You’ve seen them in the gym. Bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, shoulder raises, seated leg press. Well I’m here to say “no more!”
Why? Because corrective movements aside, performing anything but compound movements with free weights is cheating yourself. Sure, I could list all the reasons why isolation movements suck (lack of carryover to everyday activities, they fail to use multi-joint movements and muscles that rev up your metabolism, inefficient use of your own time, etc.), but I have a feeling it’d put you to sleep. Suffice to say, squat and deadlift variations, as well as heavy pushing and pulling, should serve as your protein, carbs and fat every time you feast on the gym.
I don’t say this as someone trying to recruit clients. I say it as someone who’s belonged to commercial gyms for years, and seen plenty of guys work their biceps for 45 minutes…only to see them unable to do a full chin up or pull up a few days later. Throw out the term “functional training,” where’s the common sense?
The reason most people tend to opt for these isolation exercises is because other, more full body movements are tough. Don’t get me wrong, I did plenty of hammer curls, tricep extensions and leg extensions back in the day. In fact, I’d go on to say that nobody has offended this post as much as me. I don't think anyone likes to perform an exercise where they may look weak or be self-conscious, and it’s easy to just do something else.
So what’s the solution? Think of your least favorite exercise. Ready? Now make it your favorite exercise. I’m not joking, and yes, it really is that simple. I’ve made the most gains when I’ve buckled down and decided I had had enough of looking weak, and stuck to the path of getting stronger on that exercise.
If you’re worried about your lack of bicep girth, put down the dumbbells and go do 3 chin ups with an extra 100 pounds attached to your body…after you do that, we can chat about “bicep development.”
And for the record, those chin ups will make the rest of the day seem like this: