Another group of exercises important in building muscle mass are isolation exercises. They aren’t as effective as compound ones but are also very useful.
Isolation exercises require the work of only one muscle group and only one joint throughout the movement. Their purpose is to isolate only one major muscle without the involvement of secondary one. The best example is Leg Extension which hits directly only our quads.
- Flat / Incline / Decline Flyes (dumbbell, cable or machine)
Muscles Trained: Chest.
- Front / Side / Bent Over Lateral Raises (dumbbell, cable or machine)
Muscles Trained: Front / Side / Rear part of Shoulders.
- Preacher / Concentration Curls
Muscles Trained: Biceps.
- Overhead Triceps Extensions (barbell, dumbbell or cable)
Muscles Trained: Triceps.
- Leg Extensions
Muscles Trained: Quads.
- Leg Curls:
Muscles Trained: Hamstrings.
- Seated Calve Raises
Muscles Trained: Calves
Because we are isolating only one muscle group throughout the exercise lifting heavy isn’t really possible but we have other advantages:
- providing more volume when secondary muscles are tired and we are not able to lift heavy anymore,
- targeting muscles that we want to focus on, without training another,
- working on the primary muscle group without overdeveloping secondary,
- pre-exhausting underdeveloped area.
After few heavy sets of any compound movement usually our stabilizers or any other secondary muscles involved in exercise are too tired to lift heavy any more. However the major muscle group that we train isn’t exhausted yet. Our objective is to incorporate as many muscles fibers as possible and train them to the point when they can’t do any more work. So this is a perfect time when we can use isolation exercise in our routine and do few more sets to deplete the rest of the energy (glycogen) from our muscles and train them to the extreme.
During muscle mass building cycle, especially when we start bodybuilding, we want to perform exercises which stimulates as many muscles at the time as it is possible, because these are the most effective ones. However when we progress, have already decent size, we might want to isolate some areas and target muscles that we really want to be trained, without involving another.
Many lifters have common problem like overdeveloped front part of shoulder muscle and any time they do bench press these muscles are doing the majority of work along with triceps rather then a chest. To fix this problem we can do few sets of isolation exercise like Dumbbell Flyes on the beginning of the workout to pre-exhaust chest muscles.
Another time when we can use the pre-exhaustion method is an opposite situation, when one part of our muscle is underdeveloped. For example side (lateral) head of our shoulder is simply too small and doesn’t want to develop. The same solution as above should fix the problem. Few light sets of Lateral Raises before any shoulder pressing will activate the lagging area and provide it with extra stimulation to grow.
Isolation exercises, condemned so much by many people, aren’t really useless. If they were, we probably wouldn’t hear about them and wouldn’t see any bodybuilder doing them. They play a key role in maximizing the muscular stimulation and fatigue. They help in decreasing imbalances and improving areas that are underdeveloped. However as a beginner stick to basics. Construct your workout around big compound exercises because they are the most effective and perform isolation ones only sporadically or unless you really need it.