Antagonistic Stretching

I believe it was on this website that I came across an idea of stretching that basically stated you should stretch your antagonistic muscles before you perform a set quick example: stretch tris before doing bi’s. In the article it basically stated that stretching the group about to be used basically caused functional strength to go down. Can anyone point me back to this article? Thanks for your help,


I can’t point you to the article but I can tell you that what you wrote is completely true. Antagonistic exercise pairings do the same thing (e.g. chad waterbury’s programs…)

This is from my article “Bench press battlefield”

Antagonist Stretch

It’s well documented that intense stretching prior to a muscle contraction greatly reduces the force production potential from that contraction. That’s one of the reasons why it’s best to stretch after a workout rather than before it.

We can use this little tidbit of information to our advantage. There’s this thing called antagonist co-contraction which can actually reduce our capacity to lift big weights. How? It’s fairly simple to understand: if an antagonist muscle (a muscle of the opposite function than the target muscle) has a lot of tension in it, it’ll take more force for the agonist muscle to produce a certain movement. For example, if your triceps are contracting, it’ll be harder to curl big weights. The triceps are elbow extensors while the biceps are elbow flexors; the contraction of an extensor will make the flexion harder to do.

So if we can reduce the contraction potential of the antagonist muscles, their level of co-contraction will be less. As a result, the inhibitory effect of the antagonist will be reduced, thus allowing you to lift more weight. If the antagonists are contracting, not only do you have to fight the barbell, you have to fight the antagonist muscles too!

In the bench press, the prime movers and synergists (agonists) are: the anterior deltoids, the triceps, and the pectorals/serratus. So we can conclude that the antagonists are the posterior deltoids, the biceps, and the latissimus dorsi/rhomboids. Now we know that stretching a muscle will reduce its capacity to contract, so stretching the antagonists right before attempting a bench press will facilitate the action of the prime movers and synergists!

While I have found stretching of all sorts to help me with higher rep sets, I have never found that stretching or, even worse, training, an opposing muscle group, like lats before a max or near max bench press attempt to help my strength. It always seems to make things worse. I do not know exactly why this is, but I guess this idea that the muscles of the upper body are paired in simple opposition is probably far to symplistic (as evidence, louie simmons seems to think building the lats is more important than pec training for bench pressing). My advice would be to save the stretching for higher rep sets, and, in that case, having the muscle produce maximum force is no longer an issue, so you might try all the muscle groups beforehand (I find that feeling generally loose is much more helpfull to me before a bodybuilding style workout than only stretching the antagonistic muscle group).

while I’ll have to take your word for it on your own experiences, I disagree strongly with your claim that antogonistic exercise pairings and/or antagonistic stretching does not facilitate the use of greater loads/greater volume…

What Coach Thibaudeau describes above is, I think, pretty well accepted in the strength training community…if i recall correctly, Charles Poliquin’s original German Volume protocol took advantage of the phenomenon, as do a number of programs available on this site. Pavel Tsatsouline has a lot to say about the phenomenon as well, you might do well to read some of his stuff…

I’m sure the experiences of seasoned lifters will corroborate the effectiveness of putting this ‘trick’ to use in your training.