Want a extra environment friendly, simpler, extra participating exercise? Rest much less between units. More particularly, begin utilizing supersets — a typical, however usually misunderstood and misapplied, intensity-boosting approach.

Performing supersets as a substitute of straight units may also help to scale back your coaching time by practically 50%. (1) Supersets may even increase efficiency by way of a phenomenon referred to as ‘potentiation’ when used appropriately (extra on this later).

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By integrating cutting-edge energy and conditioning analysis and utilized physiology, you may harness this highly effective (and enjoyable) approach. After a short overview of how and why this technique works, you’ll uncover suggestions for every kind of superset and programming pointers based mostly in your coaching precedence — energy, energy, and dimension. You’ll additionally discover pattern supersets to plug into your coaching cut up instantly.

The Three Types of Supersets Explained

A superset is if you carry out one set of an train adopted by one set of a distinct train with no relaxation between units, versus doing an train, resting, after which doing one other set of the identical train (often known as straight units). Those two workout routines can both be for related physique components or completely different physique components.

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Supersets can incorporate multi-joint (compound) workout routines, single-joint (isolation) workout routines, or one among every. The programming specifics will decide your general outcomes. These distinctions between several types of supersets should not pedantic semantics. There are necessary variations relating to how the physique performs and responds to those methods.

Agonist-Antagonist Supersets

  • What It Is: The most typical kind of superset consists of two workout routines that practice opposing muscle teams — a chest train adopted by a again train or a quad train adopted by a hamstring motion. This technique is extra technically thought of an agonist-antagonist superset.
  • Why It Matters: Training muscular tissues on reverse sides of the physique in superset-fashion could also be most intuitive, as a result of it manages fatigue in numerous muscular tissues. You can decrease peripheral fatigue, the sort that develops in engaged muscle fibers, by following this superset construction. However, we should additionally think about central fatigue, which is expounded to neurochemical mechanisms within the spinal wire and mind. Training giant muscle teams by giant ranges of movement and coaching to failure could speed up central fatigue.
  • Try It: Consider pairing two single-joint workout routines or a multi-joint train with a single-joint train. If you have to pair two multi-joint workout routines, keep away from taking units to failure. Examples of agonist-antagonist supersets embrace: Bench press and barbell row, pulldowns and the overhead press, dumbbell curls and triceps pressdowns, leg extensions and leg curls, or chin-ups and lateral raises.

Alternate-Peripheral Supersets

  • What It Is: Supersets can be carried out with two workout routines that alternate between the higher and decrease physique actions, technically referred to as alternate-peripheral supersets. (2)
  • Why It Matters: Alternate-peripheral supersets are one other solution to keep away from extreme peripheral fatigue. However, as a result of the workout routines cowl each the higher and decrease physique, you have to additionally take note of synergist muscular tissues that assist the physique when selecting workout routines. An alternate-peripheral superset that taxes the trunk extensors (decrease again), reminiscent of bent-over rows and deadlifts, will lead to poor efficiency as a result of low again fatigue. Similarly, keep away from pairing belly workout routines with overhead presses as a result of core stability is crucial for protected overhead urgent.

muscular man pressing barbell overheadCredit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

  • Try It: To decrease potential points, think about using a single-joint train for the second train in any alternate-peripheral superset. Try bench press and leg extensions, Romanian deadlifts and hammer curls, or lunges and dumbbell flyes, or more difficult combos like squat and bench press or deadlifts and pull-ups.

Compound Sets 

  • What Is It: If you match workout routines of the same kind reminiscent of horizontal urgent, chest workout routines, vertical pulling, again workout routines, and so forth., it’s technically a compound set since you’re coaching related muscle teams or biomechanically related motion patterns. (3)
  • Why It Matters: Fatigue throughout compound units accumulates (or “compounds”) to a higher diploma than different supersets due to the same actions being skilled. (3) Because of this elevated fatigue, it could be straightforward to put in writing off compound units as misguided or ineffective, however physique athletes and bodybuilders have been efficiently utilizing this strategy for many years as a solution to enhance coaching depth for a particular physique half.
  • Try It: When programming compound units, be considerate about train choice. One of probably the most sensible methods is to pair a multi-joint motion with a associated single-joint motion. Ideally, decide a single-joint train that trains a physique half activated, however not totally fatigued, by the multi-joint motion. For instance, it’s protected to hit calf raises after squats or curls after rows, as a result of even a tough set of the multi-joint train is unlikely to deplete the muscular tissues emphasised within the single-joint train. More difficult examples embrace overhead presses and lateral raises, cable rows and pulldowns, or incline urgent and dips.

