• Transformation Challenge - Start With Compound Exercises Before Isolating Muscles
  • Ethan Salathiel

Transformation Challenge - Start With Compound Exercises Before Isolating Muscles

So this week I promised an update on my vital stats. If you missed Dani's last week, click here. I'm also going to talk a bit more about WHAT we are doing as part of this transformation challenge. I will therefore share two interesting insights with you on the exercises I've been doing at the gym as part of my new routine. Here we go then fitfam!


Starting point vital stats
height: 5ft10
weight: 149lbs
bodyfat: 17%
waist: 33’’

What goes on in the gym then? Well, when you are starting over like us or even starting out, it's important to introduce the resistance training and associated weight slowly. At my peak, I was bench pressing 154lbs/70kg but I did weigh more at the time. Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat? Yep, i've been less active but actually lost weight due to muscle wastage. It might shock you but i'm down to pressing 66lbs/30kg now. Yes, it's halved :( It saddens me slightly to think of how much strength I've lost but at the same time, I know I'm building up to it again. At 70kg I was at 6-8 REP max. At 30kg I can comfortably do 15/20 REPs.

So the first trick then. Always start with low weights and high REPs. You'll be amazed due to the increased range of movement you can achieve, how quickly your muscles vasodilate and leave you feeling pumped. You really can feel the difference from early on. Even when I was at full fitness, I still used to shake things up occasionally by dropping the weight and increasing the REPs to really stretch my muscles. Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

The second insider tip is around what to focus on as part of your programme. At the moment I cannot run much so I am simply doing resistance training. Surprisingly hitting the weights can improve your cardio-vascular fitness but not the extent running or high intensity training can. If you can run, I would recommend beginning with 5-10 minutes of jogging on the treadmill and build up to some interval training to ignite your calorie burning furnace! Interval training sounds like a killer but can really break the monotony of running and it's fun! Run for 2 mins at easy pace and then up the tempo or gradient for a burst of 30 seconds. Continue until your 5-10 minutes is up. It should be enough to get a sweat on! This really is the way forward. If you're a complete beginner to cardio and not that comfortable running on a treadmill, you could perform the same type of exercise on a cross-trainer, bike or rowing machine. Timing wise, I always enjoyed my cardio at the end of a session rather than at the beginning. The reason being, my muscles were so warm by that point, I found it much easier to get in the zone and push on.

Back to what i've been doing though. I used to complete isolated muscle group workouts to really put emphasis on each area of the body. I would even work quadriceps and hamstrings on seperate days to maximise the effects on my legs. However, at first when introducing yourself back to form, I would suggest starting with compound movements. Compounds exercises target more than one major muscle group at the same time and require coordination. As a result, they trigger an increase in your body's hormonal response which bodes well for further training.

Think of it like a tree growing. You need a solid foundation or roots before a mighty oak springs up with expanding branches. It's the same with your 'trunk'. Develop a strong core and major muscle groups before piling on the muscles elsewhere. That way, your body is more equipped to support your fitness lifestyle and it should prevent injury too.

I like to start with back & legs, then introduce a bit of upper body and finish with core/abs exercises. Despite the main muscle group being highlighted below, other muscles are also worked (compound). Here's my top 3 exercises in each category this week (full details on form can be found on our Facebook or Instagram page):

1) BACK & LEGS: Deadlift (works erector spinae, hamstrings & glutes):

2) LEGS & ARMS: Kettle Bell Swing (works hamstrings, glutes, lats, shoulders & abs) 

3) CORE: Kicking Plank (works abs mainly but a good all-rounder!)

It's important to note that although I'm sharing what I'm doing with you, it's not individual advice. Everyone is different and it's really important to get a plan built specifically for you, your body and goals. Please seek professional advice before embarking on a programme. I do not want you to injure yourself!

The final thing i'll say is to try and time yourself at the gym. Stick to 30/40 minutes of low/moderate intensity at the beginning which is a good building block to then 'up the anti' and hone in on the specific muscle groups you want to target later on. 



  • Ethan Salathiel

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