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What Exercises Work Best for Isolation?

What Exercises Work Best for Isolation?

do isolation exercises build muscle

For the overall effectiveness of your workout, isolation exercises are crucial. Although they have been largely replaced by large multi-joint exercises and nobody will ever ask you how much your leg extension or triceps cable pushdown weigh, these exercises are still essential for improving detail and developing larger muscles. This is due to the fact that they might be exactly what you need after spending a lot of time working on multi-joint exercises. You may be looking for them because they can increase your strength and give you bigger muscles.

Single joint exercises can also be very advantageous due to their adaptability. They can be used to create burnout sets that will increase your pump as your workout comes to a close, but you can also use them at the beginning when you first walk into the gym or essentially at any point for straightforward muscle building. They work well with intensity enhancers as well. Following careful consideration of dozens of single joint techniques, the top ten are listed below.

European Hamstring Curl

European Hamstring Curl

You can use this exercise, which targets your hamstrings, very effectively at the start of your workout. This is because you want your hamstrings to be in top shape because they are also involved in hip extension and knee flexion. Contrary to most programs, this one trains hip extension through stiff-leg deadlifts, but if you do that, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Of course, you could also perform lying ham curls instead, but you might want to think twice after a 2009 study found that the Nordic curl was the best isolation exercise for the hamstrings in terms of EMG activity. The Nordic curl should not, however, be used in place of stiff-legged deadlifts or squats. The situation will only improve if you incorporate a few sets of it into your routine.

Put a pad on your knees and hook them under something solid or heavy to prevent them from moving during Nordic hamstring curls and disrupting your workout. Additionally, you can use a lat pull-down station with the pads and perform the exercise there. However, be warned that Nordic hamstring curls are very challenging to perform and that many people won't be able to do one when they first begin training them. Negative reps should be performed from the top position if you are unable to complete a single rep. Make sure you have a broomstick or a dowel so you can get yourself up if you eventually reach the elevated lat pull-down station.

barbell curl while seated

barbell curl while seated

Without taking into account the multi-joint chin up, this exercise is the best and most efficient one for your biceps. Why is this exercise on this list if EMG research only rated it as a passable exercise with nothing more?

The preacher and concentration curls, for example, may produce a stronger EMG signal when performed while seated, but standing allows for the use of much more weight. The muscle will be overworked and the effect will be much greater if you perform heavy standing barbell curls at the start of your workout. If you must cheat, save it for the final one or two reps.

Always use proper form when performing your exercises; if you need to use momentum to start a rep, the bar is too heavy, and you should lighten it up a bit. Take a wider grip at the bar to exert more intensity on the short head, whereas the long head benefits more from a grip where your hands are closer together than your shoulder width.

The fact that you apply more pressure to one head or the other does not indicate that you are performing an isolation exercise. Pick up an EZ-bar if doing so is better for the joints in your arm.

Extend your legs

Extend your legs

This exercise targets your quads, whereas many leg exercises focus on larger muscle groups, which makes the rest of your workout much harder because you're too exhausted or unbalanced to continue. So, I would advise performing some leg extensions to focus on the quads without having to deal with the discomfort of being unable to stand later. This exercise is typically performed at the conclusion of a leg day, but you can also perform it before your legs are completely exhausted. It will make later lightweight squats feel more like lifting a car.

Leg extensions can also assist you with exercises that increase intensity, so they are useful for more than just that. Put them in a classic dropset if you want to include them in your routine; this means that you would lower the weight once you had reached muscular exhaustion. You simply carry on pumping after that. You can perform forced reps, partials, slow negatives, and a ton of other exercises—the only restriction is your imagination!

Even though it will make it tougher for you to walk or even stand, this exercise is effective with blood flow restriction training. Turning your feet slightly inward will have the best effect because it will directly affect the vastus lateralis, while turning them outward won't have the same effect on the vastus medialis. Although you can face criticism for not doing what the majority of others at the gym do, resist the urge to succumb to social pressure!

Trenches with a cable

Trenches with a cable

This exercise specifically targets the lateral and medial heads of your triceps. This triceps exercise, in my opinion, is the best for this list because it best activates your lateral and medial triceps heads while also giving the long heads some attention.

It all depends on how you perform the exercise, including your grip, body position, and type of handle. Cable push-downs can be used for a wide variety of effects.

You must maintain a progressive overload, which means you must occasionally add additional weight to the stack. Don't try a million different approaches at once; you must also be certain of what you're doing.

Instead, choose the one that best suits you and stick with it for a few weeks to witness the effects. I advise against flaring your elbows because it lessens the tension on the triceps, therefore avoid doing so for the best results. However, you can also exhaust it completely and switch to full-ROM mode, pushing lockout. You will be happy with the outcomes if you can accomplish that and push through those final few inches.

