Bodybuilding Exercises:
Compound vs. Isolation

Bodybuilding exercises are focused on putting on a lot of muscle and be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Now how one goes about doing that is up for debate. There are those who say that you only need to do compound movements to put on serious muscle. Then there are those who believe that isolation movements are the way to be a serious bodybuilder. Of course there are those that take the middle path who use both compound and isolation movements in order to build the "perfect" physique.

Which one will get you the most gains? I tend to think a workout program that utilizes both compound and isolation movements will prove the most beneficial. Now what are compound movements and what are isolation movements? Great question. Read on meat heads!

Compound Movements

bodybuilding exercises compound movementsSquats are a great compound movements that will push you to the limits

Compound bodybuilding exercises involve the work of many muscles and the movement of many joints at the same time. You have to think about it as a team sport rather than a individual sport. The team must work together to accomplish a goal. It's the same with compound movements, muscles must work together to lift the weights.

So what are some examples of compound lifts? Really it's anything that involves more than one muscle group. Here are some examples.

  1. Squats (although it mostly works your hamstrings, glutes and hamstrings, your core and back are involved and it's really a full body workout.)
  2. Deadlifts (works your posterior chain which is your hamstrings, glutes, and back.)
  3. Bench Press (involves your chest but also works your triceps and a little bit of your deltoids.)
  4. Any Olympic Lift (clean and press and snatch involve a lot of muscles groups.


You're using more than one muscle group at a time so you are able to load up the weight and really push your self. People claim you will build muscle quicker because of the added weight you can lift.

The lifts you do that involve compound movements are more functional and would be used more in real life situations.

They require more energy so you're getting a more effective workout when doing them. If you do them right it almost becomes a cardiovascular workout as well.


Dangerous situations. The fact that they involve multiple muscle groups and more than one joint means that there is a greater risk of injury. You must do them with very strict form to prevent injury.

Build imbalances in your muscles, because they focus on a group of muscles it's to neglect your smaller muscles that aren't used commonly in compound lifts, such as the rear/lateral deltoids, calves, biceps and triceps.

Isolation Movements

Isolation bodybuilding exercises are when you focus on one muscle and keep movement to one joint. Bodybuilders are a big fan of these because you can really get a good workout on one muscle and make it grow.

Examples of Isolation movements:

  1. Bicep Curls
  2. Tricep Pushdowns
  3. Any Deltoid Raise
  4. Pectoral Flys
  5. Calf Raises

Realistically there are a ton of isolation movements out there that you can use. They're good for when you want to focus on really murdering one muscle at a time.


They can bring up those weak areas in your body. A common one is the rear deltoid. A lot of people neglect them and end up looking a little weird. With an isolation rear deltoid fly you can bring the rear delts with the rest of your shoulders giving you a more symmetrical look.

Less risk of injury, because you're focusing on one muscle and only moving one joint you are lifting very safe. They're usually very controlled and involve more reps.

They're good if you have injuries to work around or if you're age prevents you from doing everything you want. You can still get a good workout with them despite these things.


You can not load up the weight because you are only focusing on one muscle at a time.

They don't give you as good of a workout because you can only focus on one muscle at a time.

Best Bodybuilding Exercise:
Compound or Isolation?

So now that you know what they are which reigns supreme? I think that they both definitely have their strengths and weaknesses but the truth is just doing one of them is not going to give you the physique you want.

The perfect workout exercise to me is one that utilizes both movements to hit all muscles of your body. Compound movements will help you put on the size you want while the isolation movements will help you bring up those hard to hit muscles.

My workouts usually start with compound movements to fatigue the muscles and then I move to isolation movements to further torture my muscles into growing. You have to find what works for you and what you have time for.

  1. Workouts
  2. Compound v. Isolation