Best Muscle Groups to Workout Together (+Workouts)

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // March 13, 2024

Training opposing muscle groups together works the front and back part of an area on your body at the same time, which promotes strength, stability, and even muscle growth.

As a fitness expert, one of the most common questions people have when they first start strength training is, “What muscle groups do I work out together?

Whether you’re just getting started strength training or you’ve been in the groove for a while, it’s important to be educated on getting the most out of your workouts. I recommend training opposing muscle groups (agonists and antagonists) together because they work together for many of the movements we make, and it’s way more efficient.

Simply put, you are working both the front and the back of one particular area of your body within the same session. This training strategy also helps you create a plan to target different areas of your body on different days of the week while still providing necessary rest periods.

So I put together four opposing muscle group workouts with a few of my favorite combinations to exercise together:

  • Workout #1: Chest and Back
  • Workout #2: Quads and Hamstrings
  • Workout #3: Biceps, Triceps, and Shoulders
  • Workout #4: Glutes and Abdominals

These strategic muscle group workouts will help build muscle and promote overall strength and sculpting!


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    Muscle Groups Workout #1: Chest & Back

    This opposing muscle groups workout will target your chest and back muscles to strengthen and tone your upper body.

    Chest & Back Workout Instructions:

    1. Grab a medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells in a weight that allows you to complete the workout while providing a little challenge (somewhere between 8-15 lbs). I typically use 12 lb dumbbells when working my upper body!
    2. Complete the exercises below in a circuit format, performing each exercises for a total of 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
    3. The 15 second rest period allows to you catch your breath and prep for the next movement.

    1. Chest Fly

    The chest fly is a great strength training exercise that targets your chest and shoulder muscles.

    How to Perform a Chest Fly:

    1. Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor and hold dumbbells straight up over chest.
    2. With a slight bend in the elbow, slowly open arms wide out to the side. 
    3. Squeeze your chest as you bring the weights back together at the top. 
    4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

    2. Renegade Row

    The renegade row is a compound exercise that targets your back, shoulder, and core muscles simultaneously. You’ll feel your muscles burning, and your heart rate go up!

    Chris Freytag demonstrating how to perform renegade rows

    How to Perform a Renegade Row:

    • Begin in a full plank with dumbbells in hands, arms extended, and toes (kneeling variation is fine if you are not able to do a full plank). Engage your abdominals drawing the belly inward towards your spine.
    • Pull the right dumbbell up toward right hip bone keeping the weight close to your side. Slowly return it to the floor and repeat with the left dumbbell.

    3. Push-Up

    The push-up is the holy grail of strength moves because it targets several muscle groups in one efficient exercise. The chest, aka your pectorals, are the focus but you also use your shoulders, triceps and core.

    Chris Freytag demonstrating how to perform push-ups

    How to Perform a Push-Up:

    • Begin in a plank position with hands below shoulders, legs long behind you, and body contracted to hold your spine in a straight line.
    • With elbows pointing slightly back, bend elbows and slowly begin to lower your body until you are just above the ground. Keep your gaze over your fingertips and body in a straight line.
    • As you exhale, tighten your belly and then push yourself back up to a plank position. That is one repetition.

    4. Reverse Grip Double Arm Rows 

    The reverse grip double arm row exercise targets the back muscles, which is an often-overlooked muscle group in women and will help improve your posture.

    Chris Freytag demonstrating reverse grip double arm rows

    How to Perform a Reverse Grip Double Arm Rows:

    • Start with legs together and sit back into a slight squat engaging abdominal. Arms are in front of the body holding dumbbells at hip height with palms facing the ceiling.
    • Draw elbows back past hips gently hugging the side body so you feel lats and triceps engage and return forward with control.

    5. Chest Press

    The chest press is a class move that targets your chest muscles with shoulders and arms being the helper muscles.

    Chris Freytag demonstrating how to perform a chest press

    How to Perform a Chest Press:

    • Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Elbows are bent and dumbbells start at shoulder height.
    • Extend arms fully pressing away from your chest. Then, slowly lower to start position.

    6. Overhead Pull

    The overhead pull exercise effectively targets your back muscles. For your information, this is my personal favorite back exercise!

    Chris Freytag demonstrating how to perform an overhead pull

    How to Perform an Overhead Pull:

    • Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Arms are extended above the chest to start. Engage your abdominals.
    • Lower dumbbells past your head keeping arms mostly straight with elbows slightly bent.
    • Keeping abdominals tight, raise dumbbells back to start. The low back should stay firm against the floor throughout.

    Repeat this circuit three times for a complete 20-minute upper-body workout!

    Muscle Groups Workout #2: Quads & Hamstring

    This opposing muscle group workout focuses on the quads and hamstrings and it will get your legs pumping while improving strength, stability, and performance.

    The goal of this lower body workout is to target the quad and hamstring muscles together and to find fatigue in the lower half of your body.

