There is a word that floats around in the gym “Supersets” you don’t have to be a gym rat to know that word but if you have spent all your time on the treadmill and doing cardio there is a little chance you might have not heard of it. You can find every weight lifter doing superset and as a beginner, I was fascinated by the concept and asked why do we do it? what is a superset?
As a beginner, it did felt good to do superset but now I wanted to know the science behind it and I got the best answer from some of the people that one can ask for, Ahh, don’t ask just do it. But don’t worry I won’t be saying such an answer and this article will help you so you won’t fall into the same category as those blind gym rats.
We’ll cover topics like what is a superset? Types of superset? Benefits of superset? and last but not the least, How to add supersets to your workout?
what is superset?
We have been taught to complete one set after another it may be good sometimes it can be dull and you might lose interest. So to make sure you don’t lose interest there are many alternatives to spice up your workout routine and one of those alternatives is “supersets”.
There is a simple concept behind the supersets, Traditional way of working out is taking a rest after one exercise but that’s not the case with supersets you will be aiming to do 2 exercises with no/little rest. Supersets are also known as ‘paired sets’ or ‘complex sets’.
Supersets can be for be targeting the same muscle group or different muscle groups. Adding supersets in your workout can save your time as you won’t have enough rest but at the same time intensity of the workout will be great, surely you will push past your limits. You can’t just pick any two exercises and call them supersets for example A study showed that squats are worse when paired.
Some suggest doing 2 exercises targeting the same muscle group such as barbell and preacher curls, while some suggest using one exercise that will target your upper body and one exercise that will be targeting the lower section of your body for example pull-ups and squats.
A misconception about supersets
Some people think supersets are only good because they practically cut your workout time in half and it isn’t as effective as the traditional workout style because you will be fatigue faster which in turn will lead to bad performance accompanied by bad form so some people think that it will downgrade your workout results too.
Let us see what science has to say about it…
In a study conducted in 2005 rugby players were able to improve their bench throw power by 4.7% with the help of APS training but without APS training improvement was close to zero (1). Another study was also conducted a few years later…
A study was conducted for 8 weeks in 2009, Purpose of this study was to find the chronic effect on strength and power of a person performing complex vs traditional sets. It showed the subject that trained with the superset method were able to improve their 1 rep maxes on bench pulls and bench presses with APS (agonist-antagonist paired set) training, whereas traditional workout followers didn’t show any improvement (2).
There are other studies too that showed an increase in reps by 55% compared to the traditional sets and one more study found out that doing supersets can help you burn more calories. So there you have it rumors are just rumors, nothing more.
Types of supersets
A superset isn’t as simple as turning on a switch, there are different types of supersets and you have to think and pick one that best suits you. There are three basic types of supersets
- Agonist-antagonist Sets
You might have seen a person performing exercises that will be targeting his chest and back without rest, its agonist-antagonist sets. The concept behind this set is to combine two exercises that will be targeting different muscle groups so you can avoid the easy fatigue that comes with supersets. For example, pairing a push and a pull exercise so your ventral/dorsal muscle will get rest.
This type of superset is good for few reasons one of them is obvious, Cutting down your workout duration for this particular reason many busy individuals prefer supersets as they don’t have the luxury of time to do one exercise at a time. Another good reason would be a balanced body, when you will do APS training there is a chance that you will train opposing muscle groups evenly while improving your muscular tenacity.
2. Same/similar muscle group
The word ‘same’ obviously gave it away. This type of supersets can be considered a bit complex and the particular reason for that is because you will be targeting the same/similar muscle group for example performing quadriceps extension followed with squats or performing skull crusher paired with close grip bench press targeting your triceps.
One of the great benefits of these supersets would be that they will be targeting one muscle group so it is a great way if you want to target one muscle group and hard. You will be also improving your muscle endurance and hypertrophy and as you’re targeting one specific muscle group so the load on them will be great which will further stimulate muscle fiber growth.
3. Upper body/lower body sets
In this type of supersets, you will be pairing your upper and lower body. The concept behind these supersets is so that one can target his/her whole body or improve their functional fitness, improving muscle endurance in various areas, and like the other types of supersets, it can also cut down your workout duration.
4. Staggered sets
In this, you will be targeting a big muscle group and a small muscle group. For example, you can be doing bench press for chest or lat pulldowns for the back but in your resting time, you won’t take a rest instead you will be working the small muscle groups like by doing calves raises. That way you won’t miss out on small muscle groups and save time. By pairing them right and you will be able to keep your heart rate elevated and burn more calories.
Benefits of supersets
Often people change their workout routine after 6 or 8 weeks as their body has gotten used to it and supersets can be a great way to change your workout routine entirely. The following points will help you understand why should add supersets into your workout routine…
- Increased intensity – As you choose two exercises that will be targeting the same muscle group so it will bring all new energy to your workout and it will feel like a totally different workout routine.
- Overloading your muscle – Normally, most people don’t have a spotter, and supersets can be a great way to overload your muscle as you will be targeting the same muscle group with 2 exercises, and without rest that way you don’t have to lift heavy and worry about the spotter.
- Saves time – If you’re short on time supersets can be a great way to work out as you will be going from one exercise to another with no/little rest and that will make your workout duration shorter and more efficient.
- Easy to do – All you have to do is pick two exercises and do that one after another with no/little rest and repeat.
- Can be fun – Doing straight-set one after another can get boring enough to make you lose interest. Supersetting can be a great way to get rid of them as it will make weight training interesting and challenging.
- Calories burned – As your workout intensity has been increased, you will be moving more in less time so energy expenditure will increase thus in turn you will burn more calories. While you’re burning more calories try these filling food with low calories or eat fruits that help you lose weight to see additional results.
These all benefits are within your reach you just need to incorporate supersetting in your workout.
Things to consider
There are some points you need to consider before you go ahead and add supersetting to your workout…
- Intensity – This type of workout can be intensive and if you can’t handle and fail to do repetition or have an improper form then you shouldn’t be doing them. Let your past weights lifting capacity determine your intensity, start with low, and as you get comfortable, progress gradually.
- Goal – Your goal is one of the main reasons that will directly influence your workout so if your goal is to save time without compromising the goal of building muscle endurance, as well as build muscle then you should think of including supers in your workout routine.
- Order of your workout – It takes a toll on your body do supers and so you need to think and arrange your exercise in order to make sure that you have enough energy left to make it to the end of the workout for example you should put cardio at the end of your workout.
Mistakes to avoid
It doesn’t have much of a downside but without proper form and workout plan you can ruin its effectiveness on your body which would be a big deal since the purpose of supersetting would be nullified. Another mistake to avoid would be don’t aim to max out as doing two exercises with the goal of max out will lead you to an injury, do only one exercise if you want to max an exercise.
Who can do supersets?
That’s the good thing about it, any lifter can program supers into their workout routine that aims to increase muscle endurance and build muscle while saving also saving time and lack of rest makes them great for a person who is trying to lose weight (the more you move, the more you burn).
How long should be your rest duration in between sets?
After performing one exercise and immediately doing another exercise that will one set and it will surely leave you feeling fatigued so to go on with the workout you need proper rest to perform another set, so rest for one and a half minutes or two to recover properly.
Well, supersets are good and all for weight loss and muscle building but remember it all starts in the kitchen, focus on your diet, and increase protein intake to see the best results. No amount of exercise can balance a bad diet. Supersets have many benefits and different variation that makes it easy for you to add them in your workout. If you feel soreness do these after workout stretching exercises to better recover and relax your muscles.
That’s it for supersets, I hope it was helpful and you got your answers to your question.