The Isolation Exercise Mistake Almost Everyone Makes

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Happy New Year!

(If you’re reading this later in the year don’t worry, everything still applies to you.)

If you didn’t quite reach your fitness goals in 2015, there is no better time to start than now.

Sure, New Year’s resolutions are silly and most people will quit. But every year some percentage of the “New Year’s Resolutioners” turn into consistent gym-goers and eventually…

…Into gym rats.

But the best time to get started is always right away so really there’s nothing special about this time of year.

Anyway, today I want to discuss isolation exercises briefly.

I’ve told you before that I believe compound exercises should make up the majority of your training program. They will be responsible for most of your growth and therefore, that’s what you should focus on.

However, isolation exercises play an important part in any intelligent lifter’s routine.

If used strategically, they help prevent injuries and bring up weaknesses.

cable-face-pull_1

But most people don’t use them strategically at all. Instead, they just do whatever they feel like.

It should come as no surprise that those same people generally look the same every year. If you can’t even use isolation exercises correctly, it’s unlikely that the rest of your routine is any good.

Experienced lifters will be nodding their head as they read this.

If you have no idea what I mean by using isolation exercises strategically, check out this great post on Iron & Tweed.

Once you’ve read that I’d like you to think about whether you’re making the following mistake…

Progressive overload is important on isolation exercises too!

Yet, most people use the same weight for years.

This isn’t a topic I see discussed online much either. There are a lot of posts stating the importance of progressive overload. But all the posts I’ve seen only mention compound exercises.

Sure, it’s a lot easier to add 10 pounds to your deadlift than to your barbell curls.

I am not saying you need to add weight to isolation exercises every workout.

But over time, you have to get stronger!

For a long time I completely ignored this (obvious) concept.

I did a few sets of curls or lateral raises to get a nice pump but that’s all.

I didn’t push for progressive overload.

I didn’t even track the amount of reps I was doing.

Track-your-progress

Unsurprisingly, my results were slow.

I still gained strength and muscle because I was focusing on gaining strength on compound lifts.

Most people don’t even do that…

…but you don’t want to look like ‘most people’ do you?

“What about the pump?”

Everyone loves getting a pump in the gym.

It burns so you think you’re achieving something with your long, grueling sets of curls.

Arnold-barbell-arm

But getting a pump doesn’t necessarily mean you are gaining muscle.

All it means is that a lot of blood has flown to that area of your body.

On the other hand, if you push for strength gains you’ll know for sure whether you’ve gained muscle or not.

Focus on strength and muscle will follow

The main reason this method is so effective is because improvements in strength are easy to measure.

You can see them right away unlike muscle gains which take a long time before you see them in the mirror. (Don’t worry, other people notice a lot earlier than you!)

Because you see the progress you’ve made, it’s very easy to stay motivated.

If you stay motivated you obviously won’t quit.

Simply sticking to your goals will put you ahead of 90% of the population.

This concept is widely accepted when it comes to compound exercises.

Which is why it amazes me that nobody discusses progressive overload on isolation exercises.

Does this mean you should use low reps on isolation exercises?

No.

Trying to get stronger doesn’t mean that you lower the rep ranges.

You can get stronger over time in any rep range.

If you go from using 80 pounds to 90 pounds in 2-3 months, that’s progress.

It’s also progress if you do more repetitions with the same weight.

How to apply this tip and start gaining muscle

You need to change your mindset.

You need to have a goal in mind for every workout, every exercise and every set.

Don’t just go to the gym to get a pump and mess around with the weights.

Instead, you are going to start training systematically.

Write down how many reps you do every workout. The next time you go to the gym, focus on getting one extra rep.

You won’t always be able to do it and that’s fine.

As long as you change your mindset and try to set new records every time you train, you’ll make a lot of progress over time.

That’s all for today.

Have a nice week and remember to set some new PRs!

James

PS: To make sure you don’t miss any of these tips, sign up for my e-mail list. You’ll be the first person I tell about new content on this site.

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