If you’ve never utilized superset exercises in your strength training routine before, you’re missing out on an efficient and engaging way to get a great workout done!
What is a superset?
You can think of it as zippering two separate exercises together into one shortened set, in which the exercises are performed in an alternating pattern. The general template is one set of one exercise immediately followed by one set of a second exercise, for however many sets desired, with little to no rest in between the movements. It’s often written as A1/A2. That is:
A1. 3 sets of 15 bicep curls
A2. 3 sets of 15 tricep kickbacks
This means you perform the first set of bicep curls immediately followed by the first set of tricep kickbacks before going back to the second set of curls, and so on.
Why Superset Exercises Really Are Super
Two different exercises performed in an immediate succession of each other allows you to get more work done in less amount of time.
Burn More Calories
Research has shown an increase in energy output (calories burned) when performing two exercises in a superset rather than performing two exercises separately. Some research also indicates that post-workout oxygen consumption is greater in supersetters compared to single setters. This means you may end up burning more calories for a more extended period of time even after you finish your gym session.
Increase Muscle Power
Studies have shown supersets may stimulate more muscle power, or the ability to exert maximal force in the shortest amount of time (move larger loads more quickly).
Since your muscles have less time to rest, you may not be able to lift quite as much during supersets compared to how much you could lift during single sets, so the jury is still out on how effective supersets are at building raw strength or even muscle hypertrophy (growth). But if you’re an athlete for whom explosive power is essential, supersets may be an ideal addition to your pre- and post-season training.
Different Ways to Incorporate Superset Exercises Into Your Training
- Try hitting agonist/antagonist muscle groups (e.g., biceps and triceps) using isolation movements (e.g., dumbbell curls and tricep kickbacks, preacher curls and tricep pulldowns, etc.)
- Try using the same muscle group for the entire set.
- Alternatively, you can opt for entirely different body areas and compound movement pairings, such as upper body pull/lower body push (pull-ups and squats) or upper body push/lower body pull (e.g., shoulder presses and deadlifts).
It’s important to note that since your muscles are getting less rest, you should use common sense and caution when supersetting, especially if one or both exercises are compound movements (which will tax your central nervous system more).
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