Wednesday Workout: Discussion time! Compound vs. Isolation Exercises?

Hey everyone! I do have a workout for you today, but before I get to that, I want to take a minute to talk about something I’ve been thinking about since my SHRED class last Thursday. Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises. What’s the difference, you might ask? Well, simply put (read: VERY simply), compound exercises or movements work more than one muscle or muscle group at a time and isolation exercises work only one muscle or muscle group at a time. Some of my favorite compound exercises are squats with and overhead press, lunges with biceps curls, deadlifts with a row, whereas isolation exercises would be JUST biceps curls or rows.


(Compound vs. Isolation)

Since compound exercises generally work both upper and lower body muscles, they burn more calories, which is why I tend to teach those types of exercises in my class; “more bang for the buck,” shall I say. Since I only have an hour to teach, including warm up and cool down, I want my members to get the most out of that hour and keep their heart rates up even when we are not doing cardio.

However, last week I changed things up in my SHRED class and decided to focus on isolation exercises. You may remember this Jump Rope & Strength Circuit Workout” that I did at home about a month ago.

Jump Rope and Strength Circuit

I decided to take the basis of this workout- isolation exercises- and change up the cardio to make it doable in my group ex. class. In order to make this work, I switched the 5 minutes of jump rope to 3 minutes of cardio (3 moves at 60 seconds each), while still keeping the strength portion the same (except I replaced one of the triceps exercises to biceps curls). I encourage my members to go HEAVY on the weights for the strength portion since we were only focusing on one muscle/muscle group rather than spreading our energy throughout our whole body to work more than one muscle group.

Since I have gotten to know a bunch of the members in my classes, I know what they usually lift and it was nice to see them go heavier. As much as I love compound movements, I think that when we do them, we usually have to go a little lighter with the weights, but with isolation movements, we can go heavier since we are only focusing on doing ONE thing. This made me wonder: do we lift BETTER and STRONGER and more EFFICIENTLY when we focus on isolation exercises? What do you think?

Personally, I think I do have a better workout when I only focus on one muscle group. If I am just doing biceps curls, or shoulder presses or lunges, I only have to focus on ONE thing, rather than multiple, so I think I can push through and gain better muscle by doing this. When we are doing timed intervals for compound movements, I think one of the exercises tends to suffer; maybe you don’t squat as low in a squat and OH press, maybe you don’t lunge as deep when you are doing lunges with biceps curls, maybe you’re not lifting as heavy weights when you’re doing squats and overhead presses, etc. Now, I am not saying that compound movements are not wonderful ways to get the best “bang for your buck,” but I think we have to be extra careful to not get “messy”.

I want your opinion, though. What do you think? Do you prefer compound exercises or do you prefer to lift heavier and focus on isolation exercises? Does it differ depending on whether you’re in a class or working out on your own? What’s your favorite exercises for compound and isolation exercises? I’m really interested to see if anyone feels the same way as I do.


I know I promised you a workout, so here is the running workout I did on Monday when I was in Maine!

run + strength training

I ended up running a 5K (3.1 miles), so I saved the 3rd set of 25 rep exercises for when I finished. And then, to make things even (I like 100 much better than 75!), I did a 4th set of the exercises. I finished with some push-ups into side planks, full burpees and stretching. Stretching with Charlie is not easy…


So, there you go! Let me know if you try this, and let me know what you think about my recent revolation! Enjoy your day, friends 🙂