Many exercise programs concentrate on a single area of the body during each workout. Not only can that be dull and boring, but it can also lead to overtraining the muscles. One idea that has been promoted by bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger involves antagonist training, which can provide you with greater strength and a wider variation in your fitness routine.
Antagonist Training: An Overview
Some bodybuilding programs focus on only one body part at a time. The antagonist training concept involves working the muscles in an antagonistic pair one after the other. An agonist and antagonist muscle make up an antagonistic pair. An agonist muscle is one that contracts to create movement, while an antagonist muscle relaxes to allow the movement. As such, an antagonist workout might involve doing a bicep curl followed by a tricep kickback.
Improves Strength and Performance
The primary benefit of antagonist training is that it helps people develop strength faster. This is because both the agonist and antagonist muscles are activated at the same time. This type of training may also help with overall performance. Participants in a study conducted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research who performed an antagonist workout noticed greater performance and higher EMG activity, which is the degree to which muscles are activated.
Maximizes Recovery and Workout Time
Another major benefit of antagonist training is reduced time in the gym. Working pairs of muscle groups tends to take less time than working a single body part during each session does. Training both muscles in an antagonistic pair at the same time reduces the amount of recovery time by increasing the amount of blood flow to flush out lactic acid. As such, this type of program is ideal for anyone who has very little time for exercising or recovery.
Some sample exercises that could be performed as part of an antagonist training plan include:
Chest, Upper Back, and Shoulders:
- Bench press/cable row
- Shoulder press/pull up
- Incline bench press/barbell row
Glutes, Calves, and Hamstrings:
- Leg extension/leg curl
- Squats/hanging leg raise
Arms and Lower Back
- Triceps dips/dumbbell curls
- Back extension/crunches
- Triceps extension/barbell curl
These are only a few exercises that can be included in a workout, but you are always free to mix and match your own. When doing so, keep in mind that not every muscle group can be worked in this manner. When coming up with exercises, choose ones that appear similar, yet involve a movement in the opposite direction. Perform the two exercises as a “superset”, with 15 to 30 seconds of rest in between. Do two to three supersets per workout, or until you reach muscle failure. You may switch up the order of these exercises every six to eight weeks to keep from reaching a plateau.
You have probably participated in antagonist training workouts in the past without realizing it. Now that you understand the benefits of working antagonistic pairs of muscles, you can now incorporate some of these principles into your own routine in order to enjoy greater benefits.