Supersets: What they are & why you should do them

There are many modalities of training out there. Today the focus will be on a very specific style called 'supersets'. First, we are going to go over the definition of superset. Next, I will discuss a case study and go over its findings. Then I will leave you with why it’s a good idea to implement supersets in your routine.

A superset is when an individual performs an exercise and immediately moves on to the next exercise with minimal break. This can be executed by pairing exercises for the same muscle groups, upper body exercises paired with a lower body exercises, or agonist-antagonist (opposites) muscle groups. Allow me to summarize a study on the latter.

15 recreationally trained males were separated into two groups. One group performed the agonist- antagonist superset method. The other group performed classic straight sets. The exercises chosen for this test were bench press and seated row.

  • Group 1: Performed 3 sets of 10 bench press, followed by 10 seated row, at maximum effort with 2 minutes of rest after each paired set.

  • Group 2: Performed the same protocol. The only difference is that they performed the exercises in classic straight sets: 3 sets of 10 bench press, resting 2 minutes between each set. Then moving on to the seated row in the same fashion.

Interestingly, what they found in this study was, the superset group performed greater total volume (ie: more work done). The superset group trained with heavier load (since reps/sets were already equated) and experienced more muscle fatigue when compared to the straight set group. Furthermore, the superset group completed their workout roughly in half the time! This study demonstrates that, not only are supersets more time efficient, supersets also “acutely enhance performance, potentially leading to greater enhancements of strength and muscle size in the long term” (MASS Volume 1, Issue 8).

Implementing supersets is a great strategy to save time but also to increase overall workload and therefore results. Due to the nature of this training protocol, you reap cardiovascular benefits as well due to the reduced overall rest periods.

This method can be applied to all antagonistically paired muscle groups. In order to potentiate this volume-enhancing mechanism, pair exercises such as leg curls with leg extensions and bicep curls with triceps extensions. Unless the athlete has significant experience, I would advise against pairing big compound movements until competent at performing safely.

References MASS Volume 1, Issue 8

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