Have you ever before read a blog post, or heard people talking in the gym, around muscle agonists/antagonists and also wondered what lock mean? I’d favor to aid you out with that. In this short blog post, I simply want to bring your attention to some typically used lingo to make you a more informed climber. I’ll provide you a simple example, define what agonists and also antagonists are, and also then talk about two climbing-specific examples. But first, here are a few other clarifications.

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Skeletal Muscle Function:

Skeletal muscles develop movement by pulling on our skeleton. A muscle is usually linked to 2 bones, and when the muscle contracts, it bring one bone closer to the other (and just to be clear, a muscle contraction is a fancy way of speak “flex” together in “flex her muscle.”) when one bone is brought closer to another, this create movement.

Concentric, Eccentric, and Isometric Muscle Contractions:

There room three types of muscle contractions that us will issue ourselves v here:


Concentric muscle contractions are when a muscle is shortened.Eccentric muscle contractions are as soon as a muscle is lengthened.Isometric muscle contractions are when a muscle is not moving, yet held in continuous length.

To give an instance we require to focus on one muscle therefore we protect against confusion. Let’s take it the Biceps Brachii (biceps) for example, and also discuss a biceps curly exercise. When you elevator the load up, friend flex in ~ the elbow, pass the forearm closer come the upper arm, and shorten the biceps. This is a concentric muscle activation. When you slowly lower the weight back down in a regulated fashion, you lengthen the biceps, expanding at the elbow, and also move the forearm far from the upper arm. This is an eccentric muscle activation. When you hold the weight at 90˚ that flexion without moving it, her biceps is isometrically activated.

Osteokinematics – Actions in ~ the Joints:

In bespeak to move the body, you need to move your skeleton’s joints. A share will have actually at the very least two muscles crossing it to have the ability to move in either direction (assuming it only has two directions.) stop again look in ~ the elbow joint due to the fact that it is a straightforward hinge joint with only one plane of motion. When you “bend your elbow,” you decrease the angle between the forearm and upper arm. This is flexion the the joint, and the biceps brachii is energetic to perform the motion. When you “straighten your arm,” increasing the angle between the forearm and upper arm, this is expansion of the joint, and the triceps brachii is active to perform the motion.


Agonists and also Antagonists:

When pointing out movement in ~ a joint, the muscle performing the activity on one side of the share is dubbed the agonist, and also the muscle ~ above the various other side of the joint through the potential to protest the action is dubbed the antagonist. Usually agonists and also antagonists are just opposites. In ours elbow joint example, let’s look in ~ flexion and extension separately. Once we flex the elbow, the biceps is the agonist since is causes the elbow to flex. The triceps is the antagonist because it is top top the opposite side of the elbow joint and also has the potential to protest the elbow flexion. Now, if we room talking around active elbow extension, the triceps is the agonist because it reasons the action, and also the biceps is the antagonist. This might sound confusing so let me clarify. One muscle deserve to be the agonist because that one movement, however the antagonist for one more movement. It simply depends top top what you discussing. Yet that’s basically it: The agonist muscle contract to execute the motion, and also the antagonist muscle deserve to oppose the motion. These terms are simply a construct to aid us talk around biomechanics, yet I hope that now it’s a little bit clearer. Agonist and antagonist muscles just oppose each other’s action. Think of it more simply as “opposing muscle groups.”

In these two pictures below, we view the forearm flexors and extensors each as a whole group. They space opposing muscles groups, and also either work as agonists or antagonists for a offered movement. Lock can likewise work together synergists to accomplish an overall goal. Ns will sophisticated on the in the next section.


Agonists and also Antagonists functioning Together:

Realistically, motion is never a pure feeling of agonist vs. Antagonist, however instead the exists an ext like a collective effort to accomplish an action. To usage a climbing-specific example, once you hold a crimp on the wall, her finger and wrist flexors room working overtime to store you ~ above the hold. But what you might not notice is that your wrist extensor muscles are likewise firing to save your wrist at the optimal angle for maximum grip strength. This angle is roughly 30-35 levels of wrist extension.1 so in this case, it’s a static hold (isometric muscle contraction) where the muscle group on one side of the joint works together with the muscle on the various other side to carry out the task. In this case, friend could contact them synergists. The flexors are the main muscles flexing her fingers and keeping friend on the wall, and also the wrist extensors are active to oppose extreme wrist flexion (and keeping optimal wrist flexion because that max grip.) If it weren’t because that the extensor muscles, her wrist would simply fold into full flexion, and also you deserve to imagine how ineffective that would certainly be because that climbing (see picture below.) This is why it’s crucial to carry out exercises that promote wrist extensor strengthening, come ensure a suitable muscular balance and healthy climbing! climbers who have actually over-bearing forearm flexor muscle in relation to the extensor muscle (especially new climbers that are currently addicted come climbing,) room at a hazard of occurring elbow pain. Stay tuned. I’ll execute a different blog post about that problem in the close to future.


Don’t Forget Those Triceps!

For the second climbing-specific example, I wanted to mention one more opposing muscle group balance that is necessary for every climber. Mountain climbing are an extremely biceps-dominant as result of the nature and mechanics of our sport. If you’ve ever before seen a video or picture of Tommy Caldwell through a twin undercling ~ above El Cap, he’s basically bicep curling the earth (see screenshot below). Yet it’s additionally the basic movement of pulling increase on a hold. You demanding a lot of your elbow flexors to perform the task, so the is imperative that you likewise strengthen your triceps muscles to keep a healthy balance overall. There are numerous climbing methods that require heavy triceps activity like mantles, and pushing native a gaston, yet this guideline to strengthen her triceps is directed more toward injury prevention and avoiding muscle inequalities in your body. So once you’re in ~ the gym no forgetting foot day, don’t forget those triceps either.

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I expect this brief post was helpful, and if you have any type of other questions, nothing hesitate to email me. And also if you rise at Mesa in salt in san Diego, come take me in ~ the gym come chat!

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Neumann DA, Kelly ER, Kiefer CL, Martens K, Grosz CM. Kinesiology the the Musculoskeletal System : foundations for Rehabilitation.