Many people are following exercise routines set out in magazines, told to them by friends or written for them by the fitness instructor at their local gym. But how many of them are getting the results they want?
Many gym routines nowadays focus on bicep curls, chest presses, sit-ups and so on…. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for these exercises, they can be very useful when used at the right time and when necessary.
However, they will not give 90% of people the results they want/need. These single-joint, muscle isolation exercises are adding to dysfunction and could be the cause of many of today’s exercisers’ aches and pains.
You see, in nature, we rarely if ever use one muscle on its own. I honestly couldn’t think of any situation where you might need to perform a bicep curl without some degree of shoulder flexion or rotation. The bicep will never work on its own. There will always be activation of surrounding muscles, and 99% of the time, core muscles too.
Now I’m just using biceps as an example here, there isn’t a muscle in your body that’s any different. All muscles will always work with other muscles to create the movements we use day in, day out.
So in order for workout to be representative of the movements we use on a regular basis, we need to stop isolating muscles and start working movements. This means using large movements that take as many joints as possible through their available range of motion.
A multi-joint exercise is one that uses movement across two or more joints. Going back to our bicep curl that would mean using the elbow and the shoulder.
These multi-joint exercises not only better imitate our natural movements but also work more muscles in the process.
All of the muscles and joints in your body are linked, so movement in one area will in some way affect the rest of your body. This is called the Kinetic Chain.
As with any chain, it is only as strong as it’s weakest link, so by isolating one muscle you are making one link stronger than the rest of the chain. This will cause an imbalance, and therefore dysfunction (which could present itself as pain).
In order to create optimal function you need to ensure that all the links are as strong (relatively) as each other. This will mean your body is in balance and functioning at its best.
These multi-joint or compound movements will not only carry over more readily into everyday movements, but will also save you lots of valuable gym time by working many muscles at the same time as oppose to concentrating on single joint, single muscle exercises which are very time consuming and usually call for gym routines to be split to training a particular muscle group one day, and another the next and so on. Doing this means you can get all of your muscles worked in one gym session, and therefore each muscle group will be worked more than just once a week as with a split routine.
These compound exercises are also proven to produce more strength gains than isolation exercises. So if you want to bulk up, these are the movements you should be training! That’s not to say that those of you who don’t want to get big or simply want to burn fat shouldn’t be doing these exercises though.
As it is muscle that burns energy (calories), it makes sense that the more muscles you are working, the more calories you are burning. So for fat loss and definition, these are also the exercises for you!
Two of the best multi-joint exercises are the squat and the deadlift. These are great for improving overall strength and work nearly every muscle in the body. However you can’t do just these exercises every time you train or you may get a little bored. So try adding some other movements such as press-ups, dips, lunges, chins (pull-ups), and make use of the many new training tools we have available to us nowadays such as medicine balls, cable machines, resistance bands etc. These all make it even easier to add some rotational exercises into the mix, which are also very important, every day movements that will incorporate many joints and muscles groups.
In review, multi joint exercises provide more muscular stimulation than their single-joint alternative which means shorter, more efficient workouts, greater strength gains, and more calories burned per workout.
So whether you’re looking to build strength, lose weight, gain definition or just improve overall function and fitness, try a multi-joint exercise routine for a few weeks. When done properly you’ll notice the benefits within a few weeks, particularly if you play sports.
Dip. PT, Dip. IIST, KCA