Isolation Exercises the Right Way

Isolation Exercises the Right Way

Many people like to go to the weight room and start performing the standard isolation exercises either using a machine weight system or even free weights. Afterwards, they do a 20-30 minute cycle of cardio vascular exercise. Then, after a normal day of picking up groceries in/out of the car and into the house and some moderate yard work, they find themselves injured. Usually, this injury involves the lower back.

I have found after a few decades of training that the body really performs best when it is accustomed to movements not joint isolation exercises. There are training programs out there that focus on Core Development yet really perform standard isolation exercises like crunches or situps and some back extensions.

Now, do not get me wrong, isolation exercises have their place as they are safe, effective ways to train muscles that need rehabilitating. They are also a great way to build a foundation of training that should inevitably lead to tougher movement exercises. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out how you can turn a bicep curl, military press, triceps extension into one steady movement involving several joints and balance if you try in standing on one leg. I call this one Multi-Joint Dumbbell #1 or MJDB#1

bicep curl, military press, tricep extension = rep 1

Now add in a squat to the exercise and a real life movement of picking up something off the floor and lifting it over your head is developing into MJDB#2:

Stand, squat, bicep curl,military press, tricep extension = 1 rep

Even more challenging is the MJDB#3 where you add in a squat thrust and some pushups: Stand, squat thrust, push-up (up/down), squat thrust, stand, bicep, military press, tricep extension = 1 rep

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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