg curl machine. Lie face down on the curl machine. Make sure that your knees are lining up with the rotational axis. Now place your feet under the ankle rest and it must sit right above your heels. Now, bend your knees and move your heels down so that you can use your force from the bottom. Keep your back straight and hips on the seat. Now, slowly with the force in your heels, push the rotation axis up towards your butt and back down. Repeat the exercise a few times. You must feel the stretch in your hamstrings.
5. Standing Calf Raises: This is a simple yet amazing workout to train your calf muscles. This isolation exercise is performed with one or both feet. This workout improves muscular strength in your calf muscles and gives your lower legs a shapely appearance. It is great to treat injuries in your Achilles tendon. And you can even increase your vertical jump.
Technique: It must be performed on a raised platform. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart placed on the elevated platform. Maintain balance with half of your feet on the platform, while the other half in the air. Find support to rest your hands. And now, raise heels on your tiptoes. Hold the position and then lower your heels below the platform. You will feel the stretch in your calf muscles here.
6. Concentration Curls: One of the greatest exercises that experts swear by are concentration curls. This workout trains biceps and develops strength and power in your arms. It is a great workout for improving upper body appearance and function.
Technique: All you need is one dumbbell of the right volume. It requires you to work one arm at a time. Now, take a seat on a chair or a bench. Keep your feet apart and grab hold of a dumbbell in your right arm and bend slightly forward so that your right arm rests against the inner thigh of the right leg. Lift the dumbbell up and down and make sure only your forearm is moving. You must feel the flex in your biceps as you move the dumbbell. Do not take the dumbbell too high or low and maintain short of full extension.
7. Dumbbell Shrugs: Shrugs is a great shoulder isolation exercise. Even if shrugs are a simple isolated movement, its effects can be felt in the neck and back muscles.
Technique: This exercise is performed in a standing position. Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold one in each hand. Keep the grip neutral and stand straight with feet slightly shoulder-width apart. Now contract the traps to raise your shoulders. Now squeeze your shoulders and slowly lower them down to the starting position. Don’t let your head fall forward and add a pause at the top of the movement.
Apart from these amazing muscle isolation workouts, here is an isolation exercises list catering to each of the muscle groups.
1. Isolation exercises for biceps
- Hammer curls
- Barbell curls
- Preacher curls
- Overhead cable curls
2. Triceps isolation exercises
- One-arm French Dumbbell press
- Machine dips
- Triceps pushdown
3. Shoulder Isolation exercises
- Dumbbells lateral front raises
- Dumbbell side raises
- Reverse Flys
4. Isolation Exercises for Chest
- Decline Dumbbell Flys
- Butterfly Machine
- Cable Chest Press
5. Isolation Exercises for Lower Body
- Leg Curls
- Calf Raises
- Leg Extensions
Isolation exercises many not involve functional movement, but it is important to complete your fitness program. They can be a great addition to the workout routine when combined with compound movements. And if you are suffering from an injury or muscle imbalance, these isolation workouts can rectify the damage for you.
Disclaimer: All exercise should be done under the supervision of certified professionals. If any medical condition exists, please do seek the advice of the physician to proceed with this exercise.