Stop Making This Mistake On Isolation Exercises

Stop Making This Mistake On Isolation Exercises

What’s up guys? Sean Nalewanyj, and
in this video I want to talk about the number one mistake most lifters make when it comes
to performing isolation exercises, whether it’s a bicep curl, tricep extension lateral
raise crunch, leg curl or whatever else. Obviously the basic compound movements should
be making up the cornerstone of your workouts. Those are going to have the biggest overall
impact on your gains by far, but including some isolation work after your compound lifts
are complete is an effective way to round out your overall physique and get in some
extra work for those smaller muscles that won’t be fully stimulated just through compound
movements alone. Before I get started, if you find this video
helpful and you want to get even more daily tips and updates from me, then make sure to
follow me over on Instagram as well @sean_nalewanyj and as a thank you for watching this video,
I’m also doing a giveaway down below in the comments section where you can win a free
product from my fitness supplement line, Real Science Athletics. So just click down below in the comment section
to enter in for that. So we know without a doubt that progressive
overload is the central underlying principle when it comes to building muscle consistently. You need to be getting stronger over time
on your lifts in order to gain muscle. And most people in the gym with basic knowledge
of training, or at least somewhat aware of this, and they do focus on adding weight and
reps to their compound lifts over time, whether it’s the bench press or squat or overhead
press or whatever else. But for some reason when it comes to those
smaller isolation exercises, a lot of people end up treating them differently as if somehow
progressive overload doesn’t really apply. And instead they treat those exercises more
like pump work and just crank out a bunch of reps without really taking stock of how
much weight they’re lifting or how many reps they’re performing. And I even see this being said on some fitness
channels where they’ll say that, isolation exercises don’t allow for progressive overload
in the same way that compound movements do. And so you should just focus more so on the
pump and the mind muscle connection with those smaller exercises. However, the bottom line is that if progressive
overload is the primary driver of hypertrophy, which it is, then this applies no matter which
exercise you’re doing or what muscle you’re training, that basic fundamental law doesn’t
magically disappear and you still have to consistently improve on your training performance
and subject that muscle to higher and higher levels of tension over time if you want to
stimulate new gains. And it’s not that isolation exercise as somehow
don’t allow for progressive overload, it’s just that because you’re doing a single jointed
movement that mainly targets one smaller muscle, you obviously can’t move as much total weight
and so the increments that you’ve progressed by are just going to be smaller. That’s really the only difference here. For example, if you’re performing a lateral
raise, let’s say with 20 pound dumbbells and then you increase the 22.5 pound dumbbells,
you’re increasing the total weight lifted by five pounds, which is actually a 25% increase. Whereas if you were performing, let’s say
a bench press with 200 pounds and then you added five pounds, the increase there only
be 2.5%, which is 10 times less. So the lateral raise mainly just involves
the side delts and so that entire weight increase is being placed directly on that one muscle. Whereas with the bench press, it’s being distributed
across your chest, shoulders and triceps, which are all working together as synergistically
at the same time to move that weight. So with isolation movements, you still need
to focus on progressive overload, but you just have to lower your expectations in terms
of how quickly those lifts are going to increase and realize that even very small progressions
are still significant. And also remember that when you do increase
the weight on an isolation exercise, because the percentage increase is going to be larger,
like I just mentioned, you’re going to feel that increase a lot more heavily. Ideally for something like a lateral raise,
you’d be able to go from 20 pound dumbbells up to 21 pound dumbbells, but unless you’re
using micro plates in your training, which I’ll talk about in a second, your only option
is going to be to go up to 22.5 or even maybe 25 depending on your gym. So let me just give a few tips here when it
comes to achieving progressive overload on those smaller isolation exercises. So first off, if you increase the weight on
an isolation lift and it feels too heavy for you to where you’re having to cheat the weight
up just to reach the bottom end of your rep range, then what you want to do is go back
to your previous weight and focus on training for more reps first. So if you were doing let’s say a tricep push
down for eight reps and now you try to bump the weight up, but you find that it feels
too heavy, try taking that previous weight up to say 10 reps or even 12 reps before trying
to increase the weight. Another thing you can do is to adjust the
actual execution of the lift to make a given weight more challenging. So one way of doing that is to just add in
a brief pause in the fully contracted position. So maybe on a leg curl you come all the way
up and then you hold the weight at the top for a one to two second count. That’s another method you can use to get stronger
with a given weight before you increase to the next weight increment. You can also slow down the negative a bit. You can use rest pause, which means performing
your prescribed number of reps, resting 10 to 15 breaths and performing a few more reps
and then repeating that once or twice. Or you can also just bump up the volume a
bit and perform an extra set or two for that given exercise. So remember that progressive overload doesn’t
just have to involve adding more weight to the bar. It just means improving your performance on
a given exercise in some way. Increasing the weight should be your ultimate
goal when you’re still a novice lifter, but if you are stuck on a given weight, then you
can incorporate those other methods I just mentioned to help you break through to the
next weight increase. And then the other point that I’d add in here
is the concept of micro loading, which is defined ways to decrease the total amount
of weight you’re adding each time so that the percentage increase isn’t as big. So let’s say you’re doing a machine isolation
exercise, but the weight stack only goes up by 10 or 15 pounds at a time, depending on
the machine, you can try resting a small dumbbell on top of the weight stack or you can also
try hanging a 2.5 or five pound plate off the weight pin like you see here. This is a method that I personally use all
the time. And if you’re really serious about this, then
another thing you can do is to actually buy magnetic micro plates online that attached
to the end of the dumbbells or the bar you’re using. It’s perfectly reasonable to go from a say
80s to 85s on a compound exercise like a dumbbell press. But sometimes adding five pounds aside to
an isolation exercise like a bicep curl, sometimes that can be too much and so using micro plates
can be helpful so that you can increase the weight more gradually. But the bottom line here, guys is that as
I’ve said so many times before, progressive overload is the primary driver of muscle growth
and there’s no reason at all why this doesn’t also apply to isolation exercises. The only difference is that the progression
is going to come more slowly because you’re only training a single muscle group using
a single jointed movement, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still need to be
improving on your performance over time in some capacity. Increasing the weight lifted and the number
of reps executed that should be your main focus for as long as you can comfortably do
that. And then if you do get to a point where adding
more weight isn’t practical anymore because of increased joint stress, let’s say, for
example, you can’t just add more weight to a dumbbell lateral race forever because eventually
it is going to put a lot of stress on your shoulders. At that point you can focus on other methods
of progressive overload like training for higher reps using static holds, slower negatives,
more total sets, rest pause, things like that. But in the same way that you should be tracking
your progress and writing down your lifts every week for all of the compound movements
that you perform, you should be treating isolation movements in exactly the same way and striving
for improved performance over time. Otherwise you’re missing the whole point of
performing that exercise in the first place. If you found this advice helpful and you want
to grab a complete step by step plan that shows you exactly how to lay out your compound
and isolation lists throughout the week for the very best gains, the optimal training
split, exercise selection, volume, frequency, rep ranges, and more, make sure to take my
physique quiz over at because that’ll hook you up with everything you need
to know based on your individual goals, body type, and experience level, and take you from
where you are now, all the way up to your goal physique as efficiently as possible. You can click up here for that or use the
link in the description box below. And as always, make sure to hit the like button,
leave a comment and subscribe if you haven’t already in order to stay up to date on future
videos. Thanks for watching guys, and I’ll see you
in the next video.

