T Nation

Isolation Training?

Here’s a question for all you t-man and t-vixens: Is “Isolation” of a muscle even possible?
With all the bodybuilders out there looking at this forum how many can really say that one exercise such as a bench press actually isolate the chest muscle. There are so many synergist and stabilizer muscles that work along with the pectoral muscle. So how does it the bench press isolate the chest muscle. It obviously doesn’t. So I have a thought why don’t we say instead of training or chest lets do some horizontal flexors instead. Why not train for movement, since there is no such thing as Isolation. Let’s put the function back into training. I think most of you are training functionally, but some of you I still see, saying how can I isolate that certain muscle. I believe there is no such a word as isolation training.

The bench press is a compound movement involving tri’s, delts, etc., as well as the pecs, and can’t be considered an isolation movement. But what about dumbell isolation curls for the bi’s? Maybe it’s not 100% total isolation, but it definitely works the biceps muscle much more than any other.

Even in a bicep curl your “BICEPS” truelly are not “isolated”. Granted yes the primary movers is the Bicep brachii and brachialis muscle but it also has other synergist and stabilizer muscles working along also.

I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that you can 100% isolate a muscle. Likewise, I’ve never heard anyone call the bench press an isolation exercise. There are exercises (i.e. a concentration curl) that are majority prime mover with much less help from other muscles as compared to a compound movement like the bench press. I don’t see where you’re coming from here.

I also don’t see how you can call it “horizontal flexors.” By your own interpretation of the movement, you’re using triceps which is a horizontal extension at that particular angle.

And just one more thing about this “functional” deal. I believe we’ve had this discussion before. Many people train for looks and could care less about “function.” Having said that, I’m not one of those people, but I do certain movements that would not be considered by any reasonable person to be “functional.” I think this word is overused among people who aren’t training specifically for athletic endeavors.

Yeah, you’re right. In the truest form of the word, I can’t think of a way to absolutely isolate any given muscle. Excercises like the lateral raise on a machine for the delts, and leg extensions for the quads are the closest I can think of right off hand to “isolation”.

So by what you’re saying would have to call everything functional training. Which obviously isn’t right at all. I think you’re being too analytical of the word “isolation.”

I don’t know, sometimes I think people think to much. I agree with Hatfield and Nike “Just do it” as long as I’m in the gym and not on the couch eating Bon Bon’s and watching reruns of Gilligans island, I’m ok.

I agree w/ your statemants. Sorry, should have called the bench press movement “horizontal flexor” and “extnsors” But I also feel that people, bodybuilders,use the word “isolation” wrong and your right we most of us in here do train for looks. But wouldn’t it be better to train for human movement? How to move better? Be more flexiable, etc. And get away from the training for looks? I also think that you train more like an athlete. I think in time even you train for movement your looks will come.

100% isolation is impossible. There’s actually a great depiction of this in Charles Staley’s “The Science of Martial Arts Training.” Great read.

Yes, it is impossible to truly isolate a given muscle. However, if you do a workout consisting of nothing but flyes (for example) with good form, only your pecs will get sore. Which would indicate that only the pec is being worked to the point where it gets the training effect.


(Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Oversimplification. But you see what I mean.)