I am going to give my views on how best to implement agonist-antagonist paired set training and their benefits over traditional set training based on my own experience of training myself and others as well as a recent review was done by MASS on a study comparing traditional set training v agonist-antagonist superset training and giving you their findings.


Study link below:




What actually is a superset – a superset is a programming strategy that can be implemented to provide an increased overload to the desired area by starting with exercise A which let’s say works the biceps for 8-10 repetitions followed by exercise B which also works the biceps for 8-10 repetitions increasing the stress on the biceps. Or another option for a superset if you’re more time conscious and wanted to get as much done as possible in a shorter period of time is to work opposing muscle groups known as an agonist-antagonist superset.






A1) BB EZ bar preacher curl 4 x 8-10

A2) DB hammer curl 4 x 8-10


90 seconds rest




A1) Incline DB chest press 4 x 8-10


60 seconds rest


A2) Incline DB bench pull 4 x 8-10


60 seconds rest



When the study looked at traditional set training vs agonist-antagonist superset training they found that the best benefit of super setting was they were able to perform the exercises in almost half the time and performance wasn’t affected. They actually found that the pecs, biceps, triceps and latimus Dorsi’s level of muscle fatigue was actually greater when performing the bench press into seated row when using an electromyography to measure fatigue as well as a greater amount of volume achieved on the seated row overall potentially leading to more muscle growth in the long run.


It seems that this isn’t muscle or movement specific as similar results have been found in a different study in which the exercises used was leg extensions and leg curls to work the quadriceps and hamstrings respectfully. In this study, similar findings were made in which more volume was accumulated and fatigue was greater than straight set training and again done in almost half the time.


Study link below:



So why may this be the case, how do agonist-antagonist supersets produce more fatigue, volume and improve performance in some cases all while reducing the time to completion by half? One hypothesis as to why supersets outperformed straight sets ironically could be increased rest periods for the like exercise i.e. Bench press 10 reps, seated row 10 reps followed by rest. While performing the seated row the chest is being rested even though cardiovascular demand is still high you’re resting the bench press primary movers which is then followed by the planned rest between sets leading to more rest than traditional sets in which case you’d perform a set and then rest and repeat.


Other factors as why supersets outperformed traditional sets could be an altering of the Golgi tendon reflex, neuromuscular alteration to inhibition of co-contraction which means if you’re working opposing muscle groups you find that you’re able to move through a larger range of motion and with harder force production, or a faster dissipation of metabolites which occur as a reaction to training.



When not to implement supersets


–   While performing large multi-jointed movements

–   Beginners who are still learning the skill of movements and body awareness. You do not want to compromise technique

–   If you or the client is too unfit to perform a superset and performance suffers

–   Strength athletes, especially those who are near to a competition i.e. powerlifter using a superset of DB row with his bench press isn’t specific enough to his competition and will decrease his performance.


When may this be a good strategy to implement


–   Bodybuilder, gym goer, or anyone with body composition goals

–   With smaller isolation exercises

–   Personal trainers trying to be time efficient with clients

–   Busy people with limited time to commit to training

My final thoughts on supersets v traditional set training are that they defiantly have a place in the majority of peoples training plans as they have shown to either has positive results and reduce the time of your workout or had no negative or positive results and still decreased your time in the gym. Just be careful where you place it in your workout and consider your goals and if you’re competing in something that may be affected by supersets.










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James Rush

James works in functional sports nutrition, looking from an integrative health perspective, merging the fields of sports nutrition and nutritional therapy in an applied way so that both health and performance are considered. James works with his clients to ensure that the best possible health is maintained during off-season, in season, and peaking for events, and everyday life etc. As a healthy client is an optimal performer who carries less stress, injuries and ultimately performs better at their chosen goal. To help give others the education James has gained over the recent years he now teaches nutrition level 3 to aspiring trainers and coaches who wish also to enter the industry. Current physical targets: James currently competes as amateur u105 strongman and aims to be healthy and as pain free as possible.

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