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Muscle Isolation vs. Body Involvement

There are as many ways to work your bicep as there are to eat an Oreo. But all of the positions can be summed up as falling towards one of two poles: total muscle isolation or total body involvement.

There are as many ways to work your bicep as there are to eat an Oreo. But all of the positions can be summed up as falling towards one of two poles: total muscle isolation or total body involvement.

Let’s start off with two exercises. The first is the standing free-weight dumbbell alternating bicep curl. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Make sure your knees are firm but not locked, that your upper body weight is balanced over your pelvis, and that you are looking straight ahead.

Now, one at a time, curl the dumbbell up, making sure to keep all earlier body positions the same. But at the same time, don’t tense up your legs, lower back, or neck to the point of strain. Try to get a rhythm going so that just before the descending arm fully releases, the ascending arm begins. Also coordinate your breath to this rhythm. Constant controlled fluid motion is what we’re looking for here with total body involvement.

The second exercise is the one arm seated bicep curling machine. Sit down on the seat, place your upper arm on the pad, grasp the handle and bend your elbow.

Clearly, the second exercise is far simpler. Nothing else can be done because the braces on the machine won’t let you do anything else. That’s what muscle isolation is. Just working that one muscle over and over again. If you’re doing intensive body shaping, there is no more effective and methodical way to do it.

It’s also the best way to reduce the risk of injury. But you lose so much. With body involvement, you not only work the focus muscle, but you learn about balance, timing, rhythm, self-control, and coordination with each and every exercise.

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