T Nation

Isolation Exercises Unnecessary?

We always have been told that isolation exercices such as the cable crossover or the butterlfy are a total waste of time. I’m sure that nothing beats a heavy bench press and a heavy squat when it comes to building muscle, but I’m wondering why so much isolation work is advocated in most mainstream bodybuilding programs.

If you are primarily concerned with simmetry and aestetics, is it smart to stick with heavy compound lifts while avoiding exercices such as the cable crossover? Will it shape the muscle in a different fashion? Are isolation exercices an important part of a pure bodybuilding training?

I’m not denying the fact that compound exercices are the most important part of a training program, I just want to know if isolation work is compulsory if you are concerned about the way you look.

Do you read the articles here? http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1289080

Isolation exercises are key for preventing injuries and bad form for most people, so they’re definitely indirectly responsible for muscle developement. And then they are also supplements for your weaker/smaller areas so they are also directly involved with appearance as well.

[quote]wfifer wrote:
Do you read the articles here? http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1289080[/quote]

I started this post right after having read this article. It urged me to reconsider the importance of isolation exercices.
In this article Thibaudeau sheds light on the fact that you must train your lagging bodyparts with isolation exercices. But it is not what my question was about: I am wondering if isolation work is sometimes necessary if you want to build aesthetic muscles, if your chest or yout biceps need to be trained with isolation exercices in order to be aesthetic. For the time being, I only do bench and dips to train my chest for instance. I don’t know if my chest would have a different shape if
I did cable cross over.

[quote]wfifer wrote:
Do you read the articles here? http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1289080[/quote]

Yeah, there was an interesting point in there about how the body finds the most efficient way of doing an exercise. Like with chest, some people bench more with their anterior delts, or tri’s, or pecs. Each person is different, and if you only rely on the compounds, you may not fill out evenly.

Also, the article talks about bodybuilding being about creating illusions. Adding more mass to certain areas to create a certain shape. This is often done with the addition of isolation movements.

Most people won’t argue that compounds will pack on the mass (bodybuilders and PL’ers agree), but the real argument is over isolations.

you gotta read Thib’s latest article. “the beast rants, you learn” that will answer your questions. he explains why you have to include isolation exercises into your “bodybuilding” program.

[quote]Maldoror wrote:
I don’t know if my chest would have a different shape if
I did cable cross over.[/quote]

Try it and find out. Everyone responds differently.

Don’t avoid isolation exercises.

Just don’t base your entire workout around them.

[quote]Maldoror wrote:
wfifer wrote:
Do you read the articles here? http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1289080

I started this post right after having read this article. It urged me to reconsider the importance of isolation exercices.
In this article Thibaudeau sheds light on the fact that you must train your lagging bodyparts with isolation exercices. But it is not what my question was about: I am wondering if isolation work is sometimes necessary if you want to build aesthetic muscles, if your chest or yout biceps need to be trained with isolation exercices in order to be aesthetic. For the time being, I only do bench and dips to train my chest for instance. I don’t know if my chest would have a different shape if
I did cable cross over.[/quote]

So to clearify: You understand that isolation exercises are necassary for some muscles to achieve your desired proportions. But beyond that your wondering if isolation exercises will provide a different shape to your muscle regardless of muscle mass.

Is that a correct interpritation of your question?

If it is I believe the main contributing factors to a muscles shape are the level of development and your own genetics. Beyond that I highly doupt you can make any significant changes that will take you from bottom of the pile to MR Olympia, and definatly won’t make a difference in getting laid more often.

The entire point of the article was that bodybuilders can’t train like other athletes. Your body will naturally rely on your stronger muscles, so you can’t build a balanced, aesthetically pleasing physique with only compounds and full body routines. Isolation work is necessary. Still, for beginners I think the “compounds only” concept still applies (that is, stick mostly to the big lifts) until a solid base is built.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m pretty sure that article and the responses do answer your question.

There’s the rub: your body will always rely on your strongest body part. My problem will seem absurd to a lot of people, but it is true: my chest is to strong if you compair it with my others body part.
In order to change it, I only train it once a week, with little volume, but I am wondering if it is likely to result in a different developement

I’m almost positive you cannot ever change the shape of your muscle. Your muscle fibers can only grow or shrink as a whole, so, for example, if you have a high biceps insertion, doing preacher curls all day will not make your biceps longer.