56 thoughts on “Stop Making This Mistake On Isolation Exercises


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  2. 1:30 Thanks for spreading the word Sean. The amount of people that grab 35lbs dumbbells for 4 sets of curls at the end of their upper body days and NEVER progress from that is staggering. Your biceps are just like your legs (to some extent), the more stimulus you throw at them the more they grow. You never see someone just repping 135lbs on the squat everyday hoping to get big legs and yet that same logic is applied to arm training all the time.

  3. You can micro load on compound lifts too, when I can I add 1kg/2.2lbs to my bench, squat and deadlift. But you have to leave your ego outside the gym first, which is a big problem for about 90% of people..

  4. The number one mistake is doing them in the first place 😂🤣 … that's what a dogmatic powerlifter will tell you

  5. my solution was to become ridiculously strong in isolation movements as well. this way i can slap on 10+ pounds every time, and it'll only be a 1-2% increase from the last session.

  6. While I agree that you should use progressive overload for "isolation" exercises aswell, I think it's more important to progress in your compound movements.

    The compound movements will cause most of the hypertrophy and you simply add one joint movements because you can't handle more volume in the compounds.

    Going from 200 to 225 lbs bench press will cause your triceps to grow more than adding a few pounds to tricep extensions.

    Obviously you will still gradually add weight to your one joint movements, because you are getting stronger in the compounds, but I believe its caused because of the progressive overload in compound movements. Also I believe it is not a big deal if you can't progressively overload single joint movements every workout, as long as the compounds are progressing.

  7. Any weight increase is sstill an increase!! Great hint about adding thae small weight behind the pin that selects the weight.

