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Strength Building Using Supersets


Are you bored of using the same set training? Have you performed the same strength routine for many years and noticed a plateau in your strength gains?

Well, it is time to mix up your training and to add some supersets into the equation. Supersets is a very basic training method that can produce some serious strength gains and this backed up by some robust valid research.

A recent piece of research in the ‘Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research’ discovered that supersets using an ‘opposed muscle group’ technique produced greater strength gains than using traditional sets [1].

They also found that the subjects were able to perform more reps and/or lift a heavier weight in the sets that followed the superset. This drastically increased the challenge and ultimate strength gains.

In addition, you are engaging more muscle groups when using supersets when compared to using traditional sets. So what are supersets and how can it actually benefit you?[toc]

What Are Supersets?

In simple terms, supersets are a more advanced method of lifting weights involving two exercises with no rest in between.

There are numerous ways of implementing supersets but for the scope of this article, we will be focusing on training methods that specifically improve your strength. These are as follows:

  1. Compound supersets – this is where you perform two compound exercises straight after one another with no rests.
  2. Opposing muscle groups – this where you perform exercises that target opposing muscle, and you exercise one group and then rest the other- then vice versa with no rest in between. A good example of this is performing the squat for your quads and Romanian deadlifts straight after for your hamstrings.
  3. Exhaustion Supersets – is where you perform two sets of exercises on the same muscle group with no rest in between e.g. the chest press followed by a set of push-ups.
  4. Staggered Supersets – is where you perform a set of exercises on a different muscle group in between sets e.g. a chest press followed by some push-ups and then back to the chest press. Granted that with the second bouts of chest presses- you may not be able to pump as many reps as the first set of chest presses.

# Please note that if you are going to perform more than one superset in your work out, then allow 3-5 minutes for recovery. As this is the recommended guideline to allow for adequate recovery to increase your strength gains.

The Physiological Benefits Of Supersets

Supersets are effective because they have very little rest intervals in between executing the sets of exercises. This process induces the production of lactate, lowers your muscle pH which triggers the secretion of growth hormone and testosterone.

These anabolic hormones help to facilitate muscle growth and lifting heavy with a low rep range will also improve your strength gains.

Fundamentally lifting heavy can improve the size and strength of the fast-twitch type 2 muscle fibres and this help to boost your force production, the muscle’s glycolytic capacity and this ultimately translates to strength gains.

The Practical Benefits Of Using Supersets

In practical terms, it is good practice to shake and mix up your training regime every 4 weeks so that the muscles are being exposed to new stimuli. This strategy will prevent you from entering into a dreaded plateau with your strength gains. Supersets have the following practical benefits:

  • You save time because with no rest between sets will make the workouts shorter and more efficient
  • You overload your muscles by using the heavy weights and by adding more intensity in your workouts
  • It makes your works out more fun, interesting and challenging. This should help you to keep you focussed and motivated
  • It is easy to set up you either pick two compound exercises, use the same or opposing muscle groups whilst performing the superset
  • They incorporate more variety into your workouts and they are an excellent choice if you are ready for a change

Superset Workout Example

Typically supersets will work opposing muscle groups, so, for instance, your chest and back, hamstrings and quads, and your biceps and triceps.

Here are some example exercises that can be paired together when performing supersets:

  • Bench press and bent over row
  • Glute bridge and front lunge
  • Biceps curl and triceps kickback

It is also possible to pair two exercises that work for the same muscle group. The purpose of this is to fatigue the muscle group, rather than letting it recover while you work the opposing muscle group.

Here are some potential exercises you can use when pairing:

  • Triceps kickback and overhead triceps extension
  • Deadlift and squat
  • Bench press and chest fly

One final superset workout example is to create a circuit, which would involve performing two exercises back to back that is not the same or opposing.

The following are examples of a circuit:

  • Push up and squat
  • Bent over row and lunge
  • Tricep dip and deadlift

Superset FAQs

The following are some questions that have been submitted by our readers. If you want to submit your own questions then you can do so by completing the comment form found below.

Do Supersets Burn Fat?

Yes, supersets can help burn fat. However, research has found that they do not burn any more calories than a traditional set [2].

It is worth noting that the supersets were shorter, therefore we’re able to burn more calories in a shorter space of time.

Can I Do Supersets Every Day?

You can certainly do a superset workout every day, but as with traditional sets, you will need to ensure you are giving the muscles worked adequate time to recover.

I would certainly not recommend performing a full-body superset every day. 3-4 of these workouts a week will suffice.

When Should You Superset?

As stated already you can superset every day, but you must ensure you give each muscle group worked 48 hours between workouts to recover adequately.

Can Supersets Replace Cardio?

Supersets can replace cardio, especially if they are performed with little to no rest between.

Doing so will keep your heart rate elevated.

Are Supersets Good For Beginners

I would recommend that beginners avoid supersets until you have built a foundation of strength using straight sets first.

Before you use more advanced training techniques like supersets you should learn the proper technique to lifting properly to ensure you get the best results and avoid injury.

In a study undertaken at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, the researchers found that straight sets were 40-70% more effective than supersets for building muscle and strength as a beginner [3].

What To Superset With Squats?

I would suggest deadlifts alongside squats as a superset.

Usually, a superset would involve working opposing muscle groups, but when compound exercises are involved you may want to use two exercises that work the same muscle group.

The reason for this is to fatigue the muscle group, rather than allow it to recover. In theory, this increased time under tension will result in greater strength and muscle gains.

Alternatively, you may want to work two completely different muscle groups in a circuit. For example, you could superset a squat with a bench press.

Can You Superset The Same Muscle?

Yes, you can superset the same muscle. This is explained above in the previous question asked.

How To Superset Legs?

To superset legs, you simply need to choose 2 exercises that work your legs.

For example, you could squat and deadlift, or you could choose to squat and lunge. The choice is yours.

Can You Superset Chest And Triceps?

As your chest and triceps work together in most pushing movements originating from your shoulder it is almost impossible not to work them together.

I would recommend performing supersets with your chest and back, and then biceps and triceps.

How Many Reps With Supersets?

Typically a rep range of between 5-10 reps is best whether you are performing supersets or straight sets.

The aim is to lift heavy enough so that you are too tired on the last rep to lift any more.

How Many Sets In A Superset?

The number of sets performed is your own choice. Personally I would recommend 3-4 sets.

How To Superset In A Busy Gym?

The best way to superset in a busy gym is to try and “work in” with someone else.

When you do this you are allowing someone else to use the equipment while you are using it too.

Alternatively, you could choose to only perform supersets when the gym is not busy, for instance not at peak times.

Can You Perform A Superset Workout Without Equipment?

Of course, you can perform a superset workout without equipment. It is simply a matter of choosing two exercises that work two opposing muscle groups.

In Conclusion: Are Superset Workouts Good?

There are certainly benefits to supersets. The main being that you are able to complete your workouts in a much quicker time than traditional straight sets.

This is because you won’t have to rest so much as you are resting one muscle group while working another.

If you have time then there is really little to choose benefits wise between supersets and straight sets. For those who are short of time, they will allow you to get a good workout in very little time.


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