Your strength training workouts can be organized in many ways. A superset using opposing muscle groups is an exercise order that uses limited rest time to effectively strengthen your total body. Opposing muscles are paired according to the agonist, which does the movement, and the antagonist, which performs the opposite movement. The best way for you to pick your pairs is by observing the movements.
Push and Pull
Many exercises are divided into movements that push and movements that pull. For example, an overhead press pushes the weight up from shoulder height and a lat pull down pulls the weight down to shoulder height. The arms move in the same pattern, yet the resistance comes from a different angle. Another example is the pushing up of the weight during an arm curl and the opposite action of pulling down a weight during an arm extension. Again, your arms move in the same pattern, but the angle of resistance changes the muscular focus.
Pick a Pair
Your opposing muscle supersets are comprised of a pair of exercises. You alternate between the two exercises for your total number of sets before you move on to your next pairing. Structure your workout by pairing the chest and back, biceps and triceps, shoulders and upper-back, hip extension and hip flexion, quadriceps and hamstrings and your calves with the muscles along your shins. When the first muscle contracts, the opposite muscle relaxes, which gives it time to rest before you switch to the second exercise. During the second exercise, the first muscle relaxes and the opposite muscle contracts.
First and Foremost
The opposing muscle group supersets are also arranged according to muscle size. Exercise your largest muscles first, when you have the most energy. For example, perform your bench press and back pull down before you perform your arm curl and arm extension. The United States Army recommends sequencing the workout starting with your hips and legs, then your back and chest followed by your arms and core. That way your largest muscle groups are exercised at the beginning of the workout.
The superset series increases the recovery time of your muscles. Since blood continues to flow to the opposing muscle, the cells help repair the muscle tissue. This decreases the amount of rest needed in between sets. Perform eight to 12 repetitions of the pair of exercises, without rest. Use a weight that feels heavy for the final two repetitions. Rest less than two minutes and repeat the pair one or two times.
- ACSM's Resources for the Health Fitness Specialist; American College of Sports Medicine
- Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength; James Stoppani
- Army Field Manual Fm 21-20 (Physical Fitness Training); The United States Army