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Antagonist Supersets : What Are They & What Benefits Do They Offer?

Antagonist Supersets

If you want to see impressive muscle growth in the shortest possible time then you should look into adding supersets into your routine.

The aim of them is to make your workouts more efficient. Saving you time, and working your muscles much harder than a traditional workout.

Please read on to discover what antagonist supersets are, the benefits they offer and whether you should add them to your routine or not. [toc]

What are Antagonist Supersets?

Antagonist supersets are nothing new, having been used during the 1970s, most famously by 7-time Mr Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger.

They were also popularised during the early 1990s, by strength coaches Charles Poliquin and Ian King as a method to build muscular strength and balance.

What are antagonist supersets though?

Usually, weight training is done using “straight sets”, which is when you would have a rest between each set performed. Usually resting for between 1-3 minutes.

Supersets involve performing two different exercises in a row with very little rest in-between.

Antagonist supersets involve training two exercises that will work opposing muscle groups, for example, your back and chest.

There is also agonist supersets, which involves two exercises being performed that work the same muscle group. But that is something we will talk about another time.

Antagonist Supersets Benefits

The main benefits of supersets are that they help to reduce rest times between sets, and will increase the overall intensity of your workout by doing more work in a shorter time frame [1][2].

What other benefits do antagonist supersets offer:

#1: They Are More Engaging and Fun

If you are not a powerlifter and are just a regular gym goer then supersets are more fun as you are not spending so much time waiting around between sets.

While these rest periods are essential when lifting at 1RM those of us who aren’t lifting such heavy weights may become bored and disinterested.

To ensure you stick to a program long-term you need to make sure it is fun to perform.

#2: Better Health

There are many health benefits to be gained from regular resistance training [3]. Traditional training has many benefits, so supersets will offer similar benefits.

They may even be more beneficial as it has been shown that supersets are more metabolically demanding [4].

#3: Increased Strength & Muscle Mass

While it has been debated that supersets are more beneficial than traditional weight training, there are plenty of people who believe this method of training increases strength and muscle mass. But how?

It is believed that antagonist supersets will reduce muscle fatigue, as you are not training the same muscle two sets in a row, giving that particular muscle time to recover by the next set.

When performing a traditional straight set workout you would need sufficient time to recover between sets. However, with antagonist supersets, this rest period will occur when you are training the opposing muscle.

Doing so ensures you are getting just as an intense workout in a shorter time frame.

There are also those that believe that this form of training will enhance reciprocal inhibition, which means there will be less interference of the opposing muscles when they are worked after one another.

It is believed that the stretch reflex and elastic energy that is being stored in the opposing muscle will produce more force being produced.

#4: More Calories Burnt

Research has found that this type of training will increase metabolism, leading to an increase in calories burnt both during and in post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) stages [5].

#5: Higher Intensity

Performing two exercises back to back with no rest period in-between is obviously more intense than traditional straight sets with a rest between sets.

You are going to be spending more time under tension and will be experiencing more metabolic fatigue. These two factors will contribute to muscle growth.

#6: Progressive Overload

Take your current straight set routine, and pair off the exercises into supersets.

Doing so will cut the time spent working out. Rather than finishing the work out early you could add additional exercises.

This will create additional volume to your workout. And therefore will help you achieve progressive overload and ultimately, hypertrophy.

#7: Better Muscular Balance

Antagonist supersets will force you to work both sides of your body, for example, chest and back, or biceps and triceps.

Not only will this help to reduce the risk of injury, but will also ensure you look better and more balanced too.

Antagonist Supersets Workout Routine Example

In this example, we are going to look at a chest and back workout, remember with antagonist supersets you need to choose exercises that work opposing muscles.

Barbell bench press set 1
Little to no rest
Barbell row set 1

Rest 1-2 minutes

Barbell bench press set 2
Little to no rest
Barbell row set 2

Rest 1-2 minutes

Barbell bench press set 3
Little to no rest
Barbell row set 3

Rest 1-2 minutes

You should only rest at the conclusion of the set, not at the end of each exercise as you would with straight sets.

In Conclusion

If you are busy and find that you are not getting much work done at the gym then antagonist supersets might be an option.

Using them will ensure you get more work done in less time.

They are good for fat burning, however, if your aim is to build muscle mass then they may not be the best option.

When you are supersetting you are not giving yourself much rest between sets, so may not be recovering adequately enough to go as heavy as you need to.

To build muscle you should try to achieve hypertrophy through progressive overload, which will mean that you should aim to lift heavier each week.

There are plenty of benefits to this type of training, and it may suit your needs so could be worth trying out yourself.

If you have tried antagonist supersets then we would love to hear from you about your experiences. Please leave a comment for us below.

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