Compound vs Isolation Movements


I train in a very well equipped gym though, and wondering if I’m not missing out on some of the machines there. Are there no isolation movements at all that you like?


There are really two issues here, and I think you may be confused so let’s start from the top.

I heavily favor compound vs. isolation movements given we all only have so much time and energy to expend.

A trap bar deadlift is going to stimulate far greater muscle growth than the pec machine.

Personally, I only use two isolation movements – The side lateral DB raise and the pec deck, but facing in and placing your elbows on the pads and pushing back.

Both of these I perform infrequently, and only after all of my heavy pushing/pulling exercises are done.

That is to say, IF I have the energy left I’ll do 1-2 sets to flush some blood into the muscle, and that’s it.

Every other movement I use is considered a compound lift.

Machines vs Free Weights

The vast majority of my movements utilize free weights, because 1.) The build more muscle, 2. They build more muscle and 3.) They build more muscle.

There are however, some machines that deserve honorable mention.

  • A well designed pullover machine is great, because it’s the only back exercise I can think of that takes the biceps completely out of the movement.
  • Gravitron aka Weight Assist Machine is very useful in helping those who can’t perform dips and chins yet with their bodyweight. By the way, it’s also a great way to train the true one arm chinup
  • The reverse hyper and/or glute ham raise if you’re fortunate enough to have one.
  • The leverage squat.
  • The seated cable row, especially for accentuating the stretch part of the movement.

Bottom Line

You wouldn’t have your best round of golf with just woods or just irons. Use all of these tools then, when building your body.

Posted in
Coach Rob Regish

Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.