7 Fitness Benefits of Training Antagonistic Muscle Groups

The human body is a complex machine, with muscles working together in harmony to produce smooth and controlled movements. For example, in the torso, arms, and legs, muscles are arranged in opposing pairs, each with a specific role in creating motion.

Antagonistic muscles are muscle groups in our body designed to contract and relax simultaneously to generate movement. Each shortening of one muscle requires the lengthening of its opposing muscle.

Each contraction of the biceps muscles requires the simultaneous relaxation and lengthening of the triceps. This synergistic relationship between antagonistic muscles is essential for maintaining balance, stability, and proper posture during various activities.

This begs the question, if the body is designed to move in pairs, what if we use this principle of targeting opposing muscle groups in one gym session? Would it result in better muscle gains?

This article will discuss the science of training antagonistic muscle groups and how you can use it to your advantage in your fitness journey.

Here is the list of antagonistic muscle groups:

Agonist (Prime Mover) Antagonist
Biceps Triceps
Quadriceps Hamstrings
Chest Upper back
Abdominals Lower back
Shins Calves
Hip flexors Glutes
Forearm flexors Forearm extensors
Neck flexors Neck extensors
Shoulder internal rotators Shoulder external rotators
Hip adductors Hip abductors

Since these antagonistic muscle groups work in synergy, both muscles must be targeted in your training to prevent muscle imbalance and injury.

Targeting opposing muscle groups is a great technique for strength training because it maximizes your exercise time in the gym. Simply put, it avoids excessive waiting periods in between sets. When your agonist muscle is resting, your antagonist muscle is working, and vice versa.

The idea is to target opposing muscle groups in succession. This means avoiding rest periods by working out the opposing muscle group while the other group recovers.

Examples of exercises that engage opposing muscle groups:

1. Greater exercise volume

Training multiple opposing muscle groups in one session leads to more exercise volume, which translates to greater work output and stimulus for muscle hypertrophy.

The added workload and minimal rest lead to additional metabolic stress that promotes the release of growth hormone and hormone testosterone, leading to better muscle gains.

Exercising two sides together keeps both muscle groups warm and stretched. The added volume and intensity of this workout protocol results in an extra increase in blood flow and lactic acid build-up, which further enhances muscle growth and boosts the exercise pump.

Performing antagonistic sets means you will spend less time resting in between sets. Since you are constantly exercising, your body expends more oxygen and energy to fuel your muscles, which leads to more calories being burned.

In a 2010 study, researchers found that subjects who perform supersets or antagonistic training spend more energy in a 60-minute session than in traditional training sessions.

Training both sides of your body decreases the risk of muscle imbalance and prevents lagging muscles. Ultimately, a more balanced muscle development improves joint stability which decreases the chances of injuries and enhances your posture.

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More importantly, if you have a tight schedule, antagonistic training helps you maximize your time and results in the gym as it ensures you are challenging even the opposite muscle group per session.

In general, antagonistic training saves you time by eliminating or minimizing rest periods without negatively affecting recovery.

Whether your goal is to have a V-taper body or sculpt your midsection, antagonistic workouts will give you a more aesthetic look and allow you to reach your goals faster.

Including antagonistic training in your routine can lead to improved flexibility and range of motion. The opposing contraction and lengthening provide balanced stretch and increase overall mobility. Simply put, when you exercise opposite muscle groups, you are performing exercises in both directions.

By regularly training both muscle groups, you can maintain a healthier balance between strength and flexibility and allow a greater range of motion.

Here’s plan for men that will help you make progress:

And for women:

The pattern of movements used in antagonistic training mimics how our bodies move in daily life and during athletic activities. Many everyday tasks require the coordinated action of antagonistic muscles to perform movements effectively and efficiently.

By training your muscles in a manner that reflects real-life functional movement patterns, you can develop a more well-rounded and practical level of fitness that translates beyond the walls of the gym.

Agonist-antagonist supersets are a highly effective training protocol that specifically targets opposing muscle groups.

This approach involves performing a set for the agonist muscle followed immediately by a set for its antagonist, with little to no rest in between. By alternating between opposing muscle groups, this protocol ensures that both muscles in a pair receive equal attention and stimulation, promoting balanced development and reducing the risk of muscle imbalances.

To perform an agonist-antagonist superset:

  1. Complete a set of the agonist exercise,
  2. Immediately switch to the antagonist exercise without resting.
  3. After completing both exercises, take a short rest (30-90 seconds)
  4. Repeating the superset for the desired number of sets, typically 3-4.


  • Set 1: Bench press
  • Set 1: Seated row
  • Rest
  • Set 2: Bench press
  • Set 2: Seated row
  • Rest
  • Set 3: Bench press
  • Set 3: Seated row

Antagonistic muscle group you could use to superset:

Agonist Exercise Parameters Antagonist Exercise Parameters
Barbell bench press 3 x 10-12 Bent-over barbell row 3 x 10-12
Dumbbell bicep curl 3 x 12-15 Cable tricep kickback 3 x 12-15
Leg extension machine 3 x 12-15 Seated leg curl machine 3 x 12-15
Dumbbell lateral raise 3 x 12-15 Cable rear delt fly 3 x 12-15
Cable crunch 3 x 15-20 Back extension 3 x 15-20

Different muscle groups in our body are designed to work synergistically by simultaneously contracting and relaxing to create smooth and controlled movements.

By training antagonistic muscle groups, we allow our body to train functionally, maximizing results in the gym and mimicking real-life movement patterns.

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Bert Bauzon is a licensed physiotherapist specializing in spinal care and sports rehabilitation. He writes articles and books about exercise science and health care.

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