Supersets to Spice Up Your Workouts

Supersets

If you’ve been strength training for a while and feel ready to spice things up, try adding in what’s called a superset. There are a few variations you can play with to get slightly different benefits; overall, a superset allows you to boost the intensity of your workout compared to traditional weight lifting sets. And supersets are great for increasing what’s called muscularity. Put simply, this means increased muscle definition.

What Supersets are and Why Do Them

A superset is when you perform two exercises back to back with no rest. This differs from a traditional weight lifting approach, where you perform one exercise for several sets of reps resting between each set before moving onto the next exercise (e.g. three sets of 12 reps of bench press then three sets of 12 reps of leg curls).

Supersets are not circuits— though, those are great too. One distinguishing factor is that circuits have more than two movements. Supersets are fantastic because they save time and, when done correctly, can increase your training volume and intensity compared to traditional weight lifting. More on this in a bit.

Like I said, there are several variations of supersets. My two personal favorites are antagonistic supersets and pre-exhaustion supersets. An antagonistic superset is when the two movements you’re using work opposing muscle groups. For example: biceps and triceps or quadriceps and hamstrings.

An antagonistic (or opposing) superset allows recovery time for one muscle while the opposing muscle dominates the work effort. This recovery time helps you get a little more out of both groups and is also a great way to work on symmetry through a balanced workout.

A pre-exhaustion superset is when the first movement is what’s called an isolation movement (using one joint) and the second movement is what’s called a compound movement (using multiple joints). For example: seated leg curl followed by deadlifts. This approach really works the main muscle under fatigue, building its endurance, in the above example the hamstrings.

When to Use Them

Because of the volume and intensity you don’t want to overdo these. Start off adding a superset workout in once every few weeks and build from there, depending on your strength-training background of course. Most beginners don’t use these, so I meant what I said about using it to spice up your current training.

If you want to explore the three other types of supersets, Bodybuilding.com—not surprisingly—has a well-written article that breaks all of them down.

Examples

I hesitatingly am providing some examples. Please, please, adjust the number of sets and reps, and the weight to fit your current level of training. Maybe that’s less, maybe that’s more; be smart.

Example 1:

3 rounds of 8-12 reps

  • Barbell or Dumbbell Bent Over Rows
  • Dumbbell Floor press

Example 2:

3 rounds of 8-12 reps

  • Seated Leg Extension
  • Barbell Squat

Example 3:

3 rounds of 8-12 reps

  • Cable Seated Front Raise
  • Barbell Shoulder Press

Example 4:

3 rounds of 8-12 reps

  • Un-weighted squats (also called air squats or bodyweight squats)
  • Barbell Deadlift (can also use dumbbells)

 

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