Better Results With Less Fatigue

With each set of any train, you stimulate competing aftereffects of each ‘fitness’ and ‘fatigue.’ Fitness refers back to the desired diversifications from train — elevated energy, muscularity, and/or athletic efficiency. It’s a protected wager that one or all of those are your purpose for coaching within the first place.

Unfortunately, health could be obstructed by fatigue — an unavoidable function of coaching. (5) While fatigue can’t be prevented, it may be managed and decreased. Appropriately programming your coaching quantity, depth, and relaxation intervals can go a great distance towards minimizing fatigue.

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A latest examine examined which of the three forms of supersets can finest stability health and fatigue. They discovered the best drop in energy utilizing compound units, pairing the dumbbell bench press and barbell bench press. Basic straight units (with out supersets) confirmed the smallest drops in efficiency.

Interestingly, alternate-peripheral supersets (pairing the squat and bench press) confirmed higher losses than agonist-antagonist supersets (supersetting the row and bench press).

Session RPE rankings (charge of perceived exertion — how difficult the lifters felt the coaching was) had been highest for compound units adopted by alternate-peripheral supersets, then agonist-antagonist supersets, and lowest for straight units.

These findings shouldn’t be too stunning to any lifter who’s used supersets. Performing straight units could be much less difficult than alternating workout routines, however supersets are extra time environment friendly (resulting in the identical or higher general outcomes with shorter exercises) and, as you’ll be taught within the subsequent part, particularly programmed supersets can truly enhance energy output.

The examine’s variations between the bench/squat and bench/row situations is likely to be defined by the truth that squats are systemically demanding — that’s, they’re simply plain exhausting! Ultimately, this analysis reveals the significance of correctly planning your supersets.

Paired Exercises for Power and Size

Back in 2005, analysis decided {that a} set of rows carried out earlier than a set of bench throws considerably improved energy output of the throw. Since the row skilled the pulling muscular tissues and the bench throw skilled the pushing muscular tissues, this phenomenon could be defined by improved coordination between the agonists and antagonists as a direct end result contracting the antagonist muscular tissues. (6)

Muscular man performing barbell row exerciseCredit: Miljan Zivkovic / Shutterstock

Now, this was not truly a examine in supersets. It’s thought of “contrast training,” which has similarities to an agonist-antagonist superset, however with extra relaxation between the 2 workout routines. The row was carried out, then three minutes relaxation was supplied earlier than the bench throw was examined.

This strategy could be tailored to construct energy with agonist-antagonist supersets. A lifter can construction agonist-antagonist supersets with a ballistic or power-focused train carried out first, adopted by a second train coaching the antagonist muscular tissues. For instance, you may mix plyometric push-ups with a chest-supported row.

But why prepare the superset this manner when the examine carried out the explosive train second? It’s all about timing. The transition time between superset workout routines is just too brief for high-performance energy coaching.

You won’t expertise a potentiation impact within the second train of a superset, or in case you do, will probably be masked by common fatigue. Studies constantly report that resting lower than 15 seconds between two workout routines is inadequate to take care of energy within the second train. (2)(7)(8)

man outdoors performing explosive push-upsCredit: Iryna Inshyna / Shutterstock

It’s extra environment friendly to put the explosive train as the primary motion and permit the second train of the agonist-antagonist superset to potentiate the subsequent spherical. The chest-supported row you probably did within the first set will increase your plyometric push-up efficiency within the second set. Just ensure you take a full three-minute (or longer) relaxation between every pairing.

Now, you is likely to be pondering, “I don’t train with ballistic exercises or plyometrics, I just want to get bigger and stronger. What does this have to do with me?” Potentially, loads.

If your major goal is energy, it’s essential carry heavy masses (no less than 80% of your one-rep max or 1RM). Although ballistic workout routines aren’t related to heavy masses, you have to be performing every heavy rep with ballistic intent — making an attempt to maneuver as explosively as attainable.

