Are you struggling with your workouts? Are you still doing the traditional bodybuilding type of workout? Are you surprised to find out that you need to go to gym to work out two hours each session for 4 to 6 days a week by following the workout routines in the fitness or bodybuilding magazines?
As a professional fitness trainer helping everyday busy people like you to build muscles, lose fat and get in shape, I know what works best and what doesn’t.
I’m an advocate of total-body training . I’m also a big fan of doing supersets, tri-sets, giant sets or circuit strength training in a weight training routine for many reasons.
The truth is that most 9-to-5 working people simply cannot go to gym for weight training 5 days a week consistently without getting burnout.
The main reason is not just about time. It’s also about workout intensity and recovery. Program compliance and adherence is most important in a successful exercise program .
Is 5 better than 3?
Maybe. But if you can perform three weight training sessions a week effectively with truly high intensity and achieve good results, why go for two extra sessions? In fact, if you don’t work out at high intensity and don’t recover well enough, the two extra sessions will not help you gain strength and grow muscles. On the contrary, it may negatively sabotage your progress.
Truth be told, many people overestimate their workout intensity. There is a huge difference between pumping 100 reps of bicep curls with 10-lb dumbbells and 20 reps of chest press with 50-lb dumbbells. Got that?
What Is Superset?
Superset is referred to a weight training system or workout routine that you perform two exercises back to back with no or very little rest.
A “giant set” involves doing four consecutive exercises with no rest. Circuit training is typically involved more than 5 exercises in a circuit fashion.
You can normally perform the first exercise with higher quality or heavier weight because you’re fresh from the rest. As you move on to do the second exercise, your central nervous system (CNS) starts to lose some focus and your ATP energy system cannot fire up as quick. So you may not be able to do the second exercise as good or as heavy as if you would do it by itself in a straight-set system .
So be aware of supersetting the exercises with proper sequence, weights and rest periods to meet the goal of your training progam. It’s nothing wrong to reverse the order of the two exercises. The training effect could be different.
It’s best to choose the first exercise with multi-joint compound movement or the weaker muscle group that you want to strengthen and put more emphasis on. That’s, prioritize training your weaker or less developed muscle group.
How to Superset
There are many ways of supersetting your weight training routines.
- Superset two exercises to work on the same or related muscle group. For example, the variation # 3 in my article How to Change Up Your Strength Training Workout Routine is one way to work on your chest with two different exercises (chest press and flye) with different movements and emphasis. Another example is do your squats followed by lunges or deadlift to work on your legs. You can do lat pull-down (for your lat and upper back muscles) followed by seated row (for your mid and lower back muscles).
- Superset two exercises to work on opposing muscle groups or opposing joint actions. For example, you can superset bench press (for your chest) with bent-over rows (for your back). In an another example, you can superset dumbbell curl (for your biceps) with dumbbell kickback (for your triceps). In addition, you can superset leg extension (for your quadriceps) with leg curl (for your hamstrings). Supersetting lat pull-down (for your lat and upper back) with shoulder press is opposing joint actions since your lat/back and shoulder are not really opposing muscle groups anatomically.
- Superset two unrelated muscle groups. This type of supersetting workout is inefficient but most effective, particularly for fat loss . For example, you can perform squat (for your legs) followed by barbell bench press (for your chest). This supersetting method often involves one upper body exercise with one lower body exercise. So when you perform the upper body exercise (bench press), your lower body that was just worked (your legs) can rest and recover. Although you’re doing two (unrelated) exercises back to back without rest, you’re in fact still resting the other muscle group. Overall, you save rest periods and do more work in a shorter time. That’s, your training volume is higher in short period of time with little recovery between sets. Your workout “intensity” is truly high.
Exercise inefficiency causes more stress on your neuro-muscular system. You break down more muscle tissues! Superset routine has a greater fat burning effect by revving up your your metabolic rate .
With proper nutrition and recovery to repair the damaged tissues, you’ll get stronger, build more muscle , and burn more fat .
Sounds Good, But …
The superset idea sounds good and simple. But in reality, it’s not easy to excute effectively. It’s practically difficult to get an effective and efficient superset workout in a commercial gym, particularly during high-traffic hours. You have to learn how to organize an effective workout.
If you’re supersetting squat with bench press, you’ll take up two work stations just for yourself. It’s probably not desirable, particularly during high-traffic gym hours. You may need to move back and forth between two stations, sometimes across the room. By the time you’re done with squat and walk over to bench press station, there may be other people waiting there to use the bench and or actually using the bench.
In some cases, you may need different pairs of weights for different muscle groups. You’ll end up shuffling dumbbells around on the rack, all over the floor or moving the bench here and there, which again may be scoffed by other gym members.
So the key is to find an area or weight station that you can use throughout a superset. Also plan the supersets properly so as to minimize weight changes for efficiency. You may read some superset routines in fitness or bodybuilding magazines . Most look good on paper but most are just not practical at all for the above reasons.