Doing work as a fitness expert, there is one kind of query I get all the time that shows that many individuals are lacking the big picture concerning the use of resistance training. This kind of well-known question typically goes like this:
"Exactly what routine does one do to isolate my _______ (insert your muscle of choice - abdominal muscles, quads, biceps, triceps, etc)?"
No matter which muscle anyone is actually asking about, they always look like asking how to 'isolate' it. My initial response to this particular concern is usually - Exactly why in the world might you need to isolate it?
The first thing I aim to show my clients is that the human body doesn't work well in muscle isolation. Instead, it does work better in exercises along a kinetic chain; that is, large portions of the human body aid other parts of the body in doing a complex movement. Actually, there really isn't any such thing as true muscle isolation. There is certainly almost always a close by muscle group designed to help in some manner with whatever movement you are doing. Even so, this article analyzes trying to 'isolate' areas of the body through single-joint exercises to the even more useful technique of executing multi-joint complex exercises.
Once you try to 'isolate' muscle groups through performing single-joint exercises, you're truly creating a physique that is non-functional and will be more at risk of injuries. Fundamentally, you might be developing a physique that is the compilation of body parts, instead of a powerful, functional unit that actually works together.
Today in case you want to end up hobbling around in a body wrapped up with joint problems, tendonitis, and excess fat, then be my guest, continue attempting to 'isolate' areas of the body. On the other hand, in case you would prefer to have a slim, muscular, injury-free, functional body that works well like a complete strong unit to perform complex movements (in athletics or even everyday duties), you will want to move your focus far from muscle isolation. Trust me, concentrating on how well your own body functions will give you the side effect of a body which appears better than it would have if you focused on muscle isolation. For instance, examine the physiques of any NFL running backs, wide receivers, or even world class runners. Believe me when I say that these people virtually NEVER workout for muscle isolation (their strength coaches wouldn't be insane enough to let them), however they're absolutely ripped to shreds! Merely look at guys like Maurice Green or Terrell Owens and tell me who wouldn't want a body like those guys.
Another advantage to moving away from the 'muscle isolation' attitude to a more 'complex movement' attitude is that you will discover it's less difficult to shed excess fat. This is because that by paying attention more on multi-joint complex exercises as opposed to single-joint muscle isolation, you not only burn additional calories during every exercise routine, but you could also increase your metabolism, as well as promote output of more fat burning and muscle building hormones like growth hormone and testosterone.
Let's consider a good example. The machine leg extension is a single joint exercise that actually works primarily the quadriceps, could possibly bring about knee joint instability in the end, and doesn't even burn that many calories. However, exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, as well as deadlifts are multi-joint complex actions that work hundreds of muscles in your body (such as the quadriceps) as a functional unit, produce more stable and strong joints over time (when done properly), as well as melt away enormous levels of calories when compared to single-joint exercises.
For more hardgainer training tips, check out The Hardgainer Manifesto.