Supersets are one of the most common training techniques. You may (or may not) have performed them during your workouts and current/previous transformation challenges.
Regardless, supersets are one of the most effective ways to train, especially if you’re limited on time and equipment.
Today, we’ll discuss what are supersets and why should you do them as well as the best way to use supersets in your workouts.
What Are Supersets?
While the term may conjure up thoughts of superhuman strength or muscle gain, supersets merely refer to performing two exercises back-to-back with little-to-no rest between them.
The benefit of performing supersets is that you are able to complete more total volume in a given amount of time compared to performing “straight sets” whereby you perform one set of an exercise, rest for 1-3 minutes, perform another set of that same exercise, rest another 1-3 minutes, and perform yet another set.
Afterwards, you move onto another exercise.
Benefits of Supersets
The advantage of supersets is that you’re able to stack two (or more) exercises together before taking a longer rest and starting your next set(s) of hard training. This helps complete more total volume in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional resistance-training programs.
Additionally, since you’re taking less rest between sets, you’re keeping your heart rate elevated, helping to burn more calories and fat without sacrificing your ability to build muscle and strength.
Supersets also make lighter weights feel heavier, which is great for individuals who train at home and may not have access to the same amount of heavy weights and machines available at commercial gyms.
Different Types of Supersets
Traditionally, supersets are performed between two opposing (“antagonistic”) muscle groups (e.g. chest & back, biceps & triceps, quadriceps & hamstrings, etc.).
Agonist-antagonist supersets are one way to perform supersets, but they aren’t the only way.
For instance, you can also perform “compound supersets” wherein you perform two exercises for the same muscle groups, such as bench presses followed by chest flyers or leg presses followed by leg extension.
This pairing is an exceptionally good way to hammer a single muscle group, which helps shorten time spent in the gym (without sacrificing results) as well as make lighter weights feel heavier (beneficial for those with a history of injury as well as those with limited weight availability).
Upper lower supersets combine an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, such as bench press followed by squats or pull ups supersetted with hamstring curls. This type of superset offers better rest and recovery for a muscle group and has the added benefit of delivering a full-body workout, optimal anytime but especially when you’re pressed for time or training in a crowded gym.
Strength & Mobility/Abs Superset
Strength and mobility supersets pair a strength-building exercise performed with a heavy weight and low reps with a mobility exercise to improve technique, recovery, or an overlooked muscle group (obliques, gluteus medius, etc.).
Examples of strength & mobility supersets include:
- Overhead press
- Wall angels
- 90/90 hip switch
- Bench Press
- Hanging leg raies or ab wheel rollouts
Downsides of Supersets
Training with limited rest, even when training non-competing muscle groups, can be challenging for individuals who are used to training with longer rest periods (3-5 minutes between sets) as well as those with less cardiovascular conditioning.
If you’re new to supersets, make sure to take your time working into this new training paradigm. It can take several weeks worth of workouts to build up the cardiovascular endurance to be able to train intensely with shorter rest periods.
#2 Submaximal Strength Development
Supersets are great for building muscle, burning fat, and getting stellar results with limited time. However, if you’re interested in certain other facets of athleticism, supersets may not be the best fit. In particular, we’re referring to maximum strength or power output.
Max strength development is an entirely different pursuit, and it requires structuring your training, rest, eating, and recovery for that goal.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t build strength when performing supersets, you absolutely can! But, you cannot build “maximal” strength. So, if you’re looking to increase your 1-RM, then you may want to choose a training program specifically designed for increasing your 1-rep max.
Overtraining occurs when an individual performs more training volume in a given timeframe than their muscles and nervous system are able to sufficiently recover from. This is a common mistake among individuals who start a new training program after a period of being sedentary.
Overtraining can also occur with individuals moving from a lower volume training program to a higher volume training program, such as 5x5 to German Volume Training (GVT).
Given that supersets typically include more training volume in a shorter amount of time, overtraining (or under-recovering) may happen.
To help limit the possibility of this happening, make sure to rest when you’re feeling exhausted, get enough sleep, consume enough calories and protein, and tweak your training program to fit your current level of fitness.
Supersets are a fantastic way to build muscle, burn calories, lose body fat, and get results, no matter if you’re training at home, on the road, or in a new gym. If you’re new to using supersets, then consider the tips and pointers outlined above as well as log onto the 1UP Fitness App, where you can get customized training and nutrition to fit your needs, goals, and equipment availability.
Finally, make sure to stay on top of your pre-workout and post workout nutrition when performing supersets as they can aid recovery from intense training. We suggest using an intra-workout supplement (such as 1UP Pre with a scoop of Tri-Carb intra-workout) as well as a scoop of 1UP Protein Powder after training. They supply your body with key nutrients to optimize performance and recovery, helping you to consistently hit the gym, crush your workouts, and get the results you want!