What The Heck Is A Superset? Do I Need To Add Them To My Workout?

You might have seen the term used a bit when it comes to a training program- but do you know what a superset actually is? Do you know what their purpose is? How do you know if you are doing them correctly? Let's investigate.

 Didn't you like my little rhyme in the title? I did.

What is a superset?

Supersets all a sure fire way to make sure that you get the absolute most out of your time working out. Used mostly in strength training, a superset means you put two exercises together and do them one after the other with no rest in between sets- sounds simple right?

Next question- can you put any two exercises together? 

Not really. Research that was published by the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed that when put together correctly, supersets have the ability to burn more calories during and post workout in comparison to traditional resistance training. Put a superset together incorrectly and you can go a few different ways: you can end up with aches a pain, an injury or even just a workout that isn't all that effective.

Wait.. there are different types of supersets?

There are five main types of supersets you can think about adding into your next lift session:

  1. The Pre-Fatigue Superset 
    This refers to pairing together two exercises that target the same muscle group, think along the lines of chest-chest or hammies-hammies. The movement that you begin with should be an isolation movement, so an exercise where the target muscle is doing most of the work. The next movement you pair that with should be a compound movement which means that target muscle is not acting alone.
  2. The Post-Fatigue Superset
    This is basically the back to the front version of the pre-fatigue superset. You start with a compound movement and then follow up with the isolation movement. The aim of this type of superset is to wear down that large muscle group and then go hard on a single target muscle.
  3. The Compound Superset 
    As the name would suggest this is a superset made up of two compound movements for the same muscle group. This type of superset means you have the ability to work more than that one part of the muscle in the one set.
  4. The Isolation Superset 
    Again, this one is also fairly straight forward. You pair up two movements that isolate that one muscle group- trying to focus on several parts of that muscle during the set. You won't reap the full benefits of this type of superset if you are only targetting that one muscle.
  5. The Antagonist Superset 
    This type of superset will see you choose two movements that use opposing muscles, for example pairing together chest and back or biceps and triceps. This type of superset means that one muscle has time to recover while the other is being worked, one is relaxing while the other is contracting. 

Why do people use supersets? 

There are a few different benefits to adding supersets into your routine including: 
  • To save time.
    No rest in between the two movements means you can be done faster while still having an effective workout. 
  • To achieve progressive overload.
    Supersets mean that you can achieve that overload with the muscles without using heavier weights, forgoing the need for a spotter, or the need to go and grab heavier weights. 
  • To increase the intensity of the workout.
    By adding in supersets that are working for the same muscle group you will increase the intensity of your workout and you will definitely be feeling your muscles. 
  • To change things up a little bit. 
    Heading to the weights and doing straight sets for a long time can get VERY boring and demotivating, by adding in the supersets you can change up the routine a little, make it more interesting. 
  • To make it easier on yourself. 
    Not only does it mean you have to go and pick up fewer weights and equipment, but it also means that if you are at home and don't have a lot of equipment you can still have a hugely satisfying workout. 

What do I avoid with supersets?

As with everything in life it is very easy to make mistakes, which is obviously a part of learning. Here are some common mistakes that people make when it comes to supersets. 
  • Supersetting heavy lifts such as a deadlift or a squat with abdominal work. Your core has already been worked in the actual lift so adding in more core work could mean over-use and we all know what that leads too... injuries. 
  • Supersetting two spine compressive movements. Hello, back pain! Make sure that when you are super setting you have on compressive and one decompression movement or your back will probably let you know it isn't impressed. 
  • Leaving your posterior chain until the second. Don't forget that your order should go pull first AND THEN push. Putting the posterior chain exercise first will enhance the movement of the anterior chain. 

Remember: you don't have to add in supersets if you don't want to! They are not essential to having yourself a killer workout!

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