BODY TRAINING WITH ANTAGONISTIC SUPERSETS
Magazine, December 1989
Dave Draper. Property of Weider Publications
so many years in the gym, there are many factors I need to consider
in the course of achieving results. Most important is my conviction
that the body is a functional entity. It was built to be used,
and its function is in its systemic movement - different muscle
groups working together in a coordinated fashion - rather than
separately in clumsy, isolated motion.
I want to
be attracted to working out, not forced to enter the gym as part
of day-to-day regimentation. Anyone who trains should have something
that builds his enthusiasm and keeps successive workouts interesting
so there is a positive anticipation.
of antagonistic supersets does all this for me. It's really a
nice way to train. Not only that, but it allows me to accomplish
the most in the shortest period. Antagonistic supersets provide
a constant, rapid pulse to your training in which little time
is spent between sets. You do not prepare extensively for the
next set. You work at restoring your breath without letting the
blood subside from the muscle area or allowing the burn to diminish
or waiting for your heartbeat to go down as powerlifters do or
preparing for an identical following set. The variety, the mingled
sets, keeps you eager.
I train six
days a week, with chest and back on day one, shoulders and arms
on day two, legs on day three, tackling two of these cycles before
taking a day off. Often, I'll change the variety of exercises,
but no matter what they are, they overlap workout days with movements
that hit the same bodypart. Admittedly, there's some conflict
there in terms of recuperation, but as long as you keep in mind
good nutrition and timely rest, it remains a valid concept.
There is also
a manner of working every bodypart four times a week wherein they
overlap. This, too, requires a sensitivity to overtraining in
that while I'm concentrating on chest and back, the movements
and superset combinations I'm using also work my shoulders and
arms. The only real day I get to lay off from the upper body is
when I work legs.
two out of four weeks will find me backing off, in that I will
detect the hints of overtraining. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
in those weeks will be very intense, but the next three days will
diminish in intensity, or I might sustain intensity until Friday,
when I may condense the last two workouts and have two days to
rest instead of one. There is a scheme to it: I'll never know
what Friday I'll condense my workout into a Friday-Saturday session
or continue to push on into Saturday. It has to be played by all
my feelings depending on my eating habits, the stress in my life,
the intensity of my workouts or what I'm looking for that time
of year. I do find that, because of my longevity in the sport,
I'm able to detect these factors more intuitively.
and back day, this is one possible superset combination: a tri-set
of a) dumbbell inclines, b) dumbbell pullovers and c) seated lat
rows. The antagonistic principle illustrated here is the pushing
movement for the chest and higher angle of the inclines on the
chest and shoulders, combined with additional triceps work and
the stretching movement of the pullovers (which also get the upper
back, deltoids and triceps again), all complemented by the pulling
motion from the seated lat cable (which hits the rhomboids, spinatus,
rear deltoids, spinalis, erectors, the full length of the lats,
mid-back and upper back).
presses are done conventionally, but pullovers are from a longitudinal
position on the bench, stiff-armed to get a good stretch as far
back as possible, then pulling upward and forward, sometimes bringing
the dumbbell down over my abdominal region to work my upper back
and front deltoids. It's a very complete, full-ranged movement.
So far, lots
of oxygen is being used, since these are done heavy with high
reps - 15 for the inclines and 12 for the pullovers - and a lot
of blood is being moved through the body. I've burned myself out
on the pressing, but I've restored my respiration doing the pullovers.
Now I'm getting a good wind back, so I go to the seated lat row.
Here, it's not pushing but pulling, and I find this a very compatible
movement with the previous ones, and it really keeps the blood
full to the upper body - into my chest, my seratus (from the pullovers),
upper lats, lots of longitudinal triceps, biceps, peripheral pec
area and front delts.
lat pulls, I lean far foward, arch my back, throw out my chest
and bring the cable all the way into my mid-section, tugging it
in tight, really contracting the rhomboids, until I can feel it
throughtout my entire torso. The high reps make this tri-set tough;
it's not a race but more like a locomotive - very steady with
plenty of concentration and thought in between each set to recover
For my next
combination, I break away from supersetting momentarily and do
one-arm dumbbell rows, standing, with my free hand resting on
my knee and the other hand pulling in a full-range motion up into
my hip area. With each pull I can alter it somewhat - maybe five
reps into my hip and five a little higher into my shoulder to
get the rear deltoid and upper back. Here, I perform four sets
of 8 to 12 reps up the rack.
followed by semistiff-legged deadlifts, an exercise I feel is
fundamental in the overall strengthening and muscularizing of
the body. In my training, it's a practical, everyday way to make
the body more powerful realistically than to merely make it appear
I like to do with my body: use it. That's why I love woodworking
- applying myself to making massive furniture, because in that
I have useful reason for my body - not just to walk the streets
in tank tops.
deadlifts, I'm standing on a block and getting a good stretch
in my hamstrings. My knees are slightly bent. It gets everything
- back, traps, hamstrings, quads, forearms from the grip. Here,
I do four sets of 12.
