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Bodybuilding Antagonistic Muscles Workout Split

Work Opposing Muscle Groups In Each Bodybuilding Workout

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In an antagonistic muscles workout split, bodybuilding workouts are designed to train body parts for opposing muscle groups each day. This is one of my favorite ways to train in the off-season and was one of the ways in which bodybuilding legends like Dave Draper and now Governor Arnold Schwarzegger used to train most of the time.

There are several advantages to this workout split:

  1. It can save time if you decide to superset opposing muscle groups such as the chest and the back.

  2. It can help you gain strength if you decide to alternate between sets of one muscle group (such as the chest) and sets of the opposing muscle group (such as the back) while you rest in between.

    For instance, if you perform an incline bench press followed by 90 seconds of rest, and then perform a wide grip pull-up, followed by 90 seconds of rest, you will be resting a total of three minutes plus the time it took to perform the pull-ups before you go back to the incline bench again. You will also notice that your strength for each exercise sometimes increases as the nervous system seems to have an easier time recovering between sets when this technique is used.
There are a couple of ways in which I have set up an antagonistic mucle group bodybuilding workout. You can use a three day split or a four day split:

Three Day Split

In this split, the whole body is worked over a period of three days:

Day 1 - Chest/Back/Abs

Day 2 - Thighs/Hamstrings/Calves

Day 3 - Shoulders/Biceps/Triceps

Training Notes

  • As a good rule of thumb, you can perform 10-12 sets for the big body parts (Chest, Back, Thighs, Hamstrings, Shoulders) and 8-10 sets for the little ones (Abs, Calves, Biceps, Triceps). More genetically gifted bodybuilders may be able to get away with more, but this amount works for most.

  • Frequency wise, three days on and one day off is good for mass gains.

  • If you are looking for fat loss, doing six days in a row and then resting on the seventh works best if time allows. You can also rotate days doing 5 days on and two days off (which leaves the weekends off), or three days on, one day off, 2 days on, and one day off (which allows for Thursday and Sundays off).

  • Hardgainers benefit most from doing two days on, one day off, one day on, and one day off. Alternatively, they can also do just workout Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, doing each workout just once per week.

Four Day Split

In this split, the whole body is worked over a period of four days:

Day 1 - Chest/Back

Day 2 - Thighs/Hamstrings

Day 3 - Shoulders/Calves

Day 4 - Biceps/Triceps/Abs

Training Notes

  • Because this workout splits the body over four days, you can do more sets for each muscle group. This split is better suited for a more advanced bodyuilder. As a good rule of thumb, you can perform 12-15 sets for the big body parts (Chest, Back, Thighs, Hamstrings, Shoulders) and 12 sets for the little ones (Abs, Calves, Biceps, Triceps). More genetically gifted bodybuilders may be able to get away with more, but this amount works for most.

  • Frequency wise, four days on and one day off is good for mass gains.

  • If you are looking for fat loss, four days on and one day off works well also.

  • Hardgainers benefit most from doing two days on, one day off, two days on, and two day off.

For sample workouts that use the antagonistic muscles workout split, please take a look at the sample bodybuilding routines to the upper right or below.

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