Supersets Explained

Thinner Leaner Stronger
Thinner Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Female Body (Second Edition)

A superset is strength training condensed: two or more exercises done one after the other with no rest in between. One round of back-to-back exercises equals one set. Supersets are an excellent training method for building muscle endurance and burning a lot of calories in a short workout. Other advantages — and disadvantages — of this training style are detailed below.

Advantages of Supersets

Cardiovascular Health

By virtue of taking little rest between exercises, the body will enter an aerobic state, challenging your lungs and strengthening your heart. Doing supersets often or increasing the volume or intensity of a superset workout through increasing sets, reps, and adding exercises will further improve your cardio capacity.

Agility & Speed

Short rest periods and high reps can lead to increased efficiency of movement, which equals increased speed. And depending on the type of exercises in your routine, your agility can improve as well. Many superset routines engage the body fully, which requires body awareness (proprioception), core stability, deep focus, and quickness. All these elements add up to test agility.



Good for Cross-Training

Superset training is one of the easiest ways to shake up your regular exercise routine. Instead of searching for a whole new set of exercises to try at the gym, just pair two or more exercises and run through them with no rest between them. The pace and intensity alone will induce a markedly more challenging workout than the set/rep/rest scheme of a typical workout.

Disadvantages of Supersets

Unsustainable

In terms of lifelong fitness, which this site is all about, supersetting is best suited for short-term training periods. Supersetting can be a stressful and difficult training method to commit to consistently. Just think about all the people you know who enthusiastically followed P90X and found themselves burned out a week or two later. Supersets are one of the primary tools used in the P90X program to create intensity. Thus, following a superset routine for brief periods, such as during a fat loss cycle before the spring or summer, is more practical and savvy than attempting to keep supersets as part of your year-round training regime. Train smarter, not harder.

Limited muscle growth potential

Because a principal to muscle growth is having the ability to perform an exercise as close to full capacity as possible — every set, a superset workout is then, by definition, inauspicious to muscle growth. Since supersetting requires limiting recovery between reps and sets, muscles will not recover to a level to perform refreshed each set.

Risk of Injury

Limited rest and recovery increases the possibility of using improper form when executing a movement, resulting in a higher risk of injury. Listen to your body. If you find yourself losing balance, getting shaky, dizzy, or in too much pain, take a break between exercises or a longer break between sets. Your primary goal should never be tearing yourself down. The best way to get in shape is to build yourself up, so don’t sabotage your progress by wearing yourself down and putting your body under too much stress.

Number of sets

Three sets of about four to five exercises is the normal length of a superset routine.

Number of Reps Per Set

12-15 reps or 15-20 reps

A mid-to-high amount of repetitions is typical of superset workouts. This because supersetting is ideal for fat loss and muscle endurance or conditioning. Following a rep range that is archetypal for strength training, 1-6 reps, can yield less caloric burn than a rep range of 12-20 reps, geared for muscle endurance and fat burn.

Between-set Recovery

60-120 seconds

Recovery time between sets should be a minute to a minute and a half. However, some extreme fat-burning superset routines prescribe a 30-second between-set rest period. I wouldn’t recommend this short of a rest period because lactic acid accumulated from exercise needs time to flush out. If not enough time is given, tired, under recovered limbs can get shaky and injury-prone.

Try It Yourself – Full-body Superset Workout

Each exercise group is one set. Perform each exercise for 12-15 reps. Rest for 30-60 seconds after each set before starting the second group of exercises. Cycle through all three exercise groups three to four times to complete the workout.

Additional Reading:

“Supersets for Better Muscle Gains,” HuffPost.com: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/supersets-for-better-musc_b_12380126

“20-minute Opposing Super Set Workout,” AceFitness.org: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5480/20-minute-opposing-super-set-workout

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.