Standing Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Standing Lateral Dumbbell Raises

The middle deltoid muscles are the focus of this exercise, which is so effective that everyone has tried it. If you've only ever visited the gym once, you've probably done this exercise. You will severely engage your middle deltoids if you raise your upper arms straight out to the side. It's really that easy; just keep gaining weight and you'll be fine! When performing this exercise standing up, you can lift more weight and express your lifts much more effectively than when performing it seated.

The effect will be minimal if the weight is too heavy and you don't maintain proper form, so don't just do everything you can. Therefore, maintain a slight bend in your elbows while performing standing dumbbell lateral raises, but also keep your elbows up because the best middle head effect is obtained when your upper arm completely extends to the side. "Lead with the elbows" is a phrase that is uttered by millions of coaches every single day.

The logic behind this is simple enough for even those who are beginning their training for the first time to understand, and it works. Before moving on to dumbbell exercises, you can practice your raises on a lateral-raise machine to better understand how you move and clarify your body's mechanics.

Pec-Deck Fly in Reverse

Pec-Deck Fly in Reverse

Even though the rear deltoids aren't frequently given priority on shoulder day, this exercise targets your rear deltoids and I think it's the best one for them. Make sure you feel each and every contraction if you want to do these; if you just throw the weight around, it won't do anything.

You've probably heard a lot about how free weights are preferable to machines, but the reason I chose this exercise over the rear-delt raise is twofold: first, you get about 10% more muscle activation with the machine, and second, you can't manipulate the machine in the same way that you could with a free weight movement, losing the isolation effect.

Use multiple grips for the best results; for example, you can perform the exercise with an overhand and neutral grip, both of which require that your palms face inward. The rear deltoids are treated slightly differently by each grip, so switching grips isn't just for fun.

Fly Dumbbells

This exercise isolates the chest muscles and is great since it targets the shoulder joints, which is what an isolation exercise is supposed to do when you keep your elbows slightly bent. The amount of weight you can lift typically decreases significantly when you transition from an exercise using more joints to one requiring just one. Reasonable, yes?

Less joints equate to less lifting force. Simply compare the amount of weight you can lift when performing dumbbell presses on a flat bench to flyes on the same bench. This point can be imitated to align incline and decline surfaces as well, or even with cables by utilizing the lower pulley position.

Avoid overextending your shoulders when putting the weights down for the best results. Even though it appears straightforward, it can become challenging if your arms are extended. If you feel anything more than the stretching of your chest muscles, it's time to stop.

flies on the pecs

flies on the pecs

This one also works the pecs, but the key distinction is that it's a machine exercise rather than a free-weight exercise. Why are they both listed then? Simple: I've seen a lot of people struggle to maintain their arm in that position, meaning they're still using their triceps without even realizing it.

However, this machine does not give you the option of maintaining your form when you use it. If you're just getting started, feel free to practice the movement on this machine until you can perform it quickly and efficiently with dumbbells. It shouldn't be too difficult to do because it's like hugging something very large, but the machine is also better for performing partial reps or dropsets for your inner chest muscles.

For optimal results, adjust your seat so that your shoulders, elbows, and hands are all in a single, fully horizontal plane. Additionally, throughout the exercise, you need to keep an eye on your elbows to make sure they are elevated and to prevent yourself from dropping them.

Machine for hamstring curls

The hamstrings are the focus of this workout. If you've been working out in the gym for a while, you probably already know that the majority of leg exercises are either isolation exercises like hamstring curls, leg extensions, and calf raises, or squat-like movements like squats, lunges, or pistols. While both are extremely beneficial, single-joint exercises can help you isolate muscle because they can be performed on machines, which prevent form errors.

Machine hamstring curls are an exercise that anybody can perform, and everyone does them on leg day because they put a significant amount of strain on your leg muscles—even more than other single-joint exercises. When you perform forced reps, rest-pause training, or even dropsets, they will help you get your muscles pumped up and keep them there. They will also get your muscles online quickly.

When you're finished with the heavy sets, give these a shot for the best results. Considering that they move around the hip joint rather than the knee, they are perfect for Romanian deadlifts.

pull-down with a straight arm

If you perform this exercise correctly, you should be able to completely eliminate the targeted area, which is your lateral muscles (lats). I would advise starting with a light weight and concentrating on flattening and squeezing your scapulae while also tightening your laterals. Start off eccentrically, then concentrate on raising the bar in front of you, then all the way up to your head to complete an overhead stretch.

Try it out and you'll get a fantastic boost from this exercise! Don't stand perfectly vertical for the best effect. Step back from the pulley a couple of steps and lean in. This means that while you will have a fantastic stretch, you won't be able to lift as much weight as you could with a bent-arm lat pull-down.

However, you don't need a lot of extra weight to obtain the effects that you desire because this exercise is essentially the greatest for the muscles you are seeking to engage.