Supersets are a workout strategy in which you perform sets of two different exercises back-to-back with little or no rest. They are a great time-saver, and can make your workout more efficient and effective.
Generally, supersets are used for opposing muscle groups, such as chest (e.g., bench press) and back (e.g., row), so that one muscle group can recover while you train the other one, thereby reducing the time needed to rest. These types of supersets are referred to as agonist-antagonist paired sets (or, push-pull sets), since they work opposing muscle groups. This is an approach we favor at our facility.
Recently the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that subjects who performed leg extension and leg curl supersets also performed better. In fact, they completed more reps on the leg extension when the leg curl was done immediately beforehand than when done alone, despite getting no rest in between lifts. Furthermore, when the subjects did rest, even up to 30 seconds, they completed significantly fewer reps and were shown to be activating less muscle in their quads.
Here’s the rationale behind the effectiveness of supersets: Working an antagonistic muscle group increases the nervous system’s activation of the agonist. In this case, training the hamstrings enabled the quads to work better. Straight sets (doing a set of one exercise, resting, and repeating) probably have their place when you’re going heavy (although at our facility, we also superset heavy sets), but supersets can boost your workout effectiveness and efficiency.
This is an example of a few of our paired exercise supersets we use at Athletic Performance Training Center:
- Squat + Glute-Ham Raise
- Bench Press + Row
- Shoulder Press + Lat Pulldown
If you need extra time to recover from high-intensity sets of exercises such as the squat or bench press, by all means perform those exercises by themselves. Then perform your assistance exercises as supersets.
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