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Supersets: All You Need to Know to Boost Your Workouts

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Supersets are a fantastic training technique that you can use when you're short on time or are needing an extra kick from your workout sessions.

But what exactly are they and how would you go about incorporating them into your training program?

How can you utilize them to make twice the gains from your workout, in like half the time?

If you've got any questions about supersets whatsoever, I'm likely going to cover it in this post.

Whether you're a beginner in the gym wanting to learn about supersets of an advanced lifter looking to top up on your training knowledge, there's going to be something in here that you can learn from.

Stick with me and I'll help you learn all you need to know about them!

Fit and muscular men in the gym doing supersets with barbell curls and tricep extensions to build muscle

Everything You Need to Know About Supersets

First of All: What Even Is a Superset?

A superset is a type of intensity technique that’s intended to help you get more out of your workouts in a shorter period of time.

It involves lifters alternating between different exercises in the same set, with very little to no rest in between working periods.

For example, a lifter might choose to superset a bicep and tricep isolation exercise on their ‘arm day’.

The lifter might do a set of 12 reps with ab EZ bar, and then immediately jump into a set of 12 with that same barbell on overhead extensions.

This lifter would then be supersetting between bicep curls and overhead tricep extensions.

Supersets can be done with any combination of exercise, and there are many different types of them too.

I’ll get into that later.

Why Would We Use Them?

Athletes typically use supersets in their workouts when they’re running short on time, and want to get a little bit extra out of their session before they leave.

By supersetting exercises and reducing the amount of time that you spend resting, you can get more gains out of your workout in a much shorter time period.

Because you make your workout so much more intense, your body is going to have to work much harder to keep up and it’ll make up for some of the gains you otherwise would’ve missed out on if you had just left part way through the workout.

Some athletes and lifters will also choose to incorporate supersets into their workouts, regardless of their time availability.

Some people, especially bodybuilders just like the feeling of a more intense workout, and like to feel the more intense ‘pump’ in their muscles.

Strong and lean man doing bicep curls superset to build more muscle and increase workout intensity

They like to feel more satisfied with their workouts, and leave the gym feeling like they really worked hard.

The Key Takeaway: People include supersets in their workout routines and programs when they're short on time and need more out of their sessions in a shorter time period. Some people will also choose to include supersets in their workouts for the added intense and burning sensation that they tend to offer you.

The Different Types of Supersets

This is where it starts to get slightly more complicated.

But you'll manage.

I'll try to explain it as best as I can.

The different types of supersets are as follows:

  • Post exhaustion supersets

  • Strength/mobility supersets

  • Upper/lower supersets

  • Same muscle group supersets

  • Antagonistic supersets

These different types all have their own time and place in various workout routines, and I'll explain each one below.

Post Exhaustion Supersets

This type of superset refers to the pairing of a compound exercise and an isolation exercise together.

Lifters will do the compound exercise first, and then immediately head into the isolation exercise to get more of a burn on the target muscle.

The idea behind this is that compound exercises are generally better for building strength and are better for overall growth.

Isolation exercises are then better for focusing on a specific muscle group and are great for finishing off a muscle group.

By doing the compound exercises first, you give yourself the best chance to make some good gains in terms of both strength and muscle building.

Then, you immediately switch into the isolation movement to finish off the target muscle and really hone in on it.

An example of this would be a chest superset like:

  1. Barbell bench press for chest strength and muscle mass

  2. Immediately jumping into cable flyes (to failure) to add more of a burn onto the chest

Or an example of a quadricep superset might be something like:

  1. Leg press for strength and muscle mass

  2. Supersetting into quad extensions to finish off the quads and add intensity

It's an absolutely fantastic way to significantly increase the intensity of your workout and get more out your muscles in half the time it would usually take.

Hopefully that explains what a post-exhaustion superset is.

Strength/Mobility Supersets

This is a style of superset that has you doing a strength exercises first, and then immediately heading into a flexibility/mobility exercise.

The main purpose of this kind of superset is to help you build up your strength as well as your mobility to improve your technique and help keep you moving as efficiently as possible.

You can get some strength work done and build on your lifting capacity, and then immediately head into mobility work for any weak points that you feel are lagging behind in terms of flexibility.

An example of this would be something like:

  1. Heavy sumo deadlifts to build strength

  2. Mobility work for the hip flexors to increase deadlift efficiency and safety

Or another example might be:

  1. Barbell squats for strength

  2. Ankle mobility exercises to improve squat depth

This is a great choice of superset type if you're an athlete that cares about becoming the best overall athlete that you can be, and moving as efficiently as possible in all ways possible.

Upper/Lower Supersets

This kind of superset is exactly what it sounds like.

It splits your body in half and has you pairing an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise.

This type of superset would really only be used during a workout split such as a full body split, where you’re hitting various parts of the body in the same session.

Since upper body exercises usually don’t work the lower body and vice versa, you're not going to experience too much additional fatigue between