However, some compounds like close grip chins may only emphasize the inner or outer bicep, so one head will lag and isolations could be useful for correcting an imbalance.

However, there is an obviuous fact that you will all acknoweledge: incline bench and decline bench are not training the same part of the chest. So, I 'm asking if some parts need to be targeted with isolation.

[quote]Maldoror wrote:
However, there is an obviuous fact that you will all acknoweledge: incline bench and decline bench are not training the same part of the chest. So, I 'm asking if some parts need to be targeted with isolation.[/quote]

I think the answer is yes.

Isolation work can allow you to target a specific muscle in order to achieve a balanced look.

However, if you aren’t concerned about “look” then you may decide not to worry about doing so.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Maldoror wrote:
However, there is an obviuous fact that you will all acknoweledge: incline bench and decline bench are not training the same part of the chest. So, I 'm asking if some parts need to be targeted with isolation.

I think the answer is yes.

Isolation work can allow you to target a specific muscle in order to achieve a balanced look.

However, if you aren’t concerned about “look” then you may decide not to worry about doing so.[/quote]

…which is a little silly because how many people on this board are simply not concerned about how they look at all?

I suppose if someone mentions that they do care about whether their front delts look ridiculous because they never trained their lateral delts, someone may actually call them a ‘bodybuilder’…and we just can’t have that, can we?

[quote]Professor X wrote:
…which is a little silly because how many people on this board are simply not concerned about how they look at all?

I suppose if someone mentions that they do care about whether their front delts look ridiculous because they never trained their lateral delts, someone may actually call them a ‘bodybuilder’…and we just can’t have that, can we?[/quote]

What, and ruin their optimal functional MMA physique?

[quote]caneman wrote:
I’m almost positive you cannot ever change the shape of your muscle. Your muscle fibers can only grow or shrink as a whole, so, for example, if you have a high biceps insertion, doing preacher curls all day will not make your biceps longer.

However, some compounds like close grip chins may only emphasize the inner or outer bicep, so one head will lag and isolations could be useful for correcting an imbalance.[/quote]

Here’s food for thought…This quote is taken from Christian Thibaudeau’s HSS-100 Chest Specialization article:

Thib:
"Studies by Seger et al. found that different types of muscle contraction (eccentric vs. concentric) lead to localized muscle damage in specific parts of a muscle group. Eccentric contractions creates more damage in the distal portion (near both insertions) of a muscle group while concentric contractions creates more damage in the proximal (or muscle belly) portion.

Don’t get me wrong, both types of muscle contractions creates damage on the whole muscle, but the relative amount of damage to different portions of a muscle is contraction-specific. That result is an indirect indication that it IS possible to put more training stress on different portion of a muscle group.

Furthermore, more recent physiology research has found that not all muscle fibers run all the way from one insertion to the other; many muscle fibers are actually intermediate fibers that only cover a small portion of the muscle length.

While these fibers do not represent the majority of the fibers within a muscle group, they still form a significant portion of the motor unit pool. If certain muscle fibers cover only a portion of a muscle, it also indicates that it is possible to place more growth stimulation on certain parts of a muscle.

Finally the fact that different parts of a muscle group can get sore depending on the exercises being performed is also an indirect indication that putting more growth stimulation on certain parts of a muscle group is possible."

Something that gets overlooked too is that many of these “isolation” movements do not actually completely isolate their target muscles to the exclusion of every other muscle in the body.

Good point Trib-the body is a kinetic chain and moving something somewhere inevitably involves more than one part of that chain.

I think the fact is, if you’re not on a complicated body part split or at the very advanced level, the meat of your training should be compound exercises, and everything else should come after that.

[quote]alownage wrote:

I think the fact is, if you’re not on a complicated body part split or at the very advanced level, the meat of your training should be compound exercises, and everything else should come after that.[/quote]

I think this is probably true regardless of split. I can’t imagine many people succesfully training their chest by starting with flyes, heading over to cable crosses, moving on to pec deck and finishing with heavy bench.

The same could be said for shoudlers, back, quads, hams, whatever. Most BB’ers are going to hammer a muscle with a heavy compound before hitting the isolations.

Isolations have their place, but I don’t think they can replace compounds if overall mass is your goal.