    If you get to the last couple of reps and you feel like you can’t do one more, that’s exactly where you should be. However, if you come to the last couple of reps and feel like you could do more, pick up heavier weights!

    Quads and Hamstrings Workout Instructions:

    1. You will need a set of medium-to-heavy dumbbells. AI would personally grab a set of 12 or 15 lb dumbbells, but anywhere between 8 lb and 20 lb dumbbells would be recommended depending on your level of fitness.
    2. Complete 12 repetitions per exercise and repeat the entire workout a total of 3 times!

    1. Basic Squat

    The basic squat is a fundamental lower body exercise that targets your glutes, quads (thighs) and hamstrings (back of the legs).

    Chris Freytag performing basic squats

    How to Perform a Basic Squat:

    • Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart. Your hips, knees, and toes should all be facing forward.
    • Bend your knees and extend your buttocks backward as if you are going to sit back into a chair. Make sure that you keep your knees behind your toes and your weight in your heels.
    • Rise back up and repeat.

    2. Deadlift

    The deadlift is a compound weightlifting exercise that engages muscles throughout your body, especially targeting your hamstrings, glutes. Good form is key to keeping it from going into your lower back.

    Chris Freytag performing deadlifts

    How to Perform a Deadlift:

    • Start standing with feet hip-distance apart and then dumbbells resting in front of thighs.
    • Tighten your abdominals and keep a flat back as you bend the knees slightly, lowering the dumbbells towards the floor.
    • Squeeze the glutes and use your hamstrings and legs to lift and return to your upright position.

    3. Alternating Lunges

    The alternating lunge exercise targets lower body muscles while also improving balance and coordination.

    Chris Freytag performing alternating lunges

    How to Perform Alternating Lunges:

    • Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart.
    • Take a large step forward and lower your body toward the floor.  Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
    • Push off the front leg to rise back up to start, and repeat on the other side.
    • Perform 6 reps on each side.

    4. Single-Leg Hamstring Bridge (Left Side)

    The single-leg hamstring bride is used to engage your hamstrings and glutes which stabilize the body and improve lower body strength and stability!

    Chris Freytag performing single leg hamstring bridges

    How to Perform a Single-Leg Hamstring Bridge:

    • Lie on back with bent knees hip-distance apart, and feet flat on mat stacked under the knees. Extend one leg long towards the ceiling.
    • Squeeze glutes and lift hips off the mat into a bridge. Lower and lift the hips for the desired number of reps then repeat on another side.

    5. Pistol Squat

    The pistol squat is a bodyweight exercise that challenges your balance, strength, and flexibility in your lower body. This is an advanced exercise so if needed, hold onto a counter or table for stability.

    Chris Freytag demonstrating pistol squats

    How to Perform Pistol Squats:

    • Stand with feet hip-distance apart and extend 1 leg long on the front of the body.
    • Bring hands to hips or the front of your body for balance. Sit back into a squat with weight in the heel of the foot, then slowly stand back up using your glute and hamstring muscles.
    • Repeat for the desired number of reps and switch sides.

    6. Single-Leg Hamstring Bridge (Right Side)

    Complete the same single-leg hamstring bridge you did earlier, but on your right side!

    Chris Freytag performing alternating lunges

    Instructions Reminder:

    • Lie on back with bent knees hip-distance apart, and feet flat on mat stacked under the knees. Extend one leg long towards the ceiling.
    • Squeeze glutes and lift hips off the mat into a bridge. Lower and lift the hips for the desired number of reps then repeat on another side.

    Muscle Groups Workout #3: Biceps, Triceps and Shoulders

    I designed this HIIT upper body muscle group workout to target and strengthen your back, biceps and shoulders in one efficient training program. All you need is dumbbells and your bodyweight!

    Bicep, Tricep and Shoulder Workout Instructions:

    1. Choose a light to heavy set of dummbells (I use anywhere between 10-12 lbs) that you can hold onto for a 20 second internal.
    2. Perform each exercise at the highest level possible for a working interval of 20 seconds, followed by a rest of 10 seconds before moving to the next move.
    3. Repeat the entire training sequence again for a total of 5 intervals (approximately a 20 minute workout)

    Block 1: Bicep Curls, Push Up Punches, Hammer Curls

    Perform each of these exercises for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest before moving to the next exercise:

    1. Bicep Curl
    2. Push Up Punch
    3. Hammer Curl
    Chris Freytag demonstrating bicep, tricep, and shoulder workout moves

    Block 2: Tricep Kickbacks, Tricep Dips, Overhead Tricep Extensions

    Perform each of these exercises for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest before moving to the next exercise:

    1. Tricep Kickback
    2. Tricep Dips
    3. Overhead Tricep Extension
    Chris Freytag demonstrating bicep, tricep, and shoulder workout moves

    Block 3: Overhead Shoulder Presses, Shoulder Front Raises, Renegade Rows

    Perform each of these exercises for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest before moving to the next exercise:

    1. Overhead Shoulder Press
    2. Shoulder Front Raise
    3. Renegade Rows
    Chris Freytag demonstrating bicep, tricep, and shoulder workout moves

    Muscle Groups Workout #4: Glutes & Abdominals

    The ever popular glutes and abdominals muscle groups workout will strengthen your core and firm up your buns while improving posture and overall athletic performance. The glutes and abs are two of the most popular muscles groups to workout together!

