Fitness / Strength Training

How to Incorporate Supersets into Your Workout and Why

Everything you need to know about the super effective, muscle-building technique.

The term “superset” is one of the most commonly misused words in the gym. According to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, a superset “uses the performance of two exercises that activate opposing or antagonistic muscle groups with no rest between each exercise.”

The average gym goer may think that any two moves performed in succession are dubbed a superset, but that’s not the case.

The fact that the two exercises target opposite muscle groups, such as the chest/back muscles, biceps/triceps, or quadriceps/hamstrings makes an exercise pairing a superset.

Alternatively, a compound set describes when two different exercises for the same primary muscle group are completed in succession without a rest period.

For example, one set of ten reps of the barbell biceps curl then a set of ten reps on the dumbbell hammer curl. The stress on the biceps muscle is compounded because both exercises recruit the same muscle area.

“Compound set” and “superset” are often used interchangeably, but technically they are not the same.

Keep reading to learn more about how to incorporate supersets into your training to make your Aaptiv workouts more complex and effective.

How to Use a Superset

Reminder: a superset is only two exercises that target opposing muscle groups performed back to back without rest.

Super setting is popular among bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts looking to increase muscular endurance, and people with limited time to exercise.

Since super setting requires minimal rest between strength training moves, these techniques may not be appropriate for unconditioned people (aka beginners).

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Use supersets on days when you are especially crunched for time, but you still want to build muscle. The reasoning behind the opposing muscle groups is to ensure that you’re not creating a muscle imbalance by the end of the workout.

Here are some examples of how to superset.

Chest/Back Day

This often happens when we train chest and arms one day and then don’t program a back day into our weekly routine.

Neglecting back training often results in a slouched posture, lower back pain, and the inability to do pull-ups. It’s easy to incorporate a back day into the routine and perform back exercises following a chest exercise on your usual chest day.

Here’s how that modified chest day would look. This would be in addition to a separate back training day for someone who has a history of skipping back day.

Superset 1: Three rounds of ten reps each
Push-up
Pull-up

Superset 2: Four rounds of 12 reps each
Dumbbell bench press
Dumbbell row

Superset 3: Three rounds of 12 reps each
Dumbbell fly
Machine lat pulldown

Superset 4: Three rounds of 12 reps each
Seated machine chest press
Seated machine row

Leg Day

Generally speaking, the legs are a popular body part to train. However, some may not know the different muscle groups in their legs, resulting in a muscle imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings.

Usually, strength trainers—women, in particular—target the glutes (butt) and quadriceps (thighs) but neglect the hamstrings (back of legs).

This can lead to lower back pain, bad posture and hip/knee/calf issues due to the pelvis being misaligned. To insert hamstring work into your leg routine, do the following quick superset workout.

Superset 1: Five rounds of ten reps each
Dumbbell sumo squat
Dumbbell straight leg deadlift

Superset 2: Four rounds of 12 reps each
Forward lunge (six reps each leg)
Barbell good morning

Superset 3: Three rounds of 12 reps each
Machine leg extension
Machine hamstring curl

Superset 4: Three rounds of 12 reps each
Split squat
Single leg kettlebell deadlift

When to Superset

The main reasons for using supersets are to build muscle, increase muscular endurance, and to save time.

Supersets for muscle building occur in the eight to 12 rep range using moderately heavy weights while endurance athletes will use light weights for 15-30 reps.

Endurance athletes tend to do more than two exercises in a row, thus making the sequence a fast-paced circuit.

Strength athletes should not superset their compound barbell lifts such as the squat, deadlift, power clean, and bench press.

You want to perform those as “straight sets,” doing the same exercise for every set then moving onto the next exercises.

As for how many rounds of supersets to do per exercise pairing, three or four will generally yield results. Bodybuilders looking to spur serious gains will do a superset for five, six, or even seven sets.

Supersets are rooted in hypertrophy (muscle-building), and their absolute best use is for people looking to achieve a pump in minimal time.

Build strength and muscle with strength training workouts from Aaptiv.

Mark Barroso is a NSCA-CPT and Spartan SGX Coach.

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