Climbing requires the use of various muscles, from the tips of your climbing chalk laden fingers down to the toes inside your rock climbing shoes. So it only makes sense to train every muscle involved in the said sport. However, some climbers often forget to train other muscles not directly utilized in climbing. Enter antagonist training. Doing antagonist workout routines is essential in helping you become a better climber overall.
But what exactly is antagonist training? What makes it so important? What workout routines or exercises can you do to train antagonist muscles? The article below should be able to answer these questions and more.
What Is Antagonist Training?
Antagonist training is a workout routine that targets the antagonist muscles. An antagonist refers to the muscles directly opposite of a muscle you are training. For example, when you are doing biceps curls, you are directly targeting your biceps, making it the agonist muscle. Your triceps then is considered as the antagonist muscle.
Look at your body and notice the arrangement of the muscles. You’ll see that there are muscles located opposite of each other. You have the biceps and triceps, chest and back, quads and hamstrings, and several others.
Some climbers often put too much focus on training their pull muscles like the biceps, back, and others since this is what they mostly use in climbing. But every veteran climber knows that training the push muscles like the triceps, chest, and others (those opposite of the push muscles) are equally as important; hence, the importance of including them in their climbing workout routines.
Keep in mind that antagonist muscles do not always refer to the pull muscles. The concept of agonist and antagonist muscles depends on the type of exercise the athlete is performing. For instance, when doing biceps curls, the agonist muscles are the biceps, while the antagonist muscles are the triceps. On the other hand, when doing triceps extensions, the agonist muscles are the triceps, while the antagonist muscles are the biceps.
The Importance of Training Antagonist Muscles
Training the antagonist muscles is crucial to becoming a successful climber. Even though climbers mostly utilize their pull muscles while climbing (like pulling themselves up or pulling on a climbing rope), this doesn’t mean that you can ignore the push muscles.
For one, training your antagonist muscles is essential in maintaining muscular balance throughout your body. You can’t keep working on your biceps and back only because it will cause an imbalance in strength (not to mention appearance) in your arms and upper torso. An equilibrium in both pull and push muscles will help to improve your overall balance and help make your movements more stable and fluid.
Second, this type of training is also helpful in treating some of the most common climbing injuries. For instance, climbers often suffer injuries in their elbows from repeatedly (sometimes prolonged) hanging on climbing holds. During their rehabilitation, therapists use antagonist muscle training for a well-rounded treatment. They work out muscles like the delts, traps, and other muscles connected to the elbow and its functions.
Lastly, antagonist muscle training is crucial in helping climbers avoid injuries. Exercising both their push and pull muscles will improve their strength and muscular endurance. With more developed muscles, they can reduce the chances of them getting injured while climbing.
So if you are just getting started with rock climbing and are currently planning your climbing workout routines, be sure to include antagonist muscle training in your training regimen.
5 Antagonist Workout Routines and Exercises
There are plenty of antagonist workout routines and exercises that climbers can do to target their antagonist muscles. Outlined below are five of these exercises. They are some of the most effective ways to train for rock climbing and should be part of all climber’s training regimen.
1. Reverse Wrist Curls
Reverse wrist curls are essential in maintaining balance and strengthening the forearm muscles. To do this exercise, follow the steps below.
- Grab a dumbbell and sit on a flat bench. Place your feet flat on the floor and adjust your legs until they form a 90-degree angle and the top of your legs are parallel to the floor.
- Holding the dumbbell, place your arm on top of your leg with your palms facing down. Let your wrist hang over your knee.
- Using your wrists, lift the dumbbell towards the ceiling until it is fully extended or you feel your forearm muscles contract.
- Lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
Pushups are a staple in any athletes’ exercise routine. This helps to train the chest and triceps, two push muscles that don’t usually get trained since most climbing movements involve using the pull muscles such as the back and biceps. This exercise also trains the elbows and shoulder muscles. The pushup may appear to be simple, but it is an essential antagonist workout exercise for climbers.
- Get into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your core tight during the exercise.
- Lower yourself down, still keeping your core tight and your body straight. Maintain control as you lower yourself and keep your arms and elbows close to your body.
- When your chest is at least one inch from the floor, push yourself back up into the plank position.
The farmer’s carry is an exercise that targets the forearm muscles, but it also works other agonist and antagonist muscles of the core, shoulders, and even the legs. To perform the farmer’s carry, follow the steps below.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and place them on the floor beside your feet.
- From a standing position, lower yourself and pick up the dumbbells.
- When you get back to a standing position, roll your shoulders back so that your chest pops out.
- Holding the dumbbells, walk 10 paces forward then turn around and walk back to the starting point.
Just like pushups, dips mainly target the chest and the triceps, which makes it another great antagonist workout. You don’t even need to go to the gym to perform this exercise since you can do it at home using chairs or the edges of a kitchen counter.
- Place two chairs so that they’re facing each other. They should be far enough from each other with the space between them just enough for your outstretched legs.
- Sit on one of the chairs and grab the edges with your hands.
- Raise one leg and prop your feet on the chair in front. Do the same with your other leg so that your legs are outstretched and both feet are on the chair.
- Raise your bum from the chair by pushing your body up with your arms.
- Move slightly forward and lower yourself to the floor. Maintain control while doing so. Continue lowering yourself until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
- Push yourself back up into the original position and repeat.
The wrist extensors are the opposing or antagonist muscles of your wrist flexors. Developing and strengthening your wrist extensors will help increase grip strength and stability. To do this exercise, follow the steps below.
- Get on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Place your hand so that the backside is in contact with the floor and the fingers on both hands are pointing towards each other.
- Roll your hands up into a fist so that you’ll now be resting on your knuckles. Do not put all your weight onto your hands to avoid injury.
- Unroll your hands until you’re back to the starting position.
Q: What are the antagonist muscles?
Antagonist muscles refer to the opposing muscles that are in a relaxed state during an exercise. For example, let's take a look at the bicep curl. In this exercise, the bicep is doing the work; hence, making it the agonist muscle. Meanwhile, the triceps are barely doing any work, making it the antagonist muscle.
Q: What is an agonist and antagonist muscle?
An agonist muscle refers to the muscles that are doing much of the work during an exercise. It is generally the muscle that is being targeted while working out. On the other hand, an antagonist muscle is an opposing muscle that is not being targeted during a workout; thus leaving it in a relaxed state.
Q: What's the difference between agonist and antagonist?
When it comes to training or exercise, the main difference between agonist and antagonist muscles is the role they play. While an agonist muscle provides the force needed to execute the movement, the agonist muscle is either in a relaxed state or functions to slow down or stop the movement.
Globo Surf Overview
We’ve all heard it a million times before: “The best training for climbing is climbing.” Although climbing indeed is a very technical sport and requires specific training in indoor rock climbing gyms or at the crag, climbers need to realize that climbing in itself is not enough. They need to supplement their climbing exercises with muscle-targeting routines like antagonist training. Combining climbing with an antagonist workout routine and overall strength development can immensely help climbers reach their full potential.