Traditional isolation exercises in weight training are exercises that involve only one joint and a limited number of muscle groups with one primary muscle. In recent years, the fitness industry has changed quite a bit with the introduction of MMA Conditioning, Cross-fit, Zuu training, Hiit and similar systems sweeping the industry. There has been a definite shift towards Olympic lifts, power lifts, high intensity intervals and heavy conditioning programs, rather than the old school bodybuilding programs in traditional gyms. As a strength and conditioning coach, I must be very specific in my exercise selection for all clients involved in my programs, so I personally have moved in the direction of what I call “Compound Isolation”, choosing to tweak most of my isolated exercises to involve more than one joint, standing or seated to introduce more muscle groups to a movement or use unstable actions to create more efficient, effective load to multiple muscle groups. By no means am I saying that isolation exercises are not useful, especially for bodybuilders, specific movement and strength and rehab and muscular imbalance, but I will say, isolated muscles can experience much heavier volume of load for a percentage of a movement during compound activity. Pictured, we have Nelson Law, Power House Athlete and Vanuatu National Rugby league player demonstrating our three featured exercises. Nelson has personally experienced the difference in using typical, traditional bodybuilding exercises that gave him an outstanding beach body physique, to now carrying the athletic, functional, sports specific physique as a result of altering his training practices towards compound training for his sport specific and injury prevention requirements. This has also lead to Nelson holding a much more balanced and proportioned aesthetic look. Here are three of my favorite ‘isolation’ muscle group exercises, biceps, triceps and shoulders all performed in a more compound effective variation.
standing biceps curl
Start in a standing position with feet shoulder width apart and nice soft knees. Hold the bar shoulder width apart using an underhand grip (palms facing upwards). Let the bar hang in front of your thighs and retract your shoulder blades. Bend at the elbow, keeping the elbows tucked in by the ribs and exhale until the bar is in line with the collar bone. Pause, then lower the bar whilst inhaling back to starting position. Do not jerk the bar at any stage of the lift. Repeat muscles used: Major muscles used are the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradalis. Assistor muscles used are deltoid, wrist extensors and flexors.
So next time you are in the gym, why not try out these three variations. You could even add them to the four compound exercises we discussed in our last article, now that would be a real Power House session!
enjoy the lift