Why I prefer to program multi-Joint exercises for most of my clients
One of the most age-old debates in strength and hypertrophy training is the value of multi-joint exercises compared to single joint exercises. In this article we will look at the benefits of both, and
I will explain why I still believe the best compound exercises or multi-joint movements are far superior than isolation movements for most people.
In a nutshell, multi-joint or compound movements are exercises that require multiple muscles, tendons, and ligaments to work at the same time, through the movement of more than one joint.
A prime example of this is the overhead press, where you stand in one position and push a barbell straight above you from your shoulder until your arms are locked out. As you start to lift and then lower the weight, both your shoulder and elbow joints move simultaneously, so therefore it is a multi-joint or compound exercise. Then take another example, this time from a single joint movement such as a one arm cable lateral raise. To complete a one arm cable lateral raise, you hold one cable down by your sides with your palm facing inwards before raising it to the side with a straight arm. The movement happens mostly at the shoulder joint, with the elbow joint remaining stationary.
Therefore, it is a single-joint exercise. So, which are better, single joint or multi joint exercises.
I will take an unbiased look at what the science says and then give my conclusion on which kind of exercises form the foundation of my programs and why.
A recent study from the National Library of Medicine compared:
“Single joint Vs mutli-Joint exercises and their effects on muscle size in young men “.
The study took 29 untrained young men and split them into two groups, one performing only single -joint exercises and the other only multi-joint exercises, twice per week, for a period of 10 weeks. The subjects had the thickness of their muscle evaluated by ultrasonography. The results showed both groups improving in muscle thickness with NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE IN THE TWO GROUPS.
This suggests that single joint exercises and multi-joint exercises are equally effective in eliciting hypertrophy (muscle growth) in untrained men.
So why do I still prefer the old school compound barbell and dumbbell movements in my programs.
Let’s break it down:
Multi-Joint Exercises will work more muscles at the same time.
OK we do not need a study to prove this. If you the the barbell deadlift for example we are literally firing up every muscle in the body. We hit the lats, the middle back, the hamstrings, the traps, the biceps, the quads calves, the neck to name just a few body part groups. Now if I have a client with limited time to dedicate to the gym, he would surely benefit from hitting as many muscles as possible in the least amount of time.
Multi- Joint Exercises are more Functional
Again, its logic that muscles rarely work in isolation in daily life movements. So, training each muscle to work together is the best way to develop functional strength. Functional strength exercises build strength that is transferable into real-world scenarios and help you with everyday movements. For example, a back squat is a similar movement to standing up from a seated position, but a leg extension machine isn’t similar to any real-world examples. Each of these exercises builds leg muscle, but multi-joint exercises have more value in real world activities.
Multi-Joint exercises burn more calories. Due to the fact that multi-joint movements engage more muscles than single- joint exercises do, multi joint movements also lead to more calories burned. Becau