Because the load is heavy, it gained’t really feel or look quick, however your physique will likely be trying to maneuver the heavy load as quick as attainable, which can maximize efficiency and finally result in higher energy good points.

Lifters with hypertrophy objectives may even profit from performing repetitions with ballistic intent. This approach maximizes recruitment of excessive threshold motor models, that are swimming pools of muscle fibers with the best potential for progress.

To faucet into these fibers, it’s essential practice with very heavy masses, practice to failure (or very near failure), or carry out reps with ballistic intent. The latter is interesting and extremely efficient, as a result of you may stimulate excessive threshold fibers utilizing a wide-range of masses starting with the primary rep of every set.

Programming Supersets for Your Goal

Supersets could also be used as a time-saving effectivity approach, an intensification approach, or a potentiation approach, making them appropriate for all kinds of coaching objectives.

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Here’s the meat and potatoes of programming supersets efficiently. Guidelines are organized into three classes based mostly in your major coaching aim: Strength, energy, or hypertrophy. 

Supersets for Strength

Agonist-antagonist or alternate-peripheral supersets are finest for constructing energy. Train your precedence motion first, since you’re prone to get extra out of the primary train within the superset. For instance, if you’re trying to carry up your bench press energy, place the bench press earlier than the row.

To construct pure energy, it’s essential practice with heavy weights utilizing 80 to 90% of your one-rep max. It’s not a good suggestion to program supersets a lot heavier than 90% as a result of the extraordinary effort and short-term fatigue makes it an inefficient approach. Save these heavier weights for straight units. You can and can construct energy on this vary. (9)

Volume is inextricably linked to load as a result of you may solely carry out so many reps with a given weight. For straight units, 80-90% of 1RM could also be related to 4 to eight attainable repetitions. (3) However, supersets are a completely completely different animal.

Plan on doing three to 5 supersets with two to 6 repetitions per set. Estimate repetitions to failure as you carry out your set and finish the set if you really feel you’ve gotten two good repetitions in reserve. Leaving two good repetitions within the tank helps to make sure which you could preserve depth and repetition high quality within the second train, and in subsequent supersets.

Perform the concentric (lifting part) of the rep with ballistic intent (i.e. as quick as attainable). Control the eccentric (decreasing part) taking one to 2 seconds to decrease the load.

Take a full three to 5 minute relaxation between every superset. If you might be tempted to relaxation much less, acknowledge that your efficiency is prone to undergo. Research has proven that you simply lose peak drive and energy with two minutes relaxation between supersets. (2)

Take nearer to five-minute rests when two multi-joint actions are chosen for the superset, particularly if one or each includes the decrease physique, which trains extra general muscle mass, thereby carrying higher restoration calls for.

Supersets for Power

The agonist-antagonist superset construction is finest, with the higher-priority train positioned first within the superset. This construction permits your first train to profit from the distinction coaching potentiation impact beforehand mentioned. (6) Alternate-peripheral superset construction can also be used. For instance, you might pair bench press with squats, however once more, ensure to put your excessive precedence train first.

For energy, you must practice throughout a variety of masses. This will will let you transfer gentle weight rapidly and heavy weight with ballistic intent. However, coaching with gentle masses could change sure workout routines if you’re really coaching with the intent to maximally speed up. A lightweight squat (e.g. lower than 50% 1RM) carried out with ballistic intent turns into a squat bounce.

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For horizontal and vertical urgent or pulling workout routines workout routines, drugs ball throws and slams are enjoyable and efficient decisions for coaching energy on the lighter finish of the load spectrum if in case you have the instruments and house.

Hitting two to 5 repetitions for 3 to 5 whole supersets, specializing in crisp purposeful repetitions, is an efficient common goal. Be certain to maximise high quality of the repetitions by staying a lot farther from failure than you usually would when coaching for energy or hypertrophy. (3)

If you might be utilizing agonist-antagonist supersets to benefit from potentiation described earlier, use gentle load to your second train (e.g. 50% 1RM) and carry out eight ballistic repetitions for 3 to 6 supersets.

Perform the concentric part with ballistic intent, management the eccentric (one to 2 seconds), and take no less than three minutes between every superset to maximise energy. 