    Glute and Abdominal Workout Instructions:

    1. Perform circuit 1.
    2. Complete the burnout round if you still have the energy!

    Circuit 1: Glutes and Abs

    Complete each of the circuit 1 exercises below for 30 seconds each, followed by 15 seconds of rest and rotate through the complete circuit three or four times through:

    1. Cross Behind Lunge (30 Seconds)
    2. Forearm Plank (30 Seconds)
    3. Glute Kicker (30 Seconds)
    4. Full Sit Up (30 Seconds)
    Chris Freytag demonstrating glute and ab workout moves

    Circuit 2: Burnout Exercises

    End your workout by completing the two exercises below to “burnout” or for 30 seconds. Complete this circuit two times through:

    1. Burpees (30 Seconds)
    2. Superman (30 Second Hold)
    Chris Freytag demonstrating glute and ab workout moves

    Muscle Groups to Workout Together: Sample Schedules

    These sample workout schedules will help you plan your week. As I stated below, by working opposing muscle groups together, you can split up your body throughout the week allowing ample rest for each muscle group. Whether you only have time for two days a week or if you can split it up three or four days, the key thing I will always remind you is consistency matters. Stay consistent and work to fatigue and you will see results.

    Opposing Muscle Workouts: 4 Days a Week

    MondayUpper Body: chest and back
    TuesdayLegs: glutes and hamstrings
    ThursdayUpper Body: shoulders and arms
    SaturdayLower Body: glutes and abdominals

    Opposing Muscle Workouts: 3 Days a Week

    Day 1Chest, back (opposing groups), shoulders
    Day 2Biceps, triceps (opposing groups) abs
    Day 3Quads, hamstrings (opposing groups) glutes

    Opposing Muscle Workouts: 2 Days a Week

    We know life is busy so if two strength sessions per week works best in your schedule, divide up the body into the upper and lower body.  Because you are doing more muscle groups in each session, you may do less repetitions or less exercises for each muscle group, which is actually good for beginners. 

    Day 1Upper Body: chest, back, bicep, tricep, shoulders
    Day 2Lower Body and Core: glutes, hamstrings and abs


    How do I know if I’m using enough weight to build muscle?

    You should pick a weight where you feel muscle fatigue by the 15th repetition. It’s the feeling like you can barely do one more rep.  But if you are a beginner, then start lighter and build up to allow your joints and muscles to acclimate. 

    Should I use different weights for different muscle groups?  

    Many of these exercises in our workout are just bodyweight.  But as you get stronger you can add dumbbells.  And yes the larger muscle groups like lower body muscles, chest and back can take heavier weights than your smaller muscle groups like shoulders, biceps and triceps. 

    Which day of the week should I be doing strength training?

    There is no right way to divide up your week. It all depends on your job, lifestyle, and fitness level. It’s a good idea to allow at least one or two days between strength sessions to allow your muscles to recover and repair.  

    What is DOMS?

    Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is muscle pain and stiffness that occurs after strenuous or unusual physical activity.Its the phenomena  that happens as part of s the repair process that happens in your muscles in response to microscopic muscle damage causes by strength training. Often DOMS is worse on Day 2.  

    Fitness, Lower Body Workouts, Strength Workouts, Training Advice, Training Tips, Upper Body Workouts, Workouts

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    on Reply

    highly recommend

    on Reply

    I like to exercise

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    on Reply

    I will either increase the weight and decrease the reps while slowing down and concentrating on each action, or I will decrease the weight and complete more sets.

    on Reply

    Exercise and belly are two very important parts for a beautiful body. But it also takes a long time to be effective. Thank you for sharing.

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      Absolutely :) Here at Get Healthy U we like to think about exercising for strength and exercising for life! We strength train so that we can continue to use our bodies in ways that allow us to feel strong every single day!

    on Reply

    Since my focus is on strength primarily, I usually start my routine with what I need to pay attention to the most (my weakest muscle group) because I have the energy I need to really make an impact, which is my upper body(chest, back, biceps and triceps ). Then some core and legs. As for the number of reps and sets that I do, depending on what is best at that particular moment, either I will up the weight and lower the reps while slow down each movement while really focusing or lower the weight and perform more sets. I go with how I feel and try to squeeze the most out of my routine. I workout presently, 4-5 days a week.

    on Reply

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