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Isolated exercises only involve one muscle group or, less frequently, two muscle groups, such as the biceps, abdominal muscles, buttocks, back and chest. They are part of training aimed at getting the best performance from specific parts of the body. Isolated exercises are also used in rehabilitation. Read what exactly are isolated exercises and learn about examples of them for different muscle groups.

Isolated exercisesinvolve only one joint (therefore they are also called single-joint exercises), in isolation from other muscles or with negligible participation of the other muscle group.The goal of isolated exercisesis to train one muscle and fatigue it as much as possible, with minimal strain on the rest of the muscles. In addition to isolated exercises, we also distinguish complex exercises, i.e. those that involve the work of two or more joints, requiring their cooperation.

Isolated exercises versus complex exercises

Discussions on the superiority of isolated exercises over complex exercises and vice versa are often turbulent, and each theory has its supporters. However, the best results can be achieved by doing both types of exercise. Usually, training plans are developed in such a way that isolated exercises complement the complex exercises, treated as the basis of training.

The difference between isolated exercises and complex exercises is illustrated in the table:

Isolated exercisesCompound exercises
applicable only to a specific range of motion, which is associated with a lower probability of incorrect execution, but with a greater possibility of injuryaimed at general development and exercise of several muscle groups
recommended already in the advanced phase of training; beginners are advised to perform isolated exercises on special devicesrecommended both in the initial and advanced stages of training
recommended in rehabilitation, they strengthen the work of the affected muscle or jointstrengthen the connective tissue, minimizing the risk of injury
allow you to refinethe effects of complex exercises, which were obtained in relation to a specific group of musclesenable work with higher loads

Isolated exercises: what are they for and for whom?

Exercises are an isolated element of bodybuilding training: they allow you to strengthen the effects achieved thanks to complex exercises. Sometimes, however, they are performed independently, e.g. all biceps and triceps exercises are isolated exercises because they only involve one muscle. During isolated exercises, the muscle is less stressed than during compound exercises, but they require more effort from the exercised muscle.

People who are just starting their exercises are advised to build a training "base" first, that is to do complex exercises, and then to improve specific muscles during isolated exercises. For this purpose, Full Body Workout (FBW) training is well suited, as it allows you to strengthen all muscles during one training session. In the case of people exercising in the gym, exercises on machines will be the best at the beginning - pulling the bar with a grip or straightening the legs, as well as lifting dumbbells.

Isolated biceps exercises

1. Forearm curls with dumbbells held under the grip

First grab the dumbbells with the grip, then stand hip-width apart, with your arms hanging loosely along your body. Flex the biceps of the weaker arm and begin to slowly raise the forearm with the dumbbells up until it is level with your face. At this point, pause your movement and slowly begin to return to the starting position. Repeat the same isolated exercise with the other forearm. Forearm curls with dumbbells held underneath can be performed by both beginners and advanced people.

2. Dumbbell curls with a hammer grip

Stand hip-width apart, take the dumbbells in your hands with a hammer grip (perpendicular to the ground), lower your arms along the body. Keep your arms close to your body and start bending your elbows - exhale. Finish the movement when you get full elbow bend and bring the dumbbells closer to your arm. You stay in this tense position for a while, then, inhaling, straighten your elbows and lower the dumbbells. You repeat the movement with the other arm.

3. Raising the barbell in a narrow underfoot

First, grab the barbell in the landing so that the distance between your hands is no more than 8 cm. Hold the weight in front of you on straightened arms. Take a straight position, hip-width apart. Look ahead and tryimmobilize your body as much as possible, then raise your forearms so that the bar is in front of your chest. Stay in this position for a few seconds and start lowering the barbell at a slow pace.

Worth knowing

The number of repetitions of each exercise depends on the individual training program. Initially, it is worth doing isolated exercises with a lower load - about 50 percent of the maximum load - but more times - several repetitions.

Isolated exercises for the chest

1. Weights with dumbbells on a horizontal bench

Lie on a horizontal bench and lift the barbells up. Place your arms perpendicular to the floor, shoulder-width apart. Position your wrists so that your fingers point towards each other. From this starting position, breathe in and slowly extend your straight arms to the sides until you feel intense stretching in your chest. Then - on the exhale - start to lift the dumbbells back to the starting position and tighten the chest. As you straighten your arms with dumbbells, trying to avoid hyperextension in your elbows, tighten your pectoral muscle and slowly start lowering your arms down.

2. Barbell press on the bench oblique head up

Lie on the bench sloping upwards in such a position that your feet, buttocks, back and head are all the time in contact with the surface of the bench. Grasp the barbell with the grip and lift it from the stand. Hold her over your chest and don't straighten your elbows. Then slowly lower the barbell into your chest without bending your elbows. Remember to inhale. Later, on the exhale, lift the weight back to the starting position, using your chest muscles and straightening your elbows.

3. Barbell press on the bench oblique head down

Lie on a bench with your head down, with your back against the bench. If you put your legs into the supports, you will get a more comfortable and safer position to perform the exercise. Then grab the barbell wider than shoulder width. Lift the barbell from the rack until you have full arm extension - inhale. Then begin to slowly lower the barbell while exhaling. You can lower the barbell to your chest - it does not cause pressure on the shoulder joint.

