The Ultimate Guide to Supersets: Why and How You Should Use Them



When it comes to building mass, stripping fat, and getting an incredible pump, supersets are one of the most effective tools in your training toolbox – when they are used correctly, that is

You see, supersets can actually be used in a myriad of different ways, depending entirely on your individual training goal. With this in mind, they are going to be programmed differently within your training sessions dependent on that goal, and how you choose to structure your training split

So Why Use Super sets

Well, the way I see it, there are three key reasons to use supersets in your training

They Save You Time

As you move from a beginner to an intermediate lifter, and then from an intermediate to advanced lifter, you are going to need more and more weekly volume to elicit any muscle growth. In short, this means more sets and reps per session

As supersets involve moving from one exercise immediately to another, you can squeeze more volume into a session without having to be at the gym for hours at a time

They Improve Muscle Activation

There are a number of different ways you can implement super sets in your training (which are described in detail below). No matter how they are used, they generally improve muscle activation in a big way

As they involve moving from one exercise immediately to another, the first exercise ‘pre-activates’ the muscle tissue, increasing neural drive and muscle fiber recruitment. This means that you are going to get more out of the second exercise, causing a substantial increase in muscle growth over time

They Cause a Heap of Metabolic Stress
And finally, supersets also cause a huge spike in metabolic stress within the muscle tissue. Because a superset involves performing two exercises in quick succession, it essentially doubles the amount of volume you would normally receive in a very short time window

As a result, you see a huge spike in metabolite accumulation (not to mention an insane pump) within the muscle tissue, which has been shown to be a key driver for enhanced muscle growth

How Can I Use Supersets in Training

When it comes to supersets, there are three ways I like to implement them into my training. This is highly dependent on training goal (as we discussed earlier), while also being dependent on how you choose to structure your training program

Antagonist Muscle Supersets
When it comes to supersets, these are arguably the most common

With antagonist muscle supersets, you actually choose two exercises that work muscle groups with opposing muscle actions (or in other words, are antagonistic to one another), and perform one immediately after the other before taking your rest period

These are absolutely perfect for those of you who like to split your training into upper body and lower body training days. With this in mind, they are obviously extremely time efficient while also allowing a massive increase in session volume, therefore stimulating muscle growth while enhancing fat loss

Additionally, they also have some serious positives regarding muscle activation

You see, if we choose to perform a heavy dumbbell row before a barbell bench press, we pre-activate all the muscles of the upper back. As these muscles are essential to shoulder stability and function, we can actually improve our ability to produce force when we move into the bench press

This means a stronger bench, more weight on the bar, and more muscle growth

Some of my favorite antagonist muscle supersets are as follows

A: Single Arm DB Row
B: Barbell Bench Press

A: Dumbbell Bench Press
B: Wide Grip Lat Pull Down

A: Seated Row
B: Seated DB Shoulder Press

With each of these it is important to note that they prioritize large compound movements, each of which use a heap of muscle mass. This makes them extremely effective from an energy expenditure standpoint, while also promoting even greater metabolic stress

This is extremely important as it promotes increased growth hormone secretion during the session, further enhancing both muscle growth and fat loss

Pre-Exhaust Supersets
When it comes to getting an absurd pump, causing a huge increase in metabolic stress, and completely crushing your ego, these are without a doubt your best option

Pre-exhaust supersets involve performing an isolation exercise on a given muscle group, and then immediately moving into a compound exercise that uses that same muscle group

This obviously makes the compound movement much more challenging, offers an extremely efficient way to jack up metabolic damage, and subsequently causes a huge increase in muscle growth

Some of my favorites (read: most brutal) include

A: Incline DB Fly
B: Flat DB Bench Press

A: Knee Extension
B: Front Squat

A: Lateral Raise
B: Seated Arnold Press

A: Hamstring Curl
B: Romanian deadlift

Now obviously these lend themselves quite well to body part splits. I also strongly recommend you use them near the tail end of your session, after you have done your heaviest exercises – because trust me, you are not going to be doing much after these

Post-Exhaust Supersets


And our final option is a post-exhaust superset. These are essentially the exact opposite of a pre-exhaust superset, as you will be moving from a compound movement into an isolation movement that targets the same muscle group

Similar to the above, this is a great way to increase metabolic stress, get an epic pump, and promote an increase in muscle growth. Some of my favorites include

A: Barbell Bench Press
B: Flat DB Fly

A: Leg Press
B: Knee Extension

A: Standing Overhead Press
B: Seated Lateral Raise

A: Conventional Deadlift
B: Hamstring Curl

Now similar to the above, these lend themselves very well to a body part split, but can alternatively be used at any point during the session – start or end. Just be prepared to push through some discomfort to reap the rewards

Take Away Message
When it comes to increasing your weekly training volume, inducing a heap of metabolic stress, and enhancing your training time, it's hard to look past supersets. They offer an excellent tool to maximize all three of these factors, stimulating a huge amount of muscle growth and fat loss at the same time

Have a go at some of the methods listed in this article and let us know how you went – just be prepared to get a little uncomfortable

About me
Demmy James is a fitness buff, strength and conditioning
specialist and content contributor with Muscle & Strength. He
is constantly looking to inspire and motivate others to achieve their own health and fitness goals through his writings. Follow him on Twitter for more tips and guides
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About Tamer El Sheikh

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
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