5 Greatest Isolation Workouts That Will Make You Stronger At Crossfit


I know, I know, isolation workouts are not functional, but hear me out first.

CrossFit has long distanced itself from globo gyms by excluding isolation workouts in their programming. The reason simply being, they are not functional, meaning they have no real life applications. For instance, you wouldn’t bicep curl a jar of pickles while trying to pry it open, nor would you bicep curl a bag of groceries (you use a deadlift for that).

But assistant coaches and twin brothers Derrick and Gian Mercado of CrossFit Insurrecto beg to differ. They head the box’s special strength class, where isolation workouts are the norm. For three classes a week, they help CrossFitters become better at CrossFit with the aid of bodybuilding techniques. For them, isolation workouts are functional.

“What is a muscle? It’s something that will get weaker when seldom used,” says Gian. “By isolating body parts and exposing them to heavier weights, you are ultimately improving the functionality of your entire body. If it helps you get stronger during WODs, then it is functional.”

Valid point. Bicep curls may not help you lift more grocery bags for dear ol’ mum, but if it helps you reach a new PR, why not? And hey, I really can’t argue against Jason Khalipa doing bicep curls in slippers.

So I asked the twins what their top 5 isolation workouts are for getting better at CrossFit, and they came up with the following:

Lying Tricep Extension

We usually do floor-to-overhead workouts in CrossFit. Any overhead movement, we use our triceps. By developing our triceps (read: gains!) our presses and jerks become stronger.

“For jerks, you use shoulders and triceps,” says Gian. “Isolate both muscle groups so they can get stronger when together.”

Bench Press

Two reasons why you should do bench presses:

1) Event 8 of the CrossFit Team Series

2) It develops your manly chest. But more importantly, it’s safer than a shoulder press because your back is resting, but still utilizes your shoulders and triceps. By exposing your shoulders to heavier loads, you get better at body weight movements (because now you’re used to lifting stuff heavier than you.) Think of those heavy bench press supersets while doing burpees and everything will seem so much easier.

Calf Raises

Two words: double-unders. Another two words: box jumps. Developing your calves gives you the power and longevity to maintain a high number of unbroken reps. Same goes for sprinting. When we run, we use our calf to activate the rest of our leg. Improving our calves will make you sprinter faster and for a longer period of time.

Hanging Leg Raises

“Most of the time, no one concentrates on lower abs, so it’s left behind,” says Gian. “Every muscle should be worked on and not be left behind. By improving your lower core, you’ll get faster at toes-to-bar and burpees.”

Bicep Curl

Of course bicep curls had to be on this list! In pull-ups you use biceps to pull and push away from the bar. In cleans, you use biceps – along with the shoulders – to lift the barbell. In legless rope climbs, you definitely use biceps.

Gian adds: “The bicep connects the hand to the shoulder, so training it not only gets you stronger but helps you avoid injuries as well.”

Photo credit: Orbit Nutrition