The Power of Superset
It certainly sounds like a great thing! We look at what a superset is, how and why incorporate it in your program and how it can be beneficial for muscle, strength and weight loss.
At its most basic definition, a superset is when you perform two different exercises, back to back with minimal rest between them.
Typically, the two exercises will work different mucsle groups or movements, but not always.
When you’re training, its not just about picking up a weight and putting it back down. There are a number of variables involved that wil all have an effect on the outcome and overall results.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when buidling a routine is the order in which you do the exercises and level of intesity. Supersets are on of the most popular techniques to use – lets see why.
Why Use Superset?
First, the obvious – its a time saver and you’ll increase the intensity of your workout.
Instead of doing an exercise and resting for 1-2 minutes between each set, you alternate exercises and do a second move, with emphasis on a different muscle group. This way you’ll do 3 sets of 2 different exercises in the same time you’d normally perform one exercise.
For example; jump squats and pushups (lower and upper body).
Furthermore, supersets are a good protocol for hypertrophy as they help create the biological and hormonal environment necessary for muscle building. By using your rest periods to do more work, the two exercises in effect serve as active recovery for each other. This is providing an extra level of both pump and fatigue that triggers the physiological process that encourage muscle growth and stimulance.
How to Incorporate Superset?
Supersets can be done with antagonistic muscles, i.e., opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps or chest and back. These supersets tax the upper body exclusively, but allow one set of muscles (on the front or back of the body) some active rest while the opposite muscles work, and vice versa.
An “upper body alternating with lower body” superset is a great example of how to optimise from the technique.
Start with 20-30 jump squats and move directly into a pushup position. Proceed with 10-15 pushups, then rest for 1 minute and repeat the exercise.
You’re now performing a superset by alternating muscle groups in your original resting period.
As mentioned above, it does not necessarily have to be opposing muscle groups. In our Chest, Shoulder & Triceps program, we alternate between inner pecs and deltoids.
When NOT To Do Superset?
Although its a great technique, often used by exerpienced athetes there are times and muscle groups you should avoid performing supersets.
Your core is what keeps you stable. Tiring it out before doing other complex exercises is not a good idea. This is especially true when it comes to big movements that require a lot of stability through your pillar (your shoulders, hips, and core integrating together). Doing core work in-between will actually fatigue the posture stabilizers of the spine.
Be Gentle With Your Spine
Gravity is acting on your body literally every second of the day. But doing certain exercises (especially when you add weight) naturally compresses your spine. When you superset two super-compressive exercises together (like a weighted squat or lunge), that’s where trouble can start. Compression is not inherently bad, but if you consistently compress, it’s going to be a long-term problem or even fatigue some of those spinal stabilizers.
Instead, superset a movement such as kettlebell goblet, squat or barbell lunge, with a decompressive movement – anything where your arms are fixed in place, but your feet are free to move.
Don’t “Second Hand” Your Back
The muscles running down the back of your body are known as your posterior chain. These are the ones you want to train first. The posterior chain is usually stabilizing musculature and by training these muscles first, you’ll get more activation and stability for the movements to come.
If you’re going to superset a dumbbell bench press and a kettlebell row, do the row first; it’ll activate all those stabilizing muscles around your shoulders and boost stability and enhance performance for the press.
Prioritizing posterior chain movements might help you lift more for more repetitions, as well as make the workout feel easier.
Overall, the most important thing is to keep your training safe and smart. In the end, workout design is totally individualistic and goal-oriented. If you’re looking to log an effective workout, just adhere to these rules, and you’ll be fine.
Mastering the basics and getting the most out of the super and compound sets is a huge step in the right direction.
Keep Training 🙂