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One of my favourites... Antagonistic supersets!

What if i told you this was also one of Arnold Schwarzenegger favourite bodybuilding techniques that helped him achieve his several Mr. Olympia awards?

An antagonistic superset involves performing 2 exercises back to back on opposing muscle groups. For example, performing the bench press for your chest, then performing Bent over BB rows for your Back, with little to no rest between.


Main benefits:

Time efficient - Do you tend to have a limited time in the gym, or maybe can only train 3 times a week? Then antagonistic supersets are a great way to create volume in a smaller time period. It helps you maximise your time in the gym, instead of doing 6-8 different straight sets taking over an hour, you can perform 3-4 supersets which will nearly half your workout time.

Increased/maintain muscle balance - By training both the agonist & antagonist muscles, you're ensuring you're training both sides of the body equally, which in turn creates a stability each side of a joint, to maintain muscular balance (Increase/maintain posture). When gym users tend to go to the gym and put over emphasis on their chest, shoulder, quadriceps and biceps, this will cause an imbalance between the joints of the muscles, will can lead to injury, poor posture and pain in the future.

Increase strength - Studies have shown that when involving pressing movements with a pulling movement it has shown to enhance strength gains. Many Strength coaches have been using this technique for years to help increase the strength in their athletes.


Let's look at what happens to the agonist and antagonist during movement

Bicep curl

Agonist (prime mover): Biceps

Antagonist: Triceps

As you see from my drawing, when the bicep contracts to perform the DB curl, the triceps lengthens (relaxes), while the bicep shortens (contracts) to lift the DB up.

Tricep extension

Agonist (prime mover): Triceps

Antagonist: Biceps

As you can see, when extending the arm under tension, the Tricep begins to shorten (contract) in order to push the weight down, whereas on the opposing side of the joint, the bicep lengthens (relaxes) to allow greater force through the triceps.

Going back to the point of time efficiency, looking at how agonists/antagonists work together, with the antagonist relaxing allowing for greater force through the agonist, you can see how having the antagonist to relax while the agonist contracts, this allows for shorter rest periods between sets, due to the antagonist already having time to repair while the agonist in the last exercise was working, which again helps for time efficiency.


Maximise antagonistic supersets

Planes of motion: When working agonists & antagonists, look for exercises which work in a similar plan of motion.

For example:

Military press (Deltoids) / Wide grip lat pull down (Latissimus Dorsi)

BB curl (Biceps) / Straight bar pushdowns (Triceps)

Bench press (Pectorals) / Bent over BB row (Latissimus Dorsi)

Leg extension (Quadriceps) / Leg curl (Hamstrings)

Split your muscle groups: When planning your workout schedule, plan your workouts to pair the agonist/antagonist muscle groups together, for example (my favourite):

Day 1- Chest & Back

Day 2- Shoulders & arms

Day 3- Legs & abs

Rest & repeat


Give antagonist supersets a try, let me know what you think!

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