Although the world of weightlifting would have you believe isolation exercises have no place in any legit workout, we beg to differ.
Hear us out.
Isolation exercises should have a place in every workout program, and here’s why:
- Isolation exercises help you fix muscle imbalances. For example, squats (compound exercise) build your quads, but they also build your hamstrings. If you only do squats, your quads will grow much stronger than your hamstrings, and this can lead to injury. Adding an isolation exercise, like hamstring curls, will help you focus on building your hamstring to be in balance with your quads.
- Isolation exercises help you to target specific muscles while resting others. For example, if you wanted a chest workout but worked your triceps and shoulders recently, you wouldn’t want to bench press. Instead, you could do an isolation exercise like chest flyes to focus mostly on your pecs.
- Isolation exercises can help you recover from injuries. For example, if you injured your hamstrings, you could do an isolation exercise like leg extensions to focus on your quads without further hurting your hamstring injury.
Below you’ll find a complete list of isolation exercises.
We’ve organized the exercises by muscle group to help you build your own workouts.
BONUS: Download a free printable exercise checklist [PDF]. The list includes 50 compound exercises and 50 isolation exercises, all organized by muscle group.
Each exercise below is linked to a YouTube video or how-to article so you can learn the proper form.
List of Isolation Exercises
Chest Isolation Exercises
- Dumbbell Flyes
- Decline Dumbbell Flyes
- Incline Dumbbell Flyes
- Cable Crossovers
- Bodyweight Flyes
- Butterfly Machine
- Cable Iron Cross
- Flat Bench Cable Flyes
- Incline Cable Flyes
- Decline Cable Flyes
- Single-Arm Cable Crossover
- Low Cable Crossover
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
- Cable Chest Press
- Incline Cable Chest Press
- Decline Cable Chest Press
Shoulders Isolation Exercises
Back Isolation Exercises
Biceps Isolation Exercises
Triceps Isolation Exercises
Legs Isolation Exercises
Download our FREE 12-week workout plan. The plan includes a daily schedule, list of exercises, and the number of sets and reps for each exercise.
Isolation Exercises vs. Compound Exercises
Exercises are categorized as either isolation (involving a single muscle group) or compound (involving more than one muscle group).
You can see the difference when you compare two exercises—like the seated back extension and the deadlift. When you do a seated back extension, you mostly only engage your back. But when you deadlift, you engage your core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and many other smaller muscles.
The benefits of compound movements are obvious, but isolation exercises still have their place. They are great for recovery, target toning, and correcting muscle imbalances. Isolation exercises should be mixed in as wonderful compliments to compound weight lifting exercises.
Top Isolation Exercises for Glutes
Isolation exercises for glutes have been trending lately. Athletes, especially competitive bodybuilders, often need to tone their butt but don’t necessarily want to build their hamstrings or quads further.
When it comes to glute training, isolation exercises have an important place in creating a balanced lower body.
With this in mind, we made a list of glute-specific isolation exercises to show you what you have to choose from:
Isolation Exercises for Glutes:
Regardless your goal, it’s important to include isolation exercises for glutes to balance your bigger muscles. Whenever you’re doing squats, deadlifts, and leg press exercises, the emphasis is never on your glutes. Because of this, your glutes will always be behind unless you don’t give them specific attention.
Start incorporating these isolation exercises into your workout routine to enhance your survival fitness.
Focus mostly on compound exercises, but make sure to find balance with these isolation exercises.
When you build a healthy balance of these disparate exercises, you’ll get the body you want in a timeline you like.
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.