What is a superset?
A superset can be slightly different to different people but I am referring to a superset as two different exercises that are alternated between and performed after one another for a given amount of sets, with or without a rest times added. This is instead of the more classic weight training protocol of one exercise alternated with rest periods.
As anyone who has been trained by me, or trained with me knows I am a big fan of incorporating supersets into my workouts. Without them I would have to spend almost twice the time in the gym that I currently do to get the same volume of work done and cover all the areas I want to work on. I currently do 4-5 one hour weight training workouts per week with a little ‘classic’ cardio added on top. This is a lot less time per week working out than a lot of people I speak to who are as keen about fitness as I am, yet I still manage to get good results.
Example of Superset pairs:
Day 1 of my routine works Chest & Back. The first superset I use alternates barbell bench press with chin ups. If you are looking at maximising your time in the gym, super setting opposing muscle groups allows for much shorter rest intervals whilst still allowing adequate recovery time for fatigued muscles. For example, a heavy bench press takes me around 90-120secs to recover from, however if I do a chin up in between bench sets my chest still recovers to a degree whilst working opposing back muscles in the chin up. I can then just add a 45-60sec rest before going back to my bench set. In my program it is written out as:
A1. Bb Chest Press (8reps) x4 sets No rest
A2. Chin Up (8r) x4sets 60sec rest
An example for arm superset
B1. Cable Straight Bar Bicep Curl (12r) x 3 sets No rest
B2. Rope Tricep Pushdown (12r) x3 sets 30sec rest
Supersets can also be used to increase the stress/shock a muscle into adapting by performing two exercises in a row on the same muscle group. e.g. Pairing an Overhead Barbell Press with Dumbbell lateral raises then taking a 90sec rest before repeating. This is a great method when your body is getting used to a current routine but not something I do for the bulk of my sets.
Opposing Muscle Group Superset Benefits:
- More sets done in a given space of time means more exercise can be done per workout
- Higher heart rate maintained throughout session enhancing cardiovascular benefit
- Can allow extended rest periods for muscle groups due to time taken during opposite movement and the shorter rest time adding up to more recovery time than would have been taken in classic lifting
- Less injury, a whole session of pressing movements gives me shoulder pain as the front of my body tightens up, sending blood to my back muscles helps keep my upper torso better balanced and shoulders pain free
There are definitely exercises you should not pair up, for example do not pair a deadlift, or squat with an exercise that fatigues your lower back, your spinal supporting muscles needs to be fresh for these technical lifts. Also do not pair up cleans or snatches as they are already full body movements and you do not want to create a weak link in the lift.
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Author - Tom Peto
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