Supersetting Agonist-Antagonist Muscle Groups

We often get questions on why we incorporate so many supersets into our strength programs here at Garage Strength, especially in our upper body lifts. One reason is so that more work can be done in a shorter period of time. The other is that depending on the type of exercise and the muscles engaged in the exercise, a greater adaptation from both exercises is seen. Pairing agonist and antagonist muscles is the most common superset. An agonist muscle is the active and contracting muscle during an exercises while the antagonist, or “opposite”, muscle is relaxing. Typical pairings are the quads and hamstrings, chest and back, triceps and biceps, or pairing a push exercise with a pull exercise. Some people think that because they are doing another exercise in between sets that they will be too fatigued to perform the first exercise to their full ability. What does the research say on the matter?

We headed over to Mass and found an article by Eric Helms explaining the advantages. The first advantage is that as opposed to a tradition, all agonist followed by all antagonist exercises, suppersetting increased the total volume and total muscle damage from the session, which one could speculate would lead to greater muscle growth. Subjects were also actually able to lift higher loads by suppersetting the antagonist muscle group. Helm’s speculates that this is due to a potentiation effect having to due with the elasticity of the muscle and greater activation of the stretch shortening cycle going into the next exercise.

Whether you are just trying to save time or simply trying to get the most out of you workout, supersetting agonist and antagonist exercises will increase the quality of your workout.

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