There comes a time in everybody’s workouts when things start to get boring, whether you’re stuck in a rut, a powerlifter who still wants to look aesthetic but already spends two hours in the gym doing heavy lifts, or a bodybuilder who has been doing 8-12 reps, 4-5 sets and 60 seconds of rest with every exercise for the past year. At this point in a strength athletes career it can be easy to stick with complacency and keep the course without significant improvements, but those who are determined to keep things fresh and fun (as well as discover new strength gains) can try something called a superset.
Now when most hear of supersets we can think of it a few ways including running a mile after 100 clean and jerks, circuit training using 5 different machines in the gym at a time or simply doing a set of pushups directly after a set of pull-ups. All of these would be considered supersets (or other fancy names such as tri-sets or giant sets), but of course, all will help your fitness goals in different ways. In this article, we will be going over the best kinds of supersets to include in your workouts for maximum pump/muscle gain/calorie burn.
Why Should You Do Supersets?
In the broadest sense, supersets are used to help increase efficiency in the gym by doing more than one exercise in a row without any rest. In the scope of weight training its main purpose is to increase lactic acid buildup and/or blood flow to certain muscles to help increase muscle breakdown and subsequent growth, and pumps, as well as sometimes fat loss. While supersets are not required to maximize gains and fat loss, it can be unique and different enough to spark new progress when physical or mental plateaus are hit.
Because of the main reasons for implementing supersets, it is important to note they usually should not be mixed with heavy compound lifts for strength. More so they should be combined with higher rep hypertrophy work to achieve a good pump, to properly raise your heart rate and burn more calories. While you can do supersets with compound lifts such as the bench press and squat, it is only when done heavy that it will defeat the purpose and lead to an increased risk of injury…
Target Muscle Groups
With that being said, one of the most popular techniques for supersetting to build lactic acid and getting a pump would be combining antagonizing muscle groups. This means combining a pull and a push workout together to maximize your pump.
For example, combining a dumbbell bench press set and a dumbbell side row set immediately after is a good strategy many old-school bodybuilders use to save time and get a quick and almost full upper body pump. This can also work when combining workouts like hamstring curls and leg extensions, bicep curls and triceps extensions, or even front delt raises and rear delt raises. The other advantage to do opposing muscle groups is you won’t be as fatigued compared to doing two push or two pull workouts together.
While it might be more difficult, doing supersets with the same muscle groups can also be used to push past failure and give your lagging muscle groups some extra work to further break down muscle fibers. For example, if you have a lagging chest you can superset a set of 8-12 reps on the bench press with an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) on pushups and work your chest better than just going to failure on the bench which can be dangerous without a spotter.
Along with supersets, something known as a drop set can be used to the same benefit which involves simply dropping the weight on a certain exercise when failure is hit to be able to squeeze out more reps and increase lactic acid build up.
Save Time In The Gym
Beyond supersets for muscle gain and great pumps, they can also be an effective way to save time in the gym and burn some extra calories. So far we have only talked about two exercise supersets, but it doesn’t end there.
It is possible to get a full body workout completed in 30 minutes when priorities are in order and supersets are implemented liberally. If your gym is empty enough and nobody minds you running around the gym there is nothing wrong with starting with the muscle group you need to work on the most whether it be a squat, bench press, or shoulder press, and moving on to the muscle group lower on the priority list, and so on, etc. until you go through every muscle group you planned on working out and take a few minutes rest in between rounds.
The trick to doing this is not going to failure on earlier workouts as well as starting with lower reps and progressing into movements that require higher reps or even cardio like movements such as burpees or jumping jacks at the end to make sure your heart rate starts slow and gets faster gradually. This technique will not only be more effective for conditioning yourself athletically but will also burn close to twice the amount of calories a regular single body part workout with regular rest periods would (when done with enough intensity of course).
Take Home Message
While supersets shouldn’t be the main focus of all your workouts as heavy compound lifts and regular hypertrophy training is the best way to gain size and strength, they are a very unique and different way to mix things up in the gym.
Whether you feel like doing a single superset at the end of your workout to get a great pump or hit failure faster, or a whole body superset to save time and replace your cardio session of the day, it will benefit you! The trick is to prioritize the muscle group you need to work on more at the beginning of the superset as well as not going to fail until you are nearing the final stretch. Now go out there and don’t be afraid to spice up your workouts.