Written by NFPT Staff Writer Wednesday, 14 July 2010 19:00
Not so long ago, there were as many different expert opinions about proper training principles as there were experts! For this reason, in the early stages of body building's evolution, "guess work" was practiced by everyone, even on the highest levels. Superior genetics, and the hit-or-miss use of successful training principles then separated the winners from the losers.
Through the researched application of a more scientific approach to bodybuilding, there is now an improved degree of solidarity among those experts who responsibly disseminate information concerning proper training principles and techniques. The resulting success of these more sensible "no brain, no gain" approaches now used by resistance athletes is directly reflected in the superior quality of today's physique competitor's (with or without the help of anabolics and food supplements). Among the late-comers in the long list of sensible and scientific resistance exercise principles, is "antagonistic multi-set" training. The "antagonistic multi-set" training principle discussed here, used in conjunction with "progressive resistance" (training principle most widely agreed upon by the experts to cause continued adaptation), has been shown to effectively enhance size and strength training programs. The antagonistic multi-set training principle offers a logical means by which to arrange a heavy split routine. Its application effectively doubles between set recovery periods without effecting the length of the workout. In turn this extended recovery period allows for the performance of more growth stimulating heavy repetitions.
In learning more about this training principle, let's start by defining the term antagonistic as it applies to muscle structure and function. Different muscles, or groups of muscles, contracting and relaxing to provide for movement in opposing directions, or at angles opposite one another, are said to be antagonistic. Examples of antagonists are the triceps and biceps, the chest and back, and the quadriceps and hamstrings. Generally speaking, the actions of muscles that push are antagonistic to those actions of muscles that pull, and those muscles providing extension are antagonistic to those muscles causing flexion.
It is a physiological fact that while a muscle, or group of muscles contract, the antagonist(s) relaxes optimally. This action, along with the forced stretch of the working muscle's antagonist, allows for improved relaxation and blood movement in and around that antagonist. This enhances the removal of cellular wastes that would otherwise limit the performance of growth stimulating reps in following sets. Furthermore, while this nutrient and oxygen poor blood is being removed from the intramuscular areas of the antagonist through the venular capillaries and lymphatic vessels, it is also being displaced by nutrient and oxygen rich blood provided by intramuscular arteriole capillaries, further enhancing the recovery of the antagonist. This enhanced waste removal and nutrient resupply acts to optimize between set recovery allowing for better performance when the antagonist is once again called upon to perform work in remaining sets!
These facts would support the conclusion that antagonists should be trained together in a split routine, and in an alternating fashion. With this basic understanding of antagonists, how they function in opposition to each other, and how you can benefit from training them together, consider altering your heavy split routine accordingly. Here's an example:
DAY #1 - BACK & CHEST
DAY #2 - SHOULDERS, BICEPS & TRICEPS
DAY #3 - QUADRICEPS & HAMSTRINGS
On back and chest day, for example, perform a movement for chest, rest for a given period, perform a movement for back that opposes this chest movement, and once again rest for the same period as before. Repeat this "multi-set" for the required number of sets in your workout, applying this same technique to all of your other movements as well.
How can the application of antagonistic training double recovery time? Let's say you have been using the "overload" (progressive resistance) training principle, for example, doing straight sets of bench presses for chest, taking approximately (3) minutes between sets for recovery. Now apply the "multi-set" principle. Let's assume you have adopted an antagonistic routine similar to the one above. Your accompanying back movement may be wide grip pull downs which you would move to after the completion of a set of bench presses. Wait for the same three (3) minutes to lapse prior to performing the antagonistic set of wide grip pull downs. Then wait another (3) minutes prior to doing your next set of bench presses. Presto! Your chest and back are resting at least six full minutes. This amounts to twice the recovery of straight set training, while requiring no change in the length of your workout.
Extending between set recovery will unquestionably make you stronger. This being the case, "antagonistic multi-set" training makes good sense, and will help you on your way to a successful, "no brain, no gain" approach to working out. Good luck and great gains!
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