Agonist – Antagonist Muscle Workouts


Hey Everyone!

Welcome back, or welcome to the page.

There are as many ways to work out as there are days in the year, and it can be difficult sometimes to cut through all the options and find a routine that works for you.

It is good to do that, read and research and find a program that fits your needs. How many days, which muscles on which day, how many sets and reps. It is important to find a routine that is doable and that you can stick to for a while.

But every once in a while, something comes u and you need to either rush and get a workout done, or perhaps you just want to change it up.

Today I would like to talk about agonist and antagonist muscles and how to build a workout around them.

Let’s get started.

Agonist and Antagonist Muscles

All muscles can be divided into two broad categories: agonist and antagonist.

Agonist muscles are the prime movers; they cause a movement or an action through their activation.

Antagonist muscles are the muscles that return the action caused by the agonist back to its original position when they are activated.

Another way of stating this is the agonist is the muscle performing the action on one side of the joint, and the antagonist is on the other side of the joint and has the potential to oppose the action.

Any given muscle can be either the agonist or antagonist depending on the activity.agonist

The most commonly used example is the biceps and the triceps.

As you can see in the diagram, when the biceps are the agonist and are contracted to flex the arm, the triceps are the antagonist. Just the opposite occurs when the triceps are the agonist and contract to straighten the arm, the biceps are the antagonist.

The key to remember is the antagonist muscle is being used to help control the movement caused by the agonist. We use the tricep as the antagonist to slow the rate of ascension of the dumbbell when we are curling it up, and we use the biceps as the antagonist to slow the descent of the dumbbell when returning to the starting position.

A List and A Diagram

Here is a list of some of the main pairs of agonist/antagonist muscles. Remember that we could switch the headings of the columns depending on the action being performed.


Here is the information presented in a pictorial manner.


The Joints are the Key

The key to agonist/antagonist exercises is to remember that the muscles are acting on a specific joint an opposite manner.

The biceps and the triceps control the elbow joint. Moving the forearm up and down.


The quads and hamstrings control the knee joint, moving the lower leg up or down.


The chest and back work the same way.


Vertical push and pulling works the same way – overhead press and pull ups.pullup


Antagonists Paired Sets

These are back-to-back exercises that target the opposing muscle groups. Perform one set of a given muscle group exercise and follow it up immediately with a set of exercises for the antagonist group of muscles.

This is different from a super-set, as a super-set is two exercises performed back-to-back for the same muscle group, or two muscle groups that are unrelated. Super-sets are a great way to exhaust a muscle, but antagonist paired sets will facilitate growth in the muscle groups in a rapid manner.

This is due to the active recovery effect that occurs. For example, if you perform a set of tricep push downs, your triceps are actively doing the work of moving the weight. If you switch immediately to a set of dumbbell curls, your biceps will be doing all the work of moving the weight.

But because the triceps are still moving through a full range of motion during the curls, they are still “working,” in a sort of active recovery mode.

Studies have shown that performing your exercises in this manner will improve the overall performance and growth of the involved muscles pairs.

Now on to the exercises!

Rope Push Downs and Bicep Curlsbiceps

ropePerform a set of rope pull downs, rest for 30-60 seconds and then perform a set of biceps curls. Repeat until you have completed three sets of each exercise, 12 – 15 repetitions per set per exercise.

Pull Ups and Shoulder Press


shoulderPerform a set of pull ups (as many as you can do), rest for 30-60 seconds, and then complete a set of shoulder presses, either seated or standing. Rest and repeat until you have completed three sets of 12 – 15 repetitions of each exercise.

Bench Press and Barbell Rows


Perform a set of bench press, either on a flat bench with a barbell, or on an incline bench with dumbbells, rest for 60 – 90 seconds and then perform a set of standing barbell rows or incline dumbbell rows. Rest and repeat until you have completed three sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise.


Leg Extensions and Leg Curls

legsPerform a set of leg extensions, rest of 30 – 60 seconds and then complete a set of leg curls. Rest and repeat until you have performed three sets of 12 – 15 repetitions of each exercise.

By performing these antagonist paired exercises, you will save time and give you the opportunity to mix up your routine if you are bored and need a change.

It is not recommended that you always use antagonistic paired exercises, but once in a while is a nice change of pace.

Last Words

So there you have it.

My suggestions are just that – my suggestions. There are many ways to put together an agonist/antagonist muscle routine,pullup and you should change it up once in a while to keep your muscles guessing.

Thanks for listening.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.

See you in the next post.

Have a great day!


Tom Fitzsimmons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *