I get guys in the gym asking me the same question over and over. They always want to know what is the best workout routine to isolate a particular muscle group. Now that could be their biceps, triceps or abs ? you name it ? these guys want to isolate it.
Now that gives me the impression that they are missing out on the big picture about strength training. Let me explain why this seems such an odd question to ask. Now I have to explain to these guys that the body will not work at its maximum efficiency if we are talking about muscle isolation. All the muscles work together and large parts of the body will help the smaller parts to complete a complex movement.
Muscle groups do not just work on their own so really muscle isolation does not exist. Whatever movement you do, there will always be another group of muscles in the vicinity which are working to help you perform that movement. In this article I want to point out that multi-joint complex movements are a far better way than trying to single out certain parts of the body through single-joint exercises. So, let us say you want to perform a single-joint exercise and you are trying to isolate some muscles. If you do that, you are not allowing the body to perform efficiently and it will be much more likely to suffer from injury.
Basically you are building a collection of body parts and not thinking of the whole body as a powerful, wonderfully complex unit working together. Take a look at some well known athletes ? Maurice Green and Terrell Owens spring to mind. I can tell you for sure that their coaches would never allow them to do isolation muscle training !And the results you can see for yourself ? these guys are totally ripped so the answer must be somewhere else. If you continue with isolation training then your chances of getting an injury are much higher and you are likely to end up with a few bandaged joints, tendonitis or even an extra few pounds around your gut.
Your body should be working like a powerful machine where all the parts are working together in a functional way and you should have a leaner body capable of performing complex movements or even a simple every day task. If you can concentrate on that, then you will have the extra benefit of a harder leaner body. So focus on how well your body functions overall and forget the isolation myth.
It should be fairly obvious that if you are doing isolation training and concentrating on single- joint movements, the whole body is not involved and therefore your metabolism is not at its full peak. Now think of the complex movement situation and here the metabolism rate will be higher, more calories will be burned and also that means that you are going to produce testosterone and growth hormone which is what you are aiming for really. That in turn means you can lose body fat more easily. Let's look at an example.
The machine leg extension is a single joint exercise that works mainly the quadriceps, can potentially cause knee joint instability in the long run, and doesn't even burn that many calories. On the other hand, exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and deadlifts are all multi-joint complex movements that work hundreds of muscles in the body (including the quadriceps) as a functional unit, create more stable and strong joints in the long run (when done properly), and also burn massive quantities of calories compared to the single-joint exercises.
Robert Locke is a fitness writer in Wellness. Visit to receive your own personalized metabolic rate calculator as well as 4 secret hard-body workout routines - both FREE. Click on the Truth About Abs.