4. Leaflets on the machine sitting

Sit on the seat, put your feet on the ground, pull your shoulder blades back to the bench, pull back your shoulders. Grasp the handles using the neutral grip in front of the chest. Inhale slowly, pushing your arms out to the side and bending your elbows slightly. Make as much downward movement as possible and return to starting position on the exhale.At the same time, straighten your elbows and tighten your pectoral muscles.

5. Crossing the lines of the lift standing up

Stand between the two top lifts. Slightly tilt your torso so you get better separation of the pectoral muscles. Then grasp the handles of the lifts and pull them downwards - inwards. For this exercise, you should perform a full range of motion and use and use moderate weights. If you stop moving towards the end, you'll get better muscle tone and more defined muscles.

Also check out: 9 best exercises for the chest

Isolated abdominal exercises

1. Lying leg twists

Lie on the mat on your back. Slightly bend and bring the legs together, then lift them vertically upwards. Arrange the arms along the torso, fold the hands into fists and place them under the buttocks. Then lift your pelvis and move your legs to the right side. Hold this position for a few seconds and then slowly come back to the starting position. Then repeat the exercises, moving your legs to the left side.

2. Torso bends with raising arms

Lie down on the mat and stretch your arms over your head. Then slowly raise your legs upwards at a 45-degree angle. Lift your head and shoulders off the ground and bend. Hold this position for a few seconds, trying to reach your knees. Then slowly return to the starting position.

3. Siady with a twist of the torso

Lie down on the mat and bend your knees. Cross your right leg over your left knee and grab the back of your head with your hands. Move from lying down to sitting up and tense your abs as much as possible. Try to move your torso so that you bring your left elbow closer to your right knee. Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly lower your torso again. Then repeat the exercise with your left leg and touching to your right elbow.

Isolated exercises for the buttocks

1. Deadlift on straight legs

Grab the barbell with a grip and place your hands shoulder-width apart. Sit with your legs slightly apart and slightly bend your knees. Bend at the waist so that the bar is in a lower position, but the bar itself is still close to your body. Slowly return to the starting position.

2. Raising a leg on a propped kneeling

Perform a propped kneeling: straighten your shoulders and back, place your hands shoulder-width apart. Without lifting your head, raise your bent left leg with the sole of the foot facing the ceiling. Once the thigh is parallel to the ground, stop moving and slowly lower the leg. Repeat the same exercise with the other leg.

3. Deadlift on bent legs

Grab the barbell widegrasp and take a stance apart - put your feet hip-width apart. Then push your chest forward, trying to tighten your abdominal muscles as much as possible. At the same time, slowly begin to bend your legs and lower the bar downwards, keeping it close to your body all the time. On the exhale, return to the starting position.

4. Lower lift line abduction backwards

Take the front-to-lift position, then gently tilt your torso forward and rest your arms on the machine. Stand on the support with the supporting leg, and attach the lower pulley cable to the leg you will be exercising. Inhale, perform the leg abduction motion. When your gluteal muscle tone is at its maximum, pause for 1-2 seconds. On the exhale, slowly return to the starting position.

Isolated exercises for the back

1. Pulling up a dumbbell in the fall

Rest your free hand on a stable surface, such as a bench. Then, make your torso almost parallel to the floor and grasp the dumbbell with your other hand. Pull it up with your hand facing the body and elbow along your body. When the bar is at shoulder height, start lowering the bar slowly.

2. Back straightening on a slanting bench

Rest your front on the bench so that the front of your legs is tightly against it. The hips should be just above the edge of the bench. Place your feet on the backrest and stretch your arms out in front of you and cross them on your shoulders. Bend forward - the legs and torso should form a right angle. Then start lifting your upper body.

3. One-arm rowing with a dumbbell

The arm muscles also work on the isolated exercises for the back, but they have a supportive function - the main muscle groups involved in movement are the trapezius, latissimus dorsi and spine extensors.

Grasp the dumbbell in your left hand with your fingers pointing towards your body. Hold on to the bench with your right hand and stand next to it in a position like you are to lunge with your right foot. Pull the dumbbell up as close to your chest as possible. When the arm bent at the elbow makes a right angle, stop first and then slowly lower the arm.

4. Pulling down the upper lift stick with a wide grip

Sit down - facing the pulley, with your knees locked against rollers. Hold the bar wide with the grip, with your arms extended straight up. Then slowly lean back, push out your chest and pull the bar towards its upper area while lowering your elbows. Tense your back muscles and pull as tight as possibleshoulder blades. After a split second, breathe out. Then, inhale, straighten your arms as the stick comes back up.

5. Pulling the lower lift line while sitting

Sit flat in front of the pulley, resting your legs on a stable point and reaching for the handle at the same time. Pull it towards you, keeping your torso in an upright position at all times. Try to pull the shoulder blades together and then slowly lower the weight. Take a deep breath before pulling, and when the handle is at your stomach, breathe out. It is worth adding that the handles used in the exercise may be different: the parallel one is used to exercise the hammer grip, engaging the muscles of the middle and upper back. The straight handle, on the other hand, allows for a grip or a grip that engages the muscles of the back at various angles.

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