Advantages and Disadvantages of Isolation Exercises

20th May 2019
Isolation exercises are those that focus on one specific muscle group. As with other exercise routines, this one has advantages and disadvantages. Here we'll explain all about them.

When going to the gym, performing isolation exercises may seem quite attractive. Many gym goers like to work their biceps with this style of routine to tone and grow the arms. However, some people claim that there are better ways to do this with integrated training.

In practice, all types of exercises have specific pros and cons. And so, isolating a small muscle and working it hard is also necessary. Therefore, here we’ll give you some facts on this eternal fitness debate.

What are isolation exercises?

Isolation exercises are those that only engage one muscle group at a time. Additionally, this type of activity implies the movement of just one articulation. And so, that’s why people refer to this type of training as “isolation exercises”.

Some trainers say that the big problem with these routines is that they don’t work any other part of the body. They state that when beginning to work out, it’s good to use training types that engage many muscle groups.

However, there are a few muscle groups that we can’t work out unless we isolate them.


The “problem” with isolation exercises is that you engage very little muscle fiber. Thus, building muscle mass is localized and takes some time to become evident. Additionally, this exercise routine doesn’t promote the production of anabolic hormones.

Evidence suggests that the contribution of these exercises to integral growth is quite limited. Additionally, the muscles that we can work out in this way are usually the smaller ones in the body.

Man performing bicep curls with dumbbells

However, this doesn’t mean that isolated exercises are bad for the body. They are just limited and don’t help much when someone is starting out at the gym. On the other hand, these exercises do have some proven benefits.

The positive side

Although cross exercise routines should be the priority for most gym goers, you could complement them with some isolation training. This is beneficial even for beginners at the gym. And so, just because they aren’t a priority, doesn’t mean that they’re unnecessary.

Thus, here are some of their benefits:

  • They are ideal for small muscles: developing these small muscles is progressive, but it helps work certain areas of the body. For example, they can stimulate the biceps and triceps quite conveniently.
  • They are a necessary complement: when performing integrated exercises, one can work on small muscle groups. However, developing these muscles must be complemented with higher impact exercises. And so, we have the isolated routines.
  • They motivate us to train more: since their impact is directly on our arms, we can see results easily. Therefore, this visual effect can be quite motivating and help us continue with the training.
  • They promote strength and resistance: although muscle development is low, they do contribute to strength and resistance. This is clear in arm routines where the strength acquired helps you increase the training intensity for other muscle groups.

Common isolation exercises to practice

All biceps exercises are usually performed with the help of isolated exercises at the gym. The best example of this type of training is the bicep curl.

In some cases, when we work out our triceps we include some chest and shoulder exercises. However, tricep kickbacks is another exercise that is mainly isolated and very effective.

In fact, there are certain routines for big muscle groups with cables and machines that follow this principle.

The tricep kickbacks are part of the isolation exercises

We could start to look further into condition training certain areas of the body that are quite specific. And so, this happens when we emphasize our training on trapezoids. Here, we can also include exercises with cables to strengthen the shoulders.

Finally, let’s remember that the priority should always be set on integrated exercises. Especially those that include many muscle groups. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t compliment this with isolated exercises to increase our performance and strength.

  • Juan R. Heredia Elvar; Miguel R. Costa. Entrenamiento de la musculatura abdominal. Extraído de:
  • Los músculos protagonistas. Extraído de: