We all have our reasons for working out, whether we’re motivated by a desire to feel stronger, improve our athletic performance or just look good.
No matter what your goal, it’s essential to stick to a program that ensures you train your body in a complete and balanced way. This will help you achieve the best results possible.
So, how do you know if your workout program is, in fact, balanced? If it includes these three elements, you’re on the right track:
- Compound exercises for progressive strength training of your major muscle groups
- Isolation or foundation exercises to effectively target and train your supporting muscle groups
- Flexibility training, like stretching, to help support your joints, muscles and tendons
Let’s delve into compound and isolation exercises and their differences.
You might know these as your squats, bench presses and lunges – all good examples of compound exercises. Many people like including these moves in their workouts because they involve lifting heavier weights, which enables greater muscle tension leading to muscle growth. This is because compound exercises use two or more joints, and more muscles are involved in lifting. In general, the bulk of your training should be made up of compound exercises.
These exercises, on the other hand, involve moving only one joint, which allows for a more concentrated focus on specific muscles. Isolation exercises are typically done with lighter weights because there are fewer muscles involved in the movement. These exercises are also known to encourage symmetry and stability and give you the opportunity to bring up your lagging muscle groups.
Now that you know more about the types of exercises you should be doing, you might be wondering how to plan your time at the gym. A good rule of thumb is to do one isolation exercise for every two compound moves in your workout. Here are some examples of isolation exercises you can try:
Standing dumbbell lateral raises and standing dumbbell front raises – both are great for targeting your shoulders, specifically your delts and traps. Keep a slight bend in the knees for an athletic stance as this protects your lower back. Keep a slight bend in the elbow and ensure your palms are facing down. Keep the hand flat and avoid your thumb from tuning downward at the end of the move as this puts unnatural strain on the shoulder. Finally, focus on not hunching your shoulders – think ears away from the shoulders to keep a nice position.
Cable push down – give your triceps a workout with this move. You can use a bar for this exercise or consider using the rope attachment as it allows you to adjust your positioning at the end of the movement to really attack the triceps. Keep your upper arms close to the body and be sure to fully extend the arm to get that full range of motion.
Nordic hamstring curl – these are excellent for strengthening your hamstrings. Keep your hands up and ready to assume push up position throughout the movement. Keep your timing slow and controlled for the best results.
Barbell biceps curl – this move is a common sight at the gym for a reason. The only joint moving should be your elbow. Keep your arms close to the torso and minimize any swaying motion. If you need your body’s momentum to lift the weight, decrease the weight. Isolation with good technique will boost your biceps.
Seated leg extension – target your quad muscles with this exercise. Be sure that your knee is positioned correctly at the end of the seat, and consider a single leg option to encourage symmetry. Body position is important, so adjust your seating position to ensure you feel centered and balanced.
These tips can help you structure your workout and make your time in the gym more effective. Remember, consistency is key if you want to see results. Be sure to take an overall balanced approach to your workouts throughout the week and avoid training the same muscle groups two days in a row. Use these exercises to help keep your routine interesting and stay motivated – you can do this!
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