Supersets for Hypertrophy

Training for hypertrophy is the place supersets shine brightest. Any superset construction might work. Again, place the upper precedence train first. For instance, if you’re supersetting shoulders and triceps workout routines and you might be most concerned about constructing capped deltoids, you’ll carry out lateral raises as the primary train and cranium crushers second.

Volume-load, or the product of weight lifted and reps, is expounded to hypertrophy. Your aim ought to be to maximise this worth whereas sustaining repetition high quality. In the superset literature, 65% of three-repetition most (3RM) for units of 10 is a typical superset loading scheme. (2,9) It equates to roughly 60% of 1RM. (3)

At 60% 1RM, the typical trainee will be capable to carry out 16 or extra repetitions for a straight set. Easy, proper? It’s conservative, however not essentially straightforward. Due to accumulating fatigue throughout a superset exercise, the variety of repetitions left within the tank will drop as you’re employed by your supersets.

When you intend a hypertrophy superset exercise proper, the primary few units will really feel considerably straightforward, however you’ll probably attain failure (or very close to failure) for each workout routines throughout your ultimate superset.

Training to failure just isn’t required for hypertrophy, it’s merely a byproduct of this coaching scheme. Pick a repetition quantity that leaves three or 4 repetitions in reserve firstly of the superset, so roughly 12 reps per set. Now, try to hit that very same repetition aim for each subsequent superset within the exercise, for three to 5 whole supersets.

This will likely be difficult, motivating, and brutally efficient, because it promotes elevated effort because the exercise progresses, guaranteeing excessive volume-load is achieved.

When units are taken near failure, it probably doesn’t matter whether or not you draw out your reps with a gradual tempo or carry out them with a managed and comfy tempo. Use your most well-liked rep velocity throughout hypertrophy supersets.

Short relaxation intervals (e.g. 60 seconds or much less) could improve the metabolic stress skilled by the working muscle, which could promote hypertrophy. (12) Bear in thoughts, metabolic stress goes to be excessive throughout supersets merely based mostly on their construction. (4)

If you might be halfway by your superset exercise and end up near failure or unable to succeed in your repetition goal, take an extended relaxation interval earlier than adjusting the weights or repetition goal. Prolonging relaxation mid-workout is preferable to failure. Remember, failing earlier than your repetition goal means you’ve sacrificed volume-load, a key driver of your good points.

Sample Supersets for Your Training Split

Below are pattern supersets in line with the suggestions above. Plug and play based mostly on the group of your lifting routine.

Reminders: When programming supersets for hypertrophy, set up a reasonable working weight that enables us to succeed in our repetition goal with 4 repetitions in reserve (RIR). Stick with the established weight and rep scheme all through the superset, resting longer if wanted. When programming supersets for energy, be versatile with quantity. End your units with two RIR and are available again to battle one other set.

Push-Pull-Legs Split

Agonist-antagonist supersets and alternate-peripheral supersets don’t match effectively with the favored push-pull-legs construction (besides on “leg day”). Despite the potential for fatigue-related lack of efficiency mentioned above, compound units should still be useful, particularly to build up quantity for accent workout routines.

Hypertrophy Focus (Push)

  1. Seated Dumbbell Press 3 x 10 (14RM)
  2. Lateral Raise 3 x 12 (16RM)

Rest: Minimal relaxation between workout routines. Up to 4 minutes between supersets

Strength Focus (Pull)

  1. Cable Row 4 x 3-5 (6RM)
  2. Hammer Curl 4 x 5-7 (8RM)

Rest: Up to at least one minute between workout routines. Up to 5 minutes between supersets.

Power Focus (Legs)

  1. Clean 5 x 3 (65% 1RM)
  2. Kettlebell Swing 5 x 8 (Very gentle weight)

Rest: Up to at least one minute between workout routines. Three or extra minutes between supersets.

Upper-Lower Split

For your major workout routines, use supersets to advertise agonist-antagonist potentiation. You also can pair a multi-joint train with a single-joint train. 

Power Focus (Upper Body)

  1. Bench Press 5 x 3 (65% 1RM)
  2. Bent-Over Row 5 x 8 (50% 1RM)

Rest: Up to at least one minute between workout routines. Three or extra minutes between supersets.

