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BendtheBar 04-18-2013 09:15 PM

Compounds vs. Isolations for Arm Size
Was reading a book that referenced this, so posting for discussion.

Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, IN.
NSCA Conference Abstract (2000)


It showed that adding isolated weight training exercises to compound movements added nothing.


The researchers compared the effects of a weight training program on 5RM strength and arm circumference and divided the subjects into two groups. Group 1 performed four compound upper body exercises, while Group 2 used the same program but included biceps curls and triceps extensions.

The results showed that both groups significantly increased strength and arm size

However, the addition of direct arm training to group two produced no additional effect on strength or arm circumference after 10 weeks of training.

The additional localized training did not result in anything that the bigger compound exercises didn't provide.

Let me present a hypothetical example:

Twin brothers eating the same diet, working at the same job. Three times a week for the next 52 weeks, both brothers undertake a progressive resistance-training program, each adding weight, sets, or reps in a logical manner over the whole year. One difference: the first brother does deadlifts only. The second brother does arm curls only.

SecondsOut 04-18-2013 09:30 PM

that's interesting. i like reading things like that that get your mind going, trying to understand how that works. i rarely do iso work, but it is surprising that the addition of iso's didn't have an effect.

so maybe if you wanted to train tri's and bi's, a better option would be lighter weight compound movements? like if your working sets on bench were with 250 lbs., maybe you could drop some weight, work with a very close grip, and do more presses (for tri's)? i wonder if this means that it's working with heavier weights that stimulates growth, not so much total volume. of course, it's also just 1 study.

jwood 04-18-2013 09:37 PM

I would also be interested to know how the bi and Tri exercises were performed

Did they hit them hard or do 1 or 2 extremely light sets at the end of a workout. Did they just go through the motions, or put some work in

BendtheBar 04-18-2013 09:54 PM

My philosophy for muscle building is generally:

--Lead with no more than 2-3 major compound lifts.
--Spend the rest of your time working weaknesses and needed bodyparts.

There is some balance here. Many top trainers agree that 2-3 big lifts is generally optimal for the average trainee. After that, since you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, maximize your work even if it is isolation.

Even "if" it's not building extra muscle, you can still build extra strength (progression) on these assistance movements which can't hurt. There are no downsides to that. Strength forces response.

MikeM 04-19-2013 12:41 AM

The key here is the goal was to measure arm size. If this was a science project on making bigger arms, then it is beneficial. But I am not a science project.

I know doing curls helped me not have so many arm strains and doing triceps made my presses finish better/easier and I got stronger overall.

Arm size? I have no idea, nor do I care.

big_swede 04-19-2013 04:01 AM

Focusing more on arm training lately has gotten my pythons stronger, and it lets me handle more weight overhead or on the bench. That has made me stronger in general but I dont think my arms have grown much if any. I do know that arm training is important if your looking for a big press. Maybe a bit of topic here... :)

leefarley 04-19-2013 04:32 AM

i think some direct arm training dosent hurt, at the end of the day your arms are a link between the body and the big compound your lifting and a stronger link is a better link.

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