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Opposing muscle groups are muscles that work together to perform an action, or just to move your body. They’re also often referred to as antagonistic pairs. When carrying out a movement, one muscle contracts and the other lengthens to allow it all to happen.


What are the main opposing muscles?

The main groups that we commonly hear about are:

  • Biceps and Triceps (either side of the upper arm)
  • Quadriceps and Hamstrings (either side of the upper leg)
  • Deltoids and Latissimus Dorsi (shoulders and upper back)
  • Pectoralis Major and Trapezius/Rhomboids (upper chest and upper back)
  • Abdominals and Erector Spinae (stomach and lower back)
  • Iliopsoas and Gluteus Maximus (front and back of the hip)
  • Hip Adductor and Gluteus Medius (inside and outside of the hip)


Why should I train opposing muscle groups together?

By strengthening just one of a pair of opposing muscles in isolation, the other tends to lengthen and weaken. That’s why it’s important to do some opposing muscle group exercises to keep them both strong. Any type of imbalance can cause injury, so keeping strength balanced is important for the body.


What opposing muscle group exercises should I be doing?

The majority of exercises we do in the gym are compound exercises, meaning that they work more than one muscle at a time. Just being aware of the opposing muscle groups and having a varied range of compound exercises up our sleeve can be enough to make sure we’re giving ourselves a balanced workout.

For example, the quadriceps and the hamstrings are fairly easy to engage simultaneously. Deadlifts, lunges and the humble squat all involve the contraction of both muscles.

For the upper body, the pull-up not only works both the biceps and triceps but also engages the forearms, trapezius, latissimus dorsi and pectorals.

Isolating muscles with particular exercises such as bicep curls are great to address pre-existing muscle imbalances. But, they can also cause them in the first place if we spend too much time strengthening one muscle without considering its counterpart.


So, the key to making sure all your muscle groups are strong and balanced is keeping compound exercises at the core of your regular routine. Keep it regular and add variety when possible. 

Time to test it all out.