Hypertrophy focus (Lower Body)

  1. Front Squat 4 x 8 (12RM)
  2. Seated Calf Raise 4 x 12 (16RM)

Rest: Minimal relaxation between workout routines. Up to 4 minutes between supersets.

Agonist-antagonist supersets additionally work effectively for accent workout routines. Hamstring curls with leg extensions play good collectively, however make sure you carry out them in that order.

Research has proven that trainees had been capable of carry out extra volume-load when the superset was structured with hamstring curls earlier than leg extensions, in comparison with the reverse order. (13) The mechanism just isn’t totally understood, nevertheless it works for me.

Hypertrophy Focus (Lower Body)

  1. Prone Hamstring Curl 5 x 8 (12RM)
  2. Leg Extension 5 x 12 (16RM)

Rest: Minimal relaxation between workout routines. One minute relaxation between supersets.

Full Body Splits

The agonist-antagonist supersets from the upper-lower cut up routine could be programmed as a part of a full-body exercise. Pairing glute-ham raises or hamstring curls with squats is one among my favorites: 

Strength Focus

  1. Glute-Ham Raise 4 x 5-7 (8RM)
  2. Back Squat 4 x 3-5 (6RM)

Rest: Up to at least one minute between workout routines. Up to 5 minutes between supersets.

Alternatively, you may bounce between higher physique and decrease physique through the exercise utilizing alternate-peripheral supersets:

Hypertrophy Focus

  1. Pulldown 5 x 10-12 (14RM)
  2. Romanian Deadlift 5 x 10-12 (14RM)

Rest: Minimal relaxation between workout routines. Up to 4 minutes between supersets.

Time to Start Supersetting

Lifters with all kinds of objectives can profit from supersets. Superset construction can fluctuate extensively, and completely different superset buildings result in completely different physiological responses. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to program agonist-antagonist supersets, alternate-peripheral supersets, or compound units ought to be based mostly in your coaching priorities and program group. Program supersets appropriately and your exercise will likely be environment friendly and brutally difficult. 

References

  1. Iversen V.M., Norum M., Schoenfeld B.J., Fimland M.S. (2021). No time to carry? Designing time-efficient coaching packages for energy and hypertrophy: a story overview. Sports Medicine, 51, 2079-2095.
  2. Weakley JJ, et al (2020). The results of superset configuration on kinetic, kinematic, and perceived exertion within the barbell bench press. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 34, 65-72.
  3. Sheppard JM, Triplett N. Program design for resistance coaching. In: Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (4th ed). Haff G and Triplett N, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2016.
  4. Wallace W., et al. (2019) Repeated bouts of superior energy coaching methods: results on quantity load, metabolic responses, and muscle activation in skilled people. Sports, 7, 14.
  5. Bartz D., Bartz A. (2022). Fatigue–enemy or ally? NSCA Coach, 8, 24-27. 
  6. Baker D., Newton R.U. (2005). Acute impact on energy output of alternating an agonist and antagonist muscle train throughout advanced coaching. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19, 202-205.
  7. Bevan H.R., et al. (2009). Complex coaching in skilled rugby gamers: Influence of restoration time on upper-body energy output. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, 1780-1785.
  8. Jensen R.L., & Ebben W.P. (2003). Kinetic evaluation of advanced coaching relaxation interval impact on vertical bounce efficiency. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 17, 345-349.
  9. Helms E.R., et al. (2018). RPE vs. proportion 1RM loading in periodized packages matched for units and repetitions. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 247.
  10. Schoenfeld B.J., Ogborn D.I., Krieger J.W. (2015). Effect of repetition length throughout resistance coaching on muscle hypertrophy: a scientific overview and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 45, 577–585.
  11. Antunes L., Bezerra E.D., Sakugawa R.L., Dal Pupo J. (2018). Effect of cadence on quantity and myoelectric exercise throughout agonist-antagonist paired units (supersets) within the decrease physique. Sports Biomechanics, 17(4), 502.
  12. Schoenfeld BJ (2013). Potential Mechanisms for a task of metabolic stress in hypertrophic diversifications to resistance coaching. Sports Medicine, 43, 179–194.
  13. Balsamo S, et al. (2012). Exercise order impacts the full coaching quantity and the rankings of perceived exertion in response to a super-set resistance coaching session. International Journal of General Medicine, 5, 123-127.

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