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Supersets

April 28, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Overview

Supersets involve pairing two exercises and moving from one to the other with little to no rest in between. Supersetting is a great training technique to increase the density of training (performing more work in less time). This increase in training density combined with short rest intervals is a potent formula for significantly boosting muscle hypertrophy, increasing training intensity and improving body composition.


How To Perform

To perform a Superset simply choose any two exercises and perform them one after another without resting. It is important to have the equipment and machines for both exercises close-by and prepared with appropriate weight to eliminate rest time. The typical rep range for Supersets is 8-15 reps per exercise for a total of 16-30 reps across the Superset. There are three main variations of Supersets:

Same Muscle Group Supersets (Compound Supersets)

A Superset that involves using two exercises that target the same muscle group is known as a Compound Superset. Compound Supersets are commonly used to completely exhaust a muscle group and break down the muscle fibres to promote new growth. To perform Compound Supersets simply choose two exercises that target the same muscle group and perform them one after another without any rest. Often the first exercise in a Compound Superset will be a compound exercise, while the second exercise will be an isolation exercise. For example a Shoulder Compound Superset may involve 8-15 reps of a Dumbbell Overhead Press, followed immediately by 8-15 reps of a Dumbbell Lateral Raise. Some examples of Compound Supersets for each muscle group are as follows:

Chest: Barbell Bench Press Superset with Dumbbell Flyes, or Incline Dumbbell Press Superset with Cable Crossovers

Back: Barbell Rows Superset with Chin-ups, or Wide Cable Pulldowns Superset with Cable Pullovers

Shoulders: Dumbbell Press Superset with Dumbbell Lateral Raises, or Barbell Upright Rows Superset with Dumbbell Shrugs

Biceps: Barbell Curls Superset with Cable Concentration Curls, or Incline Dumbbell Curls Superset with Machine Preacher Curls

Triceps: Close Grip Bench Press Superset with Dumbbell Kickbacks, or Overhead Skullcrushers Superset with Cable Triceps Pushdowns

Quads: Barbell Squats Superset with Leg Extensions, or Leg Press Superset with Walking Lunges

Hamstrings: Stiff Leg Deadlifts Superset with Seated Hamstring Curls, or Glute Ham Raises Superset with Standing Hamstring Curls

Calves: Leg Press Calve Raises Superset with Standing Dumbbell Calve Raises, or Standing Machine Calve Raises Superset with Seated Calve Raises

Opposing Muscle Group Supersets (Opposing Supersets)

Supersets that pair opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups such as chest & back, or quads & hamstrings are known as Opposing Supersets. Opposing Supersets can add substantial intensity to stale workouts and significantly shorten workout time. One of Arnold’s favourite Opposing Supersets was to combine chest and back training; he would routinely go back and forth between a variation of the Barbell Bench Press and Chin-Ups with no rest between exercises. Some common Opposing Supersets are as follows:

Chest/Back: Dumbbell Bench Press Superset with Dumbbell Rows, or Cable Flyes Superset with Lat Pulldowns

Quads/Hamstrings: Hamstring Curls Superset with Leg Extensions, or Barbell Squats Superset with Stiff Leg Deadlifts

Biceps/Triceps: Barbell Curls Superset with Skullcrushers , or Biceps Cable Curls Superset with Rope Triceps Pushdowns

Non-Opposing Muscle Group Supersets (Alternate Supersets)

Another less popular variation is to perform Supersets using different muscle groups that are non-opposing, such as chest & biceps or shoulders & calves. These are known as Alternate Supersets. It is common to combine the larger and stronger muscle groups with smaller and weaker muscle groups, or muscle groups that are lagging in development and require additional volume. Some examples of Alternate Supersets are as follows:

Chest/Biceps: Incline Dumbbell Press Superset with Dumbbell Curls

Back/Triceps: Close Grip Cable Rows Superset with Dumbbell Overhead Extensions

Shoulders/Calves: Cable Lateral Raises Superset with Calve Raises


Workout Programming

Supersets considerably increase the intensity and duration of exercises and therefore the potential for CNS burnout and negatively impacting recovery is high. If using Supersets throughout an entire workout for 4-5 combined exercises it is best to program these workouts sporadically, using them as a shock tactic once every 4-6 weeks. If the majority of workouts for each muscle group use conventional straight sets and linear progression combined with 1-2 Superset combinations at the end of a workout, they can be safely utilised consistently for 4-6 week hypertrophy blocks.\


Advantages

Superset training is terribly brutal but also an incredibly time-efficient training method. Training multiple muscle groups in a back-to-back fashion allows the same amount of total work to be completed in a shorter period of time. This is why Supersets are great for when you’re short on time or have less time than usual to complete your workout.

The short rest periods and increased work time, particularly for Compound Supersets, are incredibly effective at increasing lactic acid production, which may help increase acute Growth Hormone (GH) levels resulting in increased muscle size and improved body composition.

Opposing Supersets are a fantastic way to ensure opposing muscle groups are receiving similar workloads to help create an aesthetic and flowing physique. Pressing movements, in particular those involving the chest, are notorious for receiving too much time and attention, whereas back exercises are often neglected. By performing a back exercise followed by a chest exercise in Opposing Superset fashion, the muscles of the back can be worked to their full capacity whilst still providing substantial work for the chest to ensure balance of muscle groups.


Example Workout

(Chest/Back Opposing Superset Workout)

Exercise 1: Barbell Bench Press Superset with Wide Grip Chins

Sets 1-3: Working sets. Using a weight heavy enough to fail at 8-10 reps of Bench Press, go straight into bodyweight Wide Grip Chins aiming for maximum reps to failure

Exercise 2: Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Superset with Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

Set 1-3: Working sets. Using a weight heavy enough to fail at 10-12 reps of Incline Dumbbell Press, go straight into Bent Over Dumbbell Rows aiming for 10-12 reps

Exercise 3: Cable Crossovers Superset with Reverse Grip Lat Pulldowns

Set 1-3: Working sets. Using a weight heavy enough to fail at 12-15 reps of Cable Crossovers, go straight into Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown aiming for 12-15 reps

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