T Nation

Compound vs. Isolation


I'm a newbie that's been reading on this site about the power and importance of the compound movements/Olympic lifts, etc. And I agree with just about everything I've read, but something got me to thinking:

I'm a pretty thin guy and I've only got one muscle group that generally is as good as anyone in the gym: my chest. I see a lot of the guys that can bench 3X my body weight with a chest that is not nearly as good as mine.

"So what??" you ask. Well, here's where I'm headed: I have very, very rarely done a bench press. My chest has been entirely built by dumbell flyes if you can believe that.

I also remember a high growth time (for me anyway) with my arms and all I was doing were simple preacher-curl-to-the-forehead-tricep-raises. Those would kill my triceps like no other excercise and I got all my growth out of that.

Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience? Are maybe the isolated movements getting somewhat of a bad rap?


What you've basically described is the differenc between powerlifting and bodybuilding. In a simple form-albeit.

Hypertrophy and strength, while not independent of one another, can be specialized in with different forms of training.

Isolation movements can lead to a greater development of size without an appreciable gain in strength. I too have seen the well developed arms and chest of an ectomorph who does nothing but iso's and lighter weights with higher reps.

There is nothing 'wrong' with iso movements. I feel there is even a periodization place in most everyones workout for them. What are your goals? Lift accordingly.


What are the buzz words that I can look up to find out more about that? Periodization? What else?

In my case you're right: I wasn't lifting a lot of weight relatively speaking. But I would always lift until I had some soreness the next day.

I know that some would disagree with this, but what I always noticed was that the muscles where I got the most soreness (triceps and chest) were the muscles I got the most growth.

Anyway, my goal is probably at this point more to put on muscle. If anyone can give me any buzzwords to look up in the search engine on this subject, I would appreciate it. I'll do the research, but I don't even know where to start...


Buzz words:





Or just read Vroom's Are You a Beginner? threads.



this is because you don't need a big chest to move big weights.

You will generally have one because of the large stimulus, but benching is all about tri's if your form is correct.

You probably wouldn't be disproportianate in the areas mentioned if you did more compound movements and stopped doing flyes.


Thx! Really appreciate it...


Actually, I've started doing barbell benches already. I know there are many advantages to the compound movements including (potentially) less injury, greater trunk strength, more thickness, improved athleticism, etc. I'm also just enjoying doing something knew. And I definitely want to incorporate squats as well.

But I want to understand what's going on and separate the biases out from the fact, etc.


Ya know--every six months or so NEW training info comes along. some backs previous thoughts, some refutes. You have to try different things and see what works for you. You have to account for your lifestyle and your goals. You have to consider different outcomes for different people doing the same things. It's quite complex and rarely one size fits all.

Someone's fact is almost always someone elses bias. that's why there is so much discussion and disagreement on these boards. Different things work differently for different people.

Enjoy the journey.