At the end of this quick read, you’ll have a one-up in the fitness game. I will show examples of what Antagonist muscle training is, how training volume, intensity, and frequency is manipulated by fitness professionals to increase the challenge in their clients’ programming. It’s also used by avid gym-goers who wish to take it to the next level in their fitness journey. Let’s hit some points on using acute variables to intensify or volumize your exercise programming. This will take some time to digest, so get comfy!
Antagonist Muscle Training
Taxing opposite muscle groups a single workout session.
Antagonist muscle group training means working opposing muscle groups within the same training period. As you work the antagonist movement, you will allow the body to challenge high training intensities. This cuts time by working for the opposing muscle group while the previously worked muscle rests. For explanation purposes let’s consider a 4 week, total body, 3-day split (MWF) strength phase. Choosing heavyweights with slow tempo reps will greatly increase that day’s intensity.
Intensity refers to the amount of effort/work that you do in a movement.
According to this scenario, each training day will remain consistent in high intensity. This means higher overall training intensity by the end of the week. With higher intensities, the body will require sufficient recovery periods allowing proper repair of muscle. Remembering that this is a total body split, a full 24 hour recovery period is necessary since the next training day (Wednesday) will most likely involve the same muscle groups that were worked on Monday.
A taxed muscle should have 24-72 hours of rest before being taxed again.
Take this example: On strength day, you hit bicep curls, and lat pulldowns (4x 6-8 reps), then you perform chest press and shoulder press the same reps and sets followed by 2 leg and 2 back exercises in a similar fashion. This type of training leverages intensity over volume because the overall reps and sets that you do will be lower allowing intensity to remain high. The training frequency will be higher because you are repeatedly working similar or the same muscles each day in the split. Think of doing 100 pushups 4 x 25 on MWF totaling to 300 pushups at the end of the week vs. 150 pushups 3 x 50 only on Monday. Greater intensity, less frequency.
On the non-high performance athletic/bodybuilding level, it is also important to mention that a single training period should not really be more than 60-90 min total.
To fit all movements within an allotted time takes precise planning and design. A great way to put this in perspective is to think of a single exercise. Let’s take the front squat for example. Would you be able to hit the same amount of reps under a bar that holds 315 lbs. vs 250 lbs.? Of course not! Now imagine performing RDLs where the hamstrings have been previously taxed through the eccentric motion of the front squat. You should now see how intensity is easy to be overdone and often overlooked.
Eccentric motion is the loading phase or gradual decrease in velocity of a movement after a contraction.
Proper rest will balance your programming to counter high training frequency and intensity of the specified muscle groups along with decreased training volume, allowing for smooth gradual improvement over the 4 weeks.
Most people find significant bodily adaptations around their 3rd – 4th week of training.
Manipulation of these acute variables within your workout could change the way you train forever. Of course, there is also the choice of agonist muscle training on the same day. By this, you would leverage growth of muscle to the risk of muscle injury. Check other posts for a better picture of this.