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Antagonistic supersets – a lost gem

By Ron Harris

Supersets are one of the most effective training techniques you will ever use to shock your muscles into new growth. You’ve probably done them on many occasions yourself, but I’m guessing they were either the standard sequence of two exercises back-to-back for the same body part, or the ‘pre-exhaust’ version in which an isolation movement for a given muscle group is followed immediately by a compound movement, ie, lateral raises and overhead presses for shoulders. What you really need to try are antagonistic supersets. These are exercises for antagonistic muscle groups. In antagonistic muscle groups, one is being stretched while the other contracts. This type of superset is extra effective due to the fascial stretching involved. When you alternate sets for antagonistic muscle groups, you are pumping and stretching them repeatedly. The result is one of the craziest pumps of your life in both muscle groups, which in turn leads to fresh new muscle growth. Here are the best antagonistic muscle groups to use for these killer supersets.

Chest and back

solo-superiority-ron-harrisMost modern bodybuilders wouldn’t dream of training chest and back in the same workout – pure blasphemy! It seems like too much at once. Yet I can think of one man who did that not once but three times every week back in the day and seemed to do okay with it – Arnold Schwarzenegger! The pecs and the lats are two huge, powerful muscle groups. Super-setting movements for them will deliver an insane all-over upper body pump. Try these exercises back to back for 4 sets of 10-12 reps each. Remember, you can rest for a little bit between the supersets, but there should be no rest whatsoever between these two exercises.

  • Barbell bench press
  • Barbell row
  • Incline barbell press
  • T-bar row
  • Chin-ups
  • Dips (leaning forward  to emphasize pecs)

Biceps and triceps

The arms seem to be especially receptive to antagonistic supersets. If you’ve always done your biceps exercises first on arm day before moving on to triceps, or vice versa, you have no idea what you’ve been missing out on. Pairing up biceps and triceps exercises as supersets will have your guns so pumped it will feel like the skin is about to split apart.

  • Barbell curls
  • Skull crushers
  • Cable pushdown
  • Cable curl
  • Dumbbell concentration curl
  • Single overhead dumbbell extension

Quads and hams

For the quadriceps and hamstrings, we are a bit more limited as to our options. Really, it’s these two movements:

  • Leg extension – 20 reps
  • Lying leg curl – 15 reps

However, don’t underestimate the value of this one. Very often, leg extension and leg curl machines are right next to each other in gyms, making this superset convenient and practical. It’s a great way to either warm up the thighs thoroughly before moving on to compound movements like squats or leg presses, or you can use it to finish your leg day off by packing pints of nutrient-rich blood into your quads and hams.


2018-06-13T15:14:29-04:00 June 13th, 2018|Ron Harris, The Press|

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