Get a Massive Pump With This Muscle Isolation Workout

Get a massive pump by isolating your muscles with this workout from STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

Multi-joint exercises like Deadlifts and Lunges go a long way toward maximizing strength and size gains.

But standing single-joint exercises, as this workout shows, are a nice complement and can also give you a total-body workout. Doing only single-joint movements during one workout each week can be a refreshing change from repetitive multi-joint pushing, pulling, squatting and lunging. Plus, single-joint movements individually target muscles and joints from different angles, making a conditioning program more interesting.

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Try this workout weekly between multi-joint exercises. You can intensify it by incorporating supersets and brief rests between exercises and performing all exercises upright. This promotes other essential sports and fitness attributes such as endurance, burning fat and building core strength and stability (compared with seated or supine single-joint movements).


  • Two dumbbells @ 50% RM
  • Two dumbbells @ 30% RM
  • Water bottle
  • Timer (optional)


  • Do an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles and Lunges).
  • Finish with a cooldown upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before, during and after the workout.
  • Sets/Reps: 1x15-20 (using the heavier DBs) immediately followed (superset) by 1x30-40 (using the lighter DBs)—or, alternatively, do as many fast muscle endurance reps as you can in 60-90 seconds using the lighter DBs. This provides that desired muscle-building "pump" for your isolated upper body muscles while simultaneously fatiguing your legs and hips during prolonged periods in a lunge or squat position.
  • Rest 30 seconds between exercises.
  • Note: Although the workout involves only upper body single-joint movements, the lower body and core muscles are  also engaged, since all exercises are done from lunging, single-leg, or squat positions.


Isolation Workouts

Single-Leg Shoulder Shrugs

  • Perform the Shrugs with the heavier DBs with your left foot off the ground, your left knee slightly bent and your right leg in a Squat position (neutrally
  • Hold the DBs with your arms extended near your legs for 10 reps.
  • Quickly switch for 10 reps with your right foot off the ground.
  • Immediately grab the lighter DBs and do 20 Shrugs with your left foot off the floor and 20 with your right foot off the floor.

A terrific shoulder, upper back, leg and core-building combo. Performing single-leg exercises also improves your balance.

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Wall Sits and Flys

  • Squat in a fixed position against a wall while neutrally holding the heavier DBs with your arms extended at chest level.
  • Do 15-20 Flys.
  • Immediately rise, grab the lighter DBs and return to the wall squat position.
  • Perform as many Flys as possible in 60-90 seconds, thoroughly exhausting your chest and legs.

Hammer Curls and Twists

  • Neutrally grip the heavier DB with your arms extended near your legs and your right leg in a forward lunge stance.
  • Curl the DBs to your shoulders and rotate right.
  • Return to the start position and repeat nine more times.
  • Without rest, do 10 Curls/Twists to the left with your left leg in a forward lunge stance (totaling 20 reps for both sides).
  • Immediately follow with Curls/Twists using the lighter DBs: 20 reps with your right leg in a forward Lunge, then 20 with your left leg.

This is an excellent biceps and core-building combination.

Lateral, Forward and Bent-Over Raises

  • Assume a Squat position, supinely holding the heavier DBs at your sides with your thumbs pointing away from your body.
  • Without rest, consecutively do five Side Raises to shoulder level, five Forward Raises (holding the DBs neutrally held with your thumbs pointing up), and five Bent-Over Raises (holding the DBs in a prone position) for 15 total reps.
  • Immediately switch to the lighter DBs for 10 Lateral Raises, 10 Forward Raises, and 10 Bent-Over Raises (using the previously-mentioned hand grips for the different raises) for 30 total reps.

Your shoulders, upper back and leg muscles will burn at the end.

Tricep Kickbacks

This exercise not only targets the triceps but also engages the wrists/forearms, thighs, hips and calves.

  • Lean slightly forward in a partial squat position with your heels off the floor so you perform the entire exercise standing on your toes, contracting your calves and thighs the entire time.
  • Hold the heavier DBs at your sides with a pronated grip.
  • Keep your elbows bent and your lower arms parallel to the floor.
  • Keeping your upper arms fixed, extend your lower arms down and behind you.
  • Squeeze and hold for one second (targeting your triceps), then bend your wrists backward and upward toward your arms/triceps, pausing for one second (engaging your forearms).
  • Return to the start position and do 15-20 reps.
  • Quickly repeat using the lighter DBs for 30-40 reps.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock