skip to Main Content
Stability Vs. Isolation In Strength Training Exercises…

Stability vs. Isolation In Strength Training Exercises…

by: Brandon Richey

Stability vs. Isolation In Strength Training Exercises…

Rams Butting Heads by Relationships1

When I first walked into a weight room at age 13 I remember feeling overwhelmed by all the iron and equipment that filled the room. I remember it was my high school weight room at Stephens County which would eventually end up being the birthplace of my love for lifting over the course of the following 4 years. Being that I chose to play football and baseball I didn’t have much of a choice. As a matter of fact none of us had a choice. Lifting and getting stronger was the goal.

A Little Old School (But Not Too Old School) Rewind From My Past…

So up until the age of about 12 or 13 I hadn’t done much of any organized strength training. I had messed around with an old free weight set that I grew up with in my room from time to time, but I really didn’t look at hitting it hard until I had to in the high school ranks. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. I remember my 8th grade class first coming up to the high school for the first time in order for the high school football coaches to give us the old “eye ball test” to evaluate what kind of talent they had with the next crop of 9th graders coming in.

I remember that they had us come up to the school to weigh us and for the time we were there to teach us some basic (and I mean real basic) bench press technique. They proceeded to have us max out on the bench press. For some reason I also remember them having us do some sort of heavy set on the leg press machine too.

Go beyond the leg press with this program my friend!

Convict Conditioning

At the time I remember this kid that grew up near me getting on the leg press machine. He thought he was the best thing since sliced bread because I think he moved something like 200 lbs. on the leg press at his first attempt. At least he thought he lifted it with dominance and flawless execution and with what little the rest of us little group of numbnuts knew about strength training at the time we all thought he did too.

Of course, all the other kids were impressed, but I sure didn’t know then what I know now about strict form, stability, and the importance of range of motion (ROM). The truth is I think he might have had about a 3 inch ROM along with the rest of us at that time. Regardless, we all still thought we were doing something. No doubt perception is powerful to a teenage boy whether it’s accurate or not.

Stability vs. Isolation…

So in reference to the title of the post today I do want to discuss stability versus isolation when it comes to training. I just remembered that little story and included the example of the leg press to drive home a point about strength training involving factors of stability, form, and range of motion which really work as major influences in the world of strength and conditioning. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you know I don’t waste a whole lot of time on isolation type exercises like concentration curls, leg extensions, and machine leg curls. It’s simple. I don’t waste a lot of time on this stuff because I feel that they are generally a waste of time mainly because the general public overemphasizes these particular exercises!

For more serious core development!

HardStyle Abs DVD by Pavel
Now don’t get me wrong I think there is a time and place for isolation type exercises. Also note I’m continuing to use the phrase isolation type because physiologically it’s truly impossible to just isolate a specific muscle. Anyways, there is a time and place for isolation drills, but it ain’t here in this strength coach’s playbook. At least not in the short term.

Look, at the end of the day if I’ve got to worry about training a group of people and I need to know that they have to be functional and stable in some of the basic human movements such as squatting, lunging, pushing, etc. I’m not going to waste any time on having them do arm curls or leg extensions.

Now as a trainee progresses in their program and can get to a place to where they can be efficient and they want to hammer out some arm curls to get the pythons a little more aesthetically pleasing for the beach that’s ok. If they also happen to be a competing bodybuilder that needs to isolate a weak point for the sake of a judge’s scorecard that’s ok too, but for the most part I’m prioritizing with what NEEDS to be done. Anyways I’ve got a feeling most of my readers need the “GO” muscles to be in check before we worry about those “SHOW” muscles.

Look, isolation exercises have a purpose. It’s just that I believe stability exercises along with mastering the elements of technique and ROM have to take priority. In my personal story I referenced the leg press. I know it’s NOT technically an isolation type exercise, but it surely isn’t a stabilizing one either. However, with the kid in the example pushing with a lengthy 3 inch ROM the isolation of a small area of his quads was about all that was involved with the drill in that situation. The point is that you know that leg press can’t compete with the likes of squatting, deadlifting, cleans, and even kettlebell swings when it comes to stability and developing a more complete level of athletic strength.

Get your set of kettle bells here for some serious dynamic core strength development!

RCK Authentic Kettlebells

At the end of the day the latter mentioned exercises just give us more BANG for our strength training BUCK when it comes to building a body for purpose! The bottom line is that you’ve got to prioritize. At the end of the day it’s a safer bet to master stability. Without it we are just lacking in purpose and efficiency.

As an example this can also be seen with many athletes even in 2014 who lack a sound and logical strength and conditioning program. The lack of core stability and efficient mobility prove to be the purpose of injury during certain parts of their relative sport season. Just keep an eye on some of your regular injured players and you’ll see what I’m talking about. At best they’ll stay on the “injured” list off and on throughout the course of a season and at worst they’ll suffer a season ending injury. You know the players I’m talking about. 

If you want to learn more about what areas to prioritize in your strength training program then make sure you get a copy of my Brandon Richey’s Kettlebell Power And Speed Formula ebook right here!

Don’t forget to drop a comment or question down in the box below to let me know what you think. Remember that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart my friend. Start your smart training today! 

Related Articles: 

Cleaning Up Your Strength Program; Mobility And Stability Is Your Detergent!

3 Core Strengthening Exercises You Should Be Doing…

May The Force Of Your Core Be With You!


Stability vs. Isolation In Strength Training Exercises…



I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Interesting read, Brandon, and my Son and I were having a similar conversation just the other day. He’s into a “body building” phase and wants to beach it up for a 12 week cycle. So, I put together the routines and away he went. After the first week he asked me “Dad, why didn’t you tell me about this stuff before?” My reply was “Because, Noah, if you had started with isolation movements you never would have become strong. You have the foundation … body build a bit if you want.” He got it.

    I started him on Deads when he was 6 years old. At age 13 he could pull 315 from the floor for 3 Sets of 3 – 5 Reps, raw. Now 19, he’s interested in slapping on some “for show” muscle and that’s fine. After his 12 week body building cycle he’s going into the 5 X 5 in order to incorporate, integrate, and harmonize his gains into something more useful than hanging out on the beach hunting babes. I think he’s in for a serious shock when he discovers that his newly acquired muscle mass doesn’t translate into jack shit when it comes to whole body functional strength … but that’s part of the lesson and learning is part of life.

    1. Hey Doc that is something else to hear regarding your son! He sounds like a handful! 🙂 Yes, I had to take a trip down memory lane to talk about this little story. I thought it was still fairly accurate in terms of what a great deal of other youngsters experience today as well.

      Heck all we have to do is walk into any typical health club to witness the “curls for the girls” saga that continues to take center stage for most folks that utilize a membership for about a month out of the entire year. For the rest it is a learning experience and you are exactly right…learning is life! Thanks again Doc. Hope you have a great weekend!

Leave a Reply

Back To Top
Sign Up To Get All The Latest Deals And My BRF Strength Newsletter!

Brandon Richey Fitness Will Never Share Your Information With Anyone
Free Innovative Conditioning Guide!

Just Enter Your Name & Email & Access My Guide