We’ve all heard the term used, and I’m sure many of you are already incorporating these into your regular training routine, however, we still get a number of emails each month asking us about supersets and how to effectively incorporate them into a workout.
The truth is that there are many different varieties of supersets, each having a specific (and different) benefit to your muscle growth plans. The concept is to shock your body into new growth by breaking your normal patterns. In general, supersets are great for muscularity, but not so much for building strength. This is because you often need to use less weight for these exercises as there is less (ie. zero) time for rest and recovery in between. A superset is by defintion:
Two different exercises performed back-to-back with no rest in between.
Supersets should never eclipse your regular workout routine, and will lead to over-training if not used properly. The most useful way to integrate supersets into your workout is to use them when it counts – when you notice a plateau of a certain muscle group or when you need to overcome a slow day at the gym.
When completing a superset, your muscle groups never really get a chance to rest. So even though you may be working on your quads, your hamstrings are still helping you control and stabilize during the exercise. When it’s the hamstrings turn up to bat, they have already warmed up and are ready to go. The result is that more blood is being rushed to these muscles (not to mention a huge spike in testosterone), giving you a superior pump in a short amount of time.
Working opposing muscle groups helps you lengthen while you strengthen. Adding an exercise’s full range of motion to your supersets will give you increased flexibility. Increased flexibility means that you are less prone to injury. It also helps reduce muscle recovery time by preventing excessive muscle tightening that occurs during muscle contractions.
The Varieties of Supersets
It’s a common myth that supersets can only be performed by working opposing muscle groups. Not true! There are a number of different types of supersets, each with it’s own benefit.
- Opposing Muscle Groups – The most common type of superset, likely because it allows you to build strength and size. Unlike some of the other varieties, opposing muscle supersets allow you to “rest” one group while you’re performing the other exercise (even though they are still back-to-back with no rest in between).
- Compound Superset – Not a popular choice. Because of the difficulty of each exercise you open yourself up to both over-training as well as injury.
- Pre-exhaustion Supersets – Targeting the same muscle group by starting with an isolation exercise, followed by a compound exercsie which will work the “exhausted” muscle along with other muscle groups.
- Isolation Supersets – The combination of two isolation exercises.
- Staggered Superset – The combination of a compound exercise with an isolation exercise of a completely different group.
Find below a few examples of supersets, feel free to create your own, but remember – no rest in between, keep proper form even if it means less weight, and avoid over-training at all costs!
Bicep Curl + Tricep Kickbacks
Front Squats + Leg Extensions
Bench Press + Cable Crossovers
Upright Cable Rows + Seated Dumbell Presses
Behind Neck Press + Rear Dumbbell Flys
Incline Dumbbell Curls + Hammer Curls
Decline Bench Press + Incline Bench Press