Supersets Explained

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Supersets are a simple and effective weight-training technique. It can save you time in the gym, spur new muscle growth and improve your fitness.

What are supersets?

Put most simply, a superset is when you perform one set of an exercise and then immediately switch to another exercise and do another set.

You can pair two exercises that work the same muscle group or two exercises that pair complementary muscle groups. You could even pair exercises that work entirely different muscle groups if you were putting together a full-body workout.

Pairing two exercises for the same body part is one popular method. An example might be performing skullcrushers (lying triceps extensions) with close-grip bench press. This will fatigue your triceps until they’re burning, which in turn forces the muscle fibres to grow

Another popular superset method is to pair complementary or opposing muscle groups. For example, pairing a back exercise, such as a seated row, with a biceps exercise, such as a barbell curl. This way, you’re effectively working two muscle groups at a time, pumping up that volume.

Supersets can be great as a finisher to a regular workout. So if you’ve been training with straight sets, you could end the workout with a superset of the final two exercises.

Since your body is already tired from the rest of your workout, adding a superset will push your muscles even further. And with a superset as a finisher, you can keep to a moderate weight.

Why perform/BENEFITS OF supersets?
  • They help muscle growth. One way bodybuilders make their muscles bigger — hypertrophy — is through volume training. That is, doing lots of sets and reps, pushing the muscles until they reach failure — when they can’t physically do another rep. Supersets pack lot of volume into a short amount of time, giving your muscles less time to rest, forcing them to adapt and grow.
  • They help you burn fat. By increasing the amount of work you cram into a workout, you’re burning more calories, along with building more muscle. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is, burning more fat at rest. Supersets boost your metabolic rate by making your workouts more intense.
  • They save you time in the gym. By structuring your workout with a series of supersets, you’re effectively getting your workout done in a much shorter amount of time. Provided you’re taking into account that you’ll need to take longer rests between supersets than between regular sets (and fuelling your body with good post-workout nutrition), supersets can be a great way to be more efficient when you’re time-poor.
General rules

You can perform supersets using any equipment — free weights, plate-loaded machines, pin-loaded machines — it’s up to you. However, if you choose two exercises that require equipment on opposite sides of the gym, you might struggle. Not only will you waste valuable time walking from one station to the next, you’re likely to get in someone else’s way. Try to pick two exercises that you can perform relatively close together or that use the same equipment, such as a dumbbell shoulder press supersetted with a bent over rear delt fly.

In general, you’ll need to rest for longer between supersets than you would performing regular straight sets of an exercise. The reason should become obvious as soon as you start your next round of supersets: your body needs longer to recover. So, if you usually rest for around one minute between sets, you might need two-to-three minutes between superset, depending on the intensity of your workout.

In addition, your body will be very fatigued after supersets, so post-workout nutrition is especially important. Have a meal with enough protein soon after your workout to start rebuilding all that muscle tissue straight away.

So, why not try a few supersets at your next workout?

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