What is this thing weight lifters call a superset?
Let’s start with the basics: a normal set is a set in which you perform one exercise for a specific number of reps (times) and then take a break (typically 90 seconds) in between each.
A superset, is a set in which you perform two different exercises in a row with little to no rest in between those sets. It’s like a back-to-back, double whammy with little rest in between the sets.
And why would someone put themselves through these back-to-back sets?!
For muscularity. To save time in the gym (less resting periods). To build mass. To increase the intensity/caloric burn.
And that’s just a few reasons…
Here’s some more of the nitty-gritty facts about the specific types of supersets and what they can do for you:
1. We’ve got the Pre-exhaustion superset which combines both compound (targets multiple muscles) and isolation (targets one muscle) movements back-to-back. Great for creating intensity, but you’ll have to dial back on your weight load.
2. Then there’s the Compound supersets which combine two compound movements. Great for mass, but will require more recovery time.
3. The underrated Isolation supersets which combine… you guessed it…two isolation movements. Best for creating definition, crummy for building mass. (Perfect for ladies who are scared of building mass, although really… don’t be. I digress.)
4. There’s also the Opposing muscle group supersets which combine two different muscle groups (think “push” and “pull”) to allow for more recovery time in between sets–these sets are great for building both strength and size. An example would be working your biceps, followed by your triceps. I highly recommend these, especially for beginners who are looking to build strength quickly with less recovery time.
5. And last but not least, Staggered supersets. This is where you perform a compound movement with one muscle group, and then an isolated movement with a completely different muscle group. This allows for a bodybuilder to bring up a weaker muscle group (for me–my calves!) and is really helpful once you’re more aware of where your body tends to build, and where your weaknesses lie. I throw in calf raises in between a lot of my tougher compound movements to work on building that area while giving the other muscle group rest. It saves me time, and gives me something to do in between the heavier sets vs just staring at my Spotify playlist.
So should you completely rid yourself of normal sets? Absolutely not. It’s just helpful to throw these in to target different goals. If you stay with normal sets all the time, you won’t gain as much muscle definition and strength as you would with throwing in supersets. Knowing which sets target which goals can help you formulate a kick-ass work out that is going to get you the results your looking for. Experiment. Test it out. Make it happen.
I love supersets because I sometimes get a little bored waiting 90 seconds in btw reps, but they also help with the whole definition and intensity thing.
Many people think weight lifting is boring, but there’s so much more to it than “pick up weight, set weight down, waiiiiiiiiit….repeat”. Once you learn about the different sets, not only can you mix up your work out day to day, but week to week. In fact, mixing up your work outs is best if you’re looking for consistently improved results (and to beat burnout!). If you’re a beginner, keep it simple. Once you’re feeling more empowered and knowledgeable, throw in some supersets to super power your workouts and results.
After all, supersets are for super people. Annnnd people that want to save some mega time at the gym–which let’s face it, we all could use a bit more time.
Until next time,
Kudos to bodybuilding.com for supplemental info… a great place to nerd out on fitness and body building!