Maybe I’m a little biased as supersets are one of my favorite weighting methods. And for muscle growth it is actually not a real weighting method, rather an ‘efficiency method’. In this article, we’ll discuss what a superset is and why it’s a smart tool to add to your training plan.
WHAT ARE SUPERSETS?
There are several definitions of a superset, but the most common is this: with supersets you do 2 exercises of different muscle groups in succession. You combine two exercises per ‘set’. Preferably you choose muscle groups that do not ‘get in each other’s way’. For example, you alternate bench presses with a bent over row and do not opt for triceps stretching after the bench press. Because in the latter combination you train a muscle that is already active during the bench press. It may not matter at first glance, but this causes an accumulation of triceps fatigue, which may make the last sets of the bench press less effective for your pectoral muscles.
So I’m not saying that you can’t do this, because every 2 exercises that you want to stick together are a superset, but I do say that from a muscle growth perspective it is wise to think carefully about the exercise combinations. Want hundreds of examples of strong combinations? Then check out my favorite training plans for muscle growth .
SUPER SETS VS COMPOUND SETS
Technically speaking, not all combinations of 2 exercises fall under the heading of supersets. This is purely a theoretical demarcation that you don’t have to worry about. For example, if you do 2 exercises for your pectoral muscle in a ‘superset’, they call this a compound set. To clarify:
- Bench press (primary chest) followed by a bent over row (primary back) is called a superset.
- and bench press (chest primary) followed by a dumbbell fly (chest primary) they call a compound set.
Let’s talk about compound sets and what drives muscle growth in another article.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU LOSE WITH A ‘NORMAL TRAINING’?
This article is about the strong effect of a superset. To clarify this, let’s first look at a normal workout that adheres to key muscle growth principles . The main principles for this article are the rest interval, training frequency and training volume per muscle group. The latter of course differs per person and per training experience, but for the average serious strength athlete we choose per training for 10 effective sets of a large muscle group and 6 effective sets for a smaller muscle group. There is a rest interval of 2 minutes probably a lot more effective than 60 or 90 seconds, so we’ll stick to that in this article.
23 SETS IN 50 MINUTES
Suppose you have chest and back on the schedule on a training day. You do a total of 10 sets for both muscle groups, divided over 3 exercises, excluding the warming up (sets). For example, your workout might look like this:
- bench press, 4 sets of 8 reps
- incline dumbbell press, 3 sets of 10 reps
- incline cable flyes, 3 sets of 12 reps
- are over row, 4 sets of 8 reps
- pull ups, 3 sets of maximum reps
- one arm cable row, 3 sets of 12 reps.
In total you do 20 sets that take an average of 30 seconds. You rest for 2 minutes between each set. Without counting your warm up sets, your training will take:
- 23 x 30 seconds (one arm cable rows gives you 3 extra sets) + 19 x 2 minutes (after the last set you are done) = 49.5 minutes
Without a doubt, this is a very effective workout! But you probably do at least 8 exercises during a workout and do more sets, because otherwise you don’t find them effective enough. For the example, we will stick to this effective training.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU WASTE WITH SUPERSETS?
Suppose we do the exact same exercises and sets, only we now make supersets of these:
- superset 1: 4 sets bench press and 4 sets bent over row
- superset 2: 3 sets incline dumbbell presses and 3 sets pull ups
- superset 3: 3 sets incline cable flyes and 3 sets one arm cable rows
If a set lasts 30 seconds, then 90 seconds of rest in a superset is sufficient. I personally prefer to choose 30 seconds between the exercises and 60 seconds after a superset, example:
- set 1 bench press (duration 30 seconds)
- 30 seconds rest
- set 1 are over row (duration 30 seconds)
- 60 seconds rest
This way you rest a total of 2 minutes between the same exercise.