Antagonist Training: The Silver Era Technique
Antagonist training is an advanced principle utilized by bodybuilders from all eras. Antagonist training is when you train two opposing body parts in succession.
Antagonist training works as a superset. An example would be bench-press followed immediately by pull-ups. The rest period is only after you’ve completed both exercises. This was Arnold’s favorite approach.
Another option is using antagonist training to alternate muscle groups. In this example, you would bench press for the total number of sets. You would then move on to pull-ups afterward. Steve Reeves used this method to program his full-body workouts.
Examples of Antagonist Muscles:
Chest & Back
Biceps & Triceps
Quadriceps & Hamstrings
Benefits of Antagonist Training
Antagonist training when using supersets allows you to train more in less time. By using opposing muscle groups, you’re ensuring one exercise doesn’t cause fatigue in the other. Bench press doesn’t affect your pull-up so you can move from one to the other without losing strength.
Increased Strength & Pumps
Contracting antagonistic muscle groups increases motor unit recruitment in the working muscle. More motor unit recruitment equals greater strength.
Training opposing muscle groups also makes it easier to get a pump. This helps with the mind-muscle connection as you can feel the working muscle. There’s evidence to suggest that pumping blood around opposing body parts increases gains.
Training opposing muscle groups keeps you accountable for lagging body parts. Every lifter has favorite body parts they like to train. It’s also easy to focus on muscles on show. The gym is full of lifters training biceps, completely neglecting triceps. Antagonistic training ensures both muscle groups get equal attention.
Antagonist training has been a staple throughout bodybuilding. Arnold was an advocate of supersets, especially bench press and pull-ups or rows. Reeves used antagonist training to alternate between body parts in his full-body routine.