When it comes to training, it’s about a lot more than just picking up some heavy weight and putting it back down.
All sorts of variables can affect the results of your hard work, including: training volume, load, intensity and frequency.
One of the most important variables is exercise sequencing aka the order in which you perform your exercises for the day.
Supersets are one of the most popular techniques and something I utilize and program for clients frequently.
What Is A Superset?
Simply put, a superset is when you perform exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. So instead of doing an exercise and then resting, you would perform another exercise followed by a period of rest after the second exercise. It is best used while you are in a hypertrophy or a fat loss phase.
Supersets have a number of benefits including:
- TIME: Doing 2 exercises back to back with little to no rest is much more time efficient than doing each individual exercise for the prescribed sets and reps. You can get more done in less time by using supersets in your training.
- HYPERTROPHY: The reason it’s so beneficial for muscle building is because they create the biological and hormonal environment necessary for muscle building. By using the “rest period” of one exercise to do another exercise it pretty much serves as “active recovery” for each other. This provides that extra level of both pump and fatigue that triggers the physiological processes that encourage muscle growth.
- FAT LOSS: When you superset your heart rate stays elevated for a longer period of time before resting which results in greater overall calorie burn.
- POSTURE: When done properly, supersets can help improve posture and joint health by avoiding over flexion of different joints.
How To Build A Good Superset
There are a few different ways that you can pair supersets for maximum functionality.
Compound + Isolation
This one is common in the body building space, it focuses on really burning out the muscle being worked here. You start by doing a compound exercise at a heavy weight and follow that by an isolation exercise at a lighter weight for more reps! Here are some examples:
Floor Bench 3×6
DB Bridge Flies 3×12
Banded Front Raises 3×15
Compound + Accessory
This one is kind of similar to the prior example, except we follow up the compound movement with the accessory muscle associated with that movement. Here are some examples.
Pendelay Row 3×6
Banded Hammer Curls 3×15
Landmine Squats 3×6
Frog Pumps 3×15
This is easily a favorite of mine, and one I program often. This is a big change of pace from the previous example because it allows your muscles to stretch out while you train the opposing muscle group.
This also helps prevent overuse injuries that often occur from constant flexion or protraction (pinched shoulders from benching too much?) Here are some of my favorite examples.
Deficit Push Ups 3×8
Chest Supported Lateral Raises 3×10
DB Feet Together Squat 3×8
DB Bulgarian RDL 3×10/side
Full Body Opposing Movements
So we are again focusing on push pull differences here but instead it’s going to be across the whole body. Another way to look at it is one exercise to train your posterior (back side muscles) chain and another to train your anterior chain (front side muscles).
What we’re teaching here is that changing this to a posterior-anterior superset may be more likely to improve performance, feel better on your joints, avoid bad posture cues, and indirectly improve aesthetic results as a cumulative benefit. Examples below.
Goblet Box Squats 3×8
When Shouldn’t You Superset?
Supersetting effectively reduces or eliminates any rest periods and as a result is not best if your goals are to increase muscular strength or power where complete recovery between sets is essential to training for those.