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Weight lifting has come a long way from its origins. Since the days of Arnold and the first Pumping Iron film, the training modes and strategies have evolved. Long story short, with all these options it should be difficult for us to get bored in the gym right? Well, if you’re like many people, you pull up to the gym sometimes having no clue what to train. If you want to spice things up in the gym definitely keep reading.

For anyone with a busy schedule, there’s nothing more you can ask from your workout than Intensity, Efficiency and Results. One of my absolute favorite training styles that achieves all three (as you can tell) is supersets.

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Superset Fundamentals

Supersets are a more advanced training style comprised of doing two exercises (back-to-back) with zero rest in between. Supersets can vary by activity, muscle groups, and even lifting style (isolation vs compound movements).

Here’s an example of one by MensHealthMag:

SUPERSIZE YOUR UPPER BODY WITH THIS CLASSIC BARBELL SUPERSET from MH fitness director BJ Gaddour (@bjgaddour)! If you want to get bigger up top in no time, look no further than pushups and bent-rows. This push-pull pairing is a classic #bodybuilding technique that has withstood the test of time. Load a barbell with a weight that you can do 10-15 reps of under-hand grip bent-rows with. Now do as many quality rows as you can then set the barbell down and immediately perform as many barbell pushups as you can. For the pushups, BJ recommends holding the barbell the same way you would when bench pressing (typically with your pinky on the ring). After pumping out both moves, rest 60 seconds. That’s 1 round. Do 5-10 total rounds for an epic #pump. Make it harder by increasing the load over time or by cutting your rest periods between rounds to only 30-45 seconds. DOUBLE-TAP if you’re in it to win it and tag some #swolemates too! @Dickssportinggoods #PoloSport #Pushups #Rows #Chest #Triceps #Back #Shoulders #Bodybuilding #Workout #Exercise #Fitness #TheBetterManProject #ad #MHFit #💪 #FlexFriday

A video posted by Men's Health (@menshealthmag) on

Superset Benefits

Changing up your strength training routines every 4 to 6 weeks is an excellent idea to reduce the risk of plateauing. Supersetting is a nice curveball to add to your routine helping you:

  • Design workouts on the fly. Not sure what to train? Simply pick two exercises and get to it! These can be the same or different muscle groups, or even two totally different activities.
  • Add variety to your training. With an endless number of combinations, it’s almost impossible to get bored. Tweak and modify supersets to fit your goals.
  • Intensity and muscle overload. Whether your are pre-loading (isolated –> compound) or post-loading (compound –> isolated), doing supersets within the same muscle groups can quickly elevate the intensity and overload your muscles.
  • Save time in the gym. With supersets taking you from 0 to 60 in a heart beat, you can potentially save tons of time in the gym while still getting a fulfilling workout. Supersets are perfect to squeeze in during a lunch break or any busy schedule for that matter.

We have put together a mapped table to get you started based on your goals:

Superset Type Activity Muscle Groups (Intensity) Training Order
Same Opposed Different Starting Finishing
Isolation (Superset) Weight Lifting High Medium Lesser Isolation Isolation
In this training mode, put together two isolation movements / exercises (ex: Tricep Pushdown –> Skull Crushers). The goal is to really exhaust a single muscle group by performing practically double the work in almost the same time period.
Compound (Superset) Weight Lifting High) Medium Medium Compound Compound
Different from isolation supersets, there can be overlap between the primary and auxiliary muscles recruited between both superset movements. Take dumbbell shoulder press and inclined dumbbell press for example. High intensity is the focus when the same muscle groups are paired to achieve exhaustion.
Pre-Exhaustion (Superset) Weight Lifting High Medium Medium Isolation Compound
For example, seated skull crushers followed by close-grip bench press. This movement uses an isolation movement (seated skull crushers) to exhaust the muscle before ramping up the intensity with a compound movement (close-grip bench press).
Post-Exhaustion (Superset) Weight Lifting High Medium Medium Compound Isolation
Just as you have imagined, post-exhaustion supersets are the inverse. Leg press (compound movement) followed by leg-extensions (isolated movement) is a perfect example.
Staggered (Superset) Weight Lifting High Medium Medium Whichever Order (Continuous)
This superset method utilizes two totally unrelated muscle groups that are neither directly nor indirectly. Take bicep curls and calf raises. This allows each muscle group under each movement to rest while its counterpart movement in the superset is worked.
Cardio-Strength (Superset) Weight Lifting / Cardio High Medium Medium Whichever Order (Rest)
Cardio-Strength supersets fall under the category of what you would find in Cross-Fit training or Strongman training. For example, you could combine a 1-minute sprint on the treadmill with bodyweight squats or dumbbell squats, or 30-seconds of jumprope followed by pushups or dumbbell chest presses. Whether cardio comes in the beginning or end, it must be combined with a strength movement.
Cardio (Superset) Cardio High Medium Medium Whichever Order (Rest)
Cardio supersets combine two cardiovascular exercises, and a great way to whip yourself into shape + always mix up your routine. Whether anaerobic or aerobic, you can get very creative combining two cardiovascular activities, just be sure to give yourself rest between sets.

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