Next are standing
one-arm cable crossovers supersetted with one-arm cable pulls.
For cable pulls, I'll go down to my knees and position myself
relative to the cable where I can get a good stretch in my lat,
pulling the cable into my hip so I'm now getting a pump on the
same side from both of these movements before switching to the
other. As I slowly pull the cable back, I tug it into my hip,
turning my body at the same time to bring into play plenty of
lat action. With these two movements you get the chest and lat
together, all without releasing the handle. I get 12 reps each
way, then I go to the other side of my body.
combination for this bodypart is wide-grip chins supersetted with
dips, four sets each, with 8 to 10 reps for chins and 12 to 15
for dips. Chins are either behind the neck or in front; dips are
either weighted or with bodyweight. Dips work the triceps and
some serratus, but I can really feel them in the rhomboids if
I situate myself in the correct hanging position.
alternative superset combination would be bench presses with wide-grip
pulldowns. I'm willing to try any combination of bodyparts, although
I'm not fond of pushing one day and pulling the next, primarily
because I love working biceps and triceps together. Certainly
I can be taught a few things, and I really appreciate the theories
behind some of the approaches, but I haven't been able to apply
them and feel comfortable.
and arms day begins with forearms, gripping the Olympic bar on
my knees with my thumbs under the first 15 reps, then released
to let my fingers extend with the bar for another 6 to 8. I have
to be careful to not overtrain or tear an insertion.
followed immediately by Zottman curls - palms forward, curling
up and in - for 6 to 8 reps. These get the belly of the biceps
and the brachialis, and strengthen the wrist and cap muscles.
Then I will throw the dumbbell overhead and superset triceps extensions
for 5 reps, followed by an actual dumbbell pressing movement for
5 reps. This constitutes a long giant set, beginning with the
forearms and ending with pressing (three-four sets each), but
it enhances durability and vascularity.
Next are reverse-grip
cambered bar curls for 8 reps, then I put the bar down and grab
an underhand grip and do another six reps. These are followed
by French presses with first a regular grip, then a reverse grip
to complete the superset, 12 to 15 reps, five sets.
The next superset
is a tri-set of regular dumbbell curls followed by overhead triceps
extensions with a dumbbell, seated with my back supported, followed
by overhead pulley extensions. Again five sets of 12.
it's a behind-the-neck press supersetted with a standing upright
hammer raise in which I bring the dumbbell from a hanging position
to straight before me to overhead, working lots of front delt,
chest, biceps and forearm. It's a heavy movement with good thrust
in it, somewhat of a clean with one dumbbell but keeping your
arm as stiff and straight as possible. You go up the rack, and
as you do so, the more you'll compromise in bending your arm slightly,
but it involves the deltoid, trapezius, biceps and entire back.
The next superset
is bent over laterals, bringing a lot of back into play, followed
with a lying side-arm lateral raise.
it's extensions for 18 to 20 reps supersetted with leg curls for
12 to 15 reps, four or five sets each. These are followed by squats
for 12 to 15 reps, staying with one weight, supersetted with leg
presses for 20 to 25 reps with a variety of foot positions. Again,
four or five sets each.
is the superset base from which I work, I experiment constantly
with different combinations, changing even from one workout to
the next, training instinctively and trying whatever I think might
work best for that day. Sometimes they might be giant sets with
four or five different exercises.
gets old, I just go to the gym and get something moving and start
any combination of things. I give myself a wide margin for combinations,
and it inevitably falls into place.
For the past
few years, this approach has been popular with me, but I always
look back and try to come up with others that were effective,
more productive and more condensed. Nothing achieves that total
blood-gorged feeling like supersetting. The technique seems to
offer a richness of benefits that no other approach can equal:
namely, size, muscularity, practical strength and freedom from
injuries. The proof for supersetting's validity is there.