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Antagonist Muscle Group Training

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Weight Training for Optimal Performance

Even though weight training is becoming more common practice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, few people actually develop and participate in a training program that is designed for optimal performance. Whether an individual is lifting weights for its athletic or health promoting benefits, their training program should be designed so that no muscle group is neglected. Training muscle antagonists and agonists together allows trainees to develop their muscles equally, maximizing performance and minimizing risk of injury. Examples of agonist/antagonist muscle groups are the biceps and triceps and quadriceps and hamstrings. These muscles are termed agonist/antagonist because they work to oppose the motion of the other muscle when contracting. Sports science studies have shown that strengthening both the agonistic and antagonistic muscle in a group increases performance of both muscles. An example of the benefits of agonistic/antagonistic muscle training would be training to increase sprinting speed. Strengthening the agonistic and antagonistic muscle groups involved in sprinting would allow the athlete to develop muscles that allow joint movements to occur more rapidly and for a longer period of time which would in turn increase sprinting speed. Agonistic/Antagonistic weight training can also help to decrease the risk of injury since no muscles in the group are being neglected in the training program. Runners for example often suffer hamstring injuries because their quadriceps are stronger than their hamstrings. Agonist/Antagonist training decreases the chances of this type of injury from occurring by strengthening both muscles in the group equally.

Applications One method of agonist/antagonistic weight training is performing modified supersets. In a modified superset, an exercise is chosen for opposing muscles, for example the bench press for chest and chin ups for the back. The superset would be performed in the following manner:

Set 1: Bench Press * 10 reps/rest 1 minute/Chin Ups * 10 reps/ Rest 1 minute

After the second exercise is performed, this pattern is repeated for the desired number of sets. Performing exercises in this manner also allows for more exercises to be performed in less time, allowing more efficient and intense workouts.


Jari S; Ropret R; Kukolj M; Ilia DB. Role of agonist and antagonist muscle strength performance of rapid movements. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 1995, 71:5, 464-8.

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