  8. I’m sorry but this whole compound gives you most of your muscle is straight bs . I see loads of dudes benching 315 for reps with barely any triceps and it’s same thing they tell me .They barely do any isolation . Simple question .Do you feel your long head triceps working more in a bench press or overhead extension .Q2 do you feel your biceps working more in a curl or a row . Come on guys let’s stop this bs in 2020 isolation exercises are needed to get the best results. I see lots of dudes who only do the big 3 and are strong in it but don’t even look like they lift cause of 0 isolation

  9. I do 3 weeks heavy weights – trying to add weight or reps every week- on all exercised and then do 1 week with light weights with higher rep-ranges. Also the Isolation exercises i would do with lighter weights and high reps in that week.
    First time im trying this out like this.

  10. Mind to muscle connection is an advanced training technique… every novice trainee is using bad form… they're still weightlifting or ego lifting using body English…. they'll stand in front of a mirror and have no idea what they're doing!
    People are too focused on the poundage… that means they're trying to move the weight… their concentration and focus is on moving the weight… 45lb bar is not always 45lb… likewise for the plates 45lb plates are not always 45lb!

  11. Thank you for this. Been doing really well on my compound lifts but the isolations was trying to add more weight every time instead of focusing on more reps or sets first. I didn’t realize the % in even 5 pounds added with the smaller the weight

  12. I Love your videos bro keep up the great work I love how you take time out to leave comments for your subscribers other YouTubers don't care what so ever 👍

  13. But if you do 6 exercises in a given workout. Within this workout you progressively overload the first 3 exercises, the last three you do the same as last time. This still means you are overloading right? Because if the first 3 ecersises are compounds and the last three are isolation, you still did more bicep or tricep work then last time. What do you think?


  15. In addition, and I see this in gyms all over the country, most people do far too many sets for the biceps, triceps and delts. I can get my entire push or pull session completed, while these guys are still working biceps or triceps spanning the entirety of my workout. When I was in Maui there were two young guys who performed roughly 30 sets of push downs before I left. Oh, and the form was poor.

  16. Great video! I will be Micro loading isolation lifts when necessary. I made a novice program, can you please tell me if it’s good? OHS =overhead shrug btw…

    Andre FullBody 3 Day Program

    Progression only happens with good form!

    Workout A:
    Deadlift 3×6
    Rev lunge 3×8
    Chin up 3×8
    Bench 3×8
    OHP 3×8
    Face pull 3×12
    Barbell curl 3×10
    Calf raise 2×10

    Workout B:
    Squat 3×6
    RDL 3×10
    Barbell row 3×10
    Incline bench 3×8
    Lateral raise 3×12
    OHS 3×10
    Skull crusher 3×12
    Calf raise 2×10

    I’ve watched a lot of your videos and decided to make a fullbody program that targets each major muscle 9 sets per week and isolations about 4.5. Any feedback or confirmation would be incredibly appreciated from you. Thanks!!!

  17. My shoulder lifts have barely gone up in 2 years, but my shoulder size is close to double, so there is something to the pump and muscle damage for isolation exercises causing hypertrophy.

  18. My shoulder lifts have barely gone up in 2 years, but my shoulder size is close to double, so there is something to the pump and muscle damage for isolation exercises causing hypertrophy.

  19. Sean, is it true that small muscles like rear delts and calves respond better to higher reps? Like 15-20? Keep the good work!

  20. In a time when everybody debates about volume vs intensity as the primary driver for hypertrophy, Sean keeps it simple and reminds us how progressive overload is king. But I would like to hear his take on that debate though.

  21. Hey Sean great video as always. Could you make a video about 1. Low rep and high rep ranges do not make much a difference on hypertrophy as much as people imagine, using science findings of course 2. Why most people switch from a full body routine to a split routine too early. So many subscribers believe if they follow their favorite youtuber fitness model's routine, they'll get the same physique, unknowingly that their role models aren't as "clean".

  22. I call them "Swingers". My pet peeve in the gym. They have no clue about time under tension or tension under a fuller range of motion.

  23. 100% agreed. I never grew in my arms even though my mind muscle connection is much better. The reason? Ive been curling/skull-crushing the same weight for over a year. Its pretty insane how I overlooked that.

  24. man, i'v been stuck on 50kg overhead barbell press for 4 months now. I can press it for 5 reps but last week I added 5kg then couldn't even press it once… other than overhead press, i'm improving on all other lifts like flat bench, squat and deadlift.

  25. The microplate strategy is especially great for overhead press! It's a lift that people progress very slowly and usually find quite hard to progress.

  26. Just get some 1 1/4 pound plates. Add two to your adjustable dumbbell and voila! – you have 2 1/2 lb progressive resistance per dumbbell.

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