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C8. Teenager syndrome

So there are three pistons working…

First, we have a color piston. Color hints at which muscles and structures are involved during the exercise.

Second, we have a quantity piston. Quantity of liquid changes based on overall stress impact of the exercises.

  • Local exercises tend to be a smaller pour.
  • Global exercises tend to be a higher pour.

Third, we have intensity piston. Intensity of color changes based on how targeted and focused a stress is on a muscle or structure.

  • Local exercises tend to have higher intensity.
  • Global exercises tend to have lower intensity.

Getting good results is a juggle between these three things, which is something often missed by high school kids. You see them trying to get big arms, yet all they do are biceps curls.

Curls are a local hit to the biceps and certainly stress the arms, but if you just do curls, you're lacking a global stressor to really drive adaptation.

The bigger multi-joint movements are the meat and potatoes of a strength program. They send a stronger signal for adaptation.

Meaning, in general, if there was a contest between “isolation man” that did only single joint isolation exercises and “compound man” that did only multi-joint compound exercises, the “compound man” would tend to have better results overall…even in the places “isolation man” is singling out.


A person that spends time getting better at chin-ups will (likely) have better arms than a person that spends time getting better at curls. At least, initially. Once you get stronger, you need more concentrated doses of a stressor in order to improve, which is one of the reasons Starting Strength is programmed the way it is.

The compound multi-joint movements are the base. Adding in smaller isolation exercises when building the base means adding stressors into the funnel that the body has to deal with.

Why sacrifice progress on compound multi-joint movements when (a) they are more important for a beginner, and (b) the isolation exercises are better served when you're more advanced?

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Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

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