Recently I came across many training variants, methods & styles and since I'm trying to build a lets say "tree of life" but for fitness categories & their subdivisions.

I want to know if Isolation exercises are the same as Unilateral and Compound the same to Bilateral? or can both Isolation & compound include Uni and Bi lateral exercises?

So can there be "Isolation Unilateral" and "Isolation Bilateral"?

I am aware of Unilateral being one SIDE of the body and not one specific PART of the body, so having that in mind I guess Isolation which is one PART of the body lets say the bicep, can include working out just one bicep "Isolation Unilateral" and both biceps without working a sinergist or "Helping Muscle" as compunds do...

Also having the previous in mind, it seems BOTH Isolation & Compound can have bilaterals but can Compound have Unilateral?

Im confused.

1 Answer 1


It can be slightly confusing, but the way to think about each is what is involved in the exercise. An isolation exercise will involve one joint, and one muscle group. A compound exercise will encompass two or muscle groups, and two or more joints. Unilateral versus bilateral just means if both sides of the body are engaged or not.

For an example, look at some biceps exercises. A preacher bench, dumbbell biceps curl is going to be a unilateral, isolation exercise. Each arm is working independently, on a single muscle/joint (Biceps/elbow). A preacher bench, ez-curl bar biceps curl will be an isolation, bilateral exercise. You are working on one muscle, but both arms are working in coordination.

The compound version, use as an example the pullup, palms facing you (As opposed to facing away, which places a greater emphasis on the lats). This would be a compound, bilateral exercise. If you have the strength, you could do a single arm pullup, which would be a compound, unilateral exercise.

So your initial assumption is correct, you can have a combination between each of the types of motions (isolation vs compound) and each of the body distinctions (uni vs bi lateral).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.