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The biceps and triceps are paired during barbell curls.
The term "antagonist muscle" makes it sound as if your muscles are fighting each other. In fact, the opposite is true. Your muscles are designed to work together to make a variety of movements possible. If you're a regular exerciser, you're probably aware that arm curls, including the standing barbell curl, target your biceps. Knowing which muscle relaxes when your biceps are hard at work can help you decide which exercises to perform before and after you do barbell curls.
During a barbell curl, your biceps are working hard. The antagonist to the biceps is your triceps.
Understand Antagonist Muscles
Muscles work in pairs to complete any movements you wish to make. Individually, a muscle pulls part of your body in a certain direction by contracting, but the muscle can't push in the opposite direction. Instead, another muscle - the second part of the pair - takes over to perform the opposite move. When you perform leg extensions, for example, your quadriceps are the active, or agonist, muscles, while the hamstrings are the antagonist muscles, which lengthen while the quads contract. The roles are reversed when you perform hamstring curls.
The biceps and triceps are paired muscles when you do standing barbell curls - or any other arm curl versions. The biceps contracts as you lift the bar, making it the agonist. The triceps lengthens when the biceps contracts, making the triceps the antagonist. As a result, you may wish to perform a triceps exercise immediately before or after you do curls.
Appreciate the Antagonist
Without an antagonist muscle for a particular motion, you could only move in one direction, with no way to control your motion along the opposite path. If your triceps somehow vanished while you performed arm curls, for example, you couldn't lower the weight under control.
Use Proper Form
Observing an exercise's motion lets you determine which muscle or group is the agonist and which serves as the antagonist. To perform a barbell curl, stand erect and hold the barbell with your arms extended downward and your palms facing forward. Bend your elbow to raise the bar toward your shoulders - trying to move nothing other than your forearms - and then lower the bar under control to the starting position.
Know the Benefits
Curls are classic go-to exercises for people who want to build their upper arms. When you do curls, you also strengthen another upper-arm muscle, the brachialis, as well as the brachioradialis, which extends from your upper to the lower arm. Additionally, muscles in your forearms, upper back and shoulders help stabilize your movements.