A few days ago I explained that I’d stopped doing heavy rack squats, because my quads are pretty big nowadays, and no matter how I change my stance (hip width, wide stance, sumo etc) I cannot get my glutes to fire when squatting.
However, I also talked about wanting to keep squats as a staple of my training because they are such a great compound movement.
At this point I want to talk about the term ‘compound movement’.
When you do resistance training, there are 2 types of exercises you will find yourself doing – Isolation movements and Compound movements.
Isolated Movements see you targeting one specific muscle while the rest of your body stays relatively inactive. Think bicep curls, front and side raises, chest flyes, leg extensions. Most seated weight machines will be isolation movements, but not all, rows and leg press are 2 exceptions to this rule.
Compound Movements see you hitting various muscle groups at the same time while performing the exercise. These movements tend to be the big, dynamic lifts – think squats, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, rows, presses, push ups etc.
Which is right for you?
It totally depends on your goals.
For those who are looking to bulk up and improve specific muscle groups, isolated moves are ideal for you. The big boys are always fans of really targeting specific areas like chest, biceps, shoulders etc, and avoiding stepping anywhere near the aerobic arena.
For those leaning up, compound moves are best. Not only are you hitting a hell of a lot of muscle groups with one hugely dynamic exercise, in doing so you will really get your heart rate up, meaning you are using both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, burning more calories and getting more bang for your buck in terms of your workout.
I stick to compound moves because I enjoy them so much and they are more in line with my training and aesthetic goals. Unless it’s a row, you want catch me sat down on a gym machine.
However, there is absolutely room for both types of training in your set up. Switching up your training and bouncing between the two is only going to benefit your results.