Superset techniques are used by many strength trainers to bust through plateaus. Simply stated, it is doing two exercises with little or no rest in between the sets. Let’s start with the basics…
There are 5 main techniques that you need to know about. They are same part, antagonistic, isolation/compound, upper/lower body and inset. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Above all else, I recommend going with the one you enjoy doing the most.
Superset techniques are highly recommended to those that have some strength training experience. It saves a lot of time and is easy to implement. I have done them almost from the beginning of my strength training experience.
I was that person that needed an extra oomph to lose the last 5 pounds of fat, but couldn’t think about spending an additional 30 minutes per day in the gym. I needed something that was easy to learn, easy to implement, and easy on my time. Supersetting was my answer.
Let’s learn more about each style.
This style works the same muscle with two different exercises. For example: a bicep superset could consist of a standing bicep curl and then a hammer curl immediately following. Or a chest superset could consist of an incline press and then a decline press immediately following.
Same part supersetting is the most popular technique.
This means doing a set for one muscle and then immediately working the opposite muscle. Popular antagonistic supersets are bicep/tricep, back/chest, or quads/hamstrings.
Some exercise examples are as follows:
Bicep/tricep= Bicep Curl followed by tricep overhead extension.
Back/chest= Bent Over Rows followed by chest flyes.
Quads/hamstrings= Squats followed by bridge pose on the stability ball.
Isolation and Compound
An isolation exercise means that during the exercise only one joint is moving. For example a bicep curl only requires the elbows
to bend; therefore it is an isolation exercise.
A compound exercise is an exercise that requires movement from more than one joint. A chest press requires your shoulder and elbow joints to move; therefore it is a compound exercise.
Armed with those definitions, it is pretty clear what the isolation/compound style is all about. Using the chest as an example: we would do one set of chest flyes (isolation) and then one set of the chest press (compound).
Upper Body and Lower Body
This technique is doing one exercise for an upper body muscle and then following with an exercise for a lower body muscle. Some examples could be: biceps and quads, chest and glutes, shoulders and calves or traps and hamstrings.
The idea is to allow your upper body muscle to relax and recover while you work a lower body muscle.
This technique requires a bit of practice to perfect. It is doing two exercises in the same repetition. Ok, let’s repeat that one more time… it is doing two different exercises in one rep. An example using the biceps- lift the dumbbell using the hammer curl exercise. At the top of the exercise pause as usual…as you start to lower the weight use the bicep curl technique. Got it?
Another example is doing a chest press on the lift and a chest fly on the lowering phase.
Supersetting is a great way to save time and/or bust through a plateau. Just remember a few helpful hints:
1- Select the technique you feel most comfortable with.
2- Change something in your program every month or so. Adding or changing a superset style is an easy way to do this.
3- When doing supersets, remember not to exhaust your assisting muscles first. For example, don’t tire out your triceps if you haven’t done the chest yet. Triceps assist in lifting the weight for chest muscles. Don’t get caught up in this rule if you are just beginning.
4- Have fun!