December 21, 2021

What is a superset workout and why are they so amazing for growth

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What is a superset workout and why are they so amazing for growth
Abigail Annis
Blog Post Summary:

Do you want to minimize your time spent at the gym but still get a good workout? The addition of supersets to your fitness routine may be a good solution.

Do you want to minimize your time spent at the gym but still get a good workout? The addition of supersets to your fitness routine may be a good solution. 

Supersets are carried out by performing two exercises back to back before taking a short rest. With this technique, a workout can be completed in almost half the usual time but prove to be greatly effective. Supersets are especially common in weight training programs. The amount of rest time is relatively small compared to the work being done, which maximizes cardiovascular activity and metabolic demand, making this great for burning calories. There are a wide variety of combinations of exercises to choose from and incorporate into your fitness plan. It is important to make sure you are comfortable performing each exercise individually before combining them into a superset.

An example of a superset would be doing 3 rounds of Bench Press & Pull-ups with a 1 minute rest in between. You would do 12 reps of bench, 5 pull-ups, rest 1 minute, and then repeat 2 more times.

There are several different basic structures of superset workouts to choose from.

"I love using supersets in workouts for myself and clients for many reasons, but the two top reasons are the time saving factor (efficiency) and ability to work toward multiple training focuses in a variety of ways (pairing strength with endurance type movements for example)"
Ray Cook - WeStrive Trainer

Exercises regularly incorporated into supersets include compound movements (where multiple joints are moved and multiple muscle groups are activated) or isolation exercises (where activity is focused on one muscle group). With that being said, to do a pre-exhaust superset, the isolation exercise is performed first, then the compound exercise follows. With this design, a muscle first works in isolation, then continues to work as part of a larger muscle group. Another type of superset is called post-exhaust, where the compound exercise is performed first and is followed by the isolation exercise. The muscle being focused on works during the compound movement, then that particular muscle continues to work in the isolation exercise. There is currently more research supporting the effectiveness of post-exhaustion supersets. 

Some other examples of exercises to pair in a superset include lower and upper body activities or exercises that involve opposing muscle groups (known as push-pull supersets). If your goal is to perform a full-body workout in one gym session, upper-lower supersets are a good idea to try. Push-pull supersets are great for muscle growth with resistance training. Since opposing muscle groups are being used, the strength required for the second bout of exercise is not dependent on the first so it will not be diminished. Cluster sets are a more advanced type of superset that involves performing a high resistance compound exercise in multiple mini-sets instead of one longer set. It allows for more maximal output work and more reps to be completed.

"I love that you can increase time under tension and gain increased tolerance to the weight and intensity."
Hailey Andrew, Trainer with Mind Body Burn on WeStrive

The risk and possible downside of the superset workout structure is that muscle fatigue may compromise proper technique. However, to avoid this, consider selecting exercises with less technical demand and adapt your workouts according to body feedback. Also, always consult a healthcare professional before beginning a new exercise program. 

Supersets are flexible and can be structured to fit your specific fitness goals so you can get the most out of your workout. Building off of this idea, there is no correct number of reps to do per superset, it should depend on your specific goals and fitness level. You can adapt your usual workout program to include supersets to boost the aerobic intensity involved.

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Written by
Abigail Annis
Health Blogger
Sports Medicine student at the University of Texas. I have a true passion for fitness and am thankful to get to share this excitement with readers seeking insight on a variety of health-related topics.

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What is a superset workout and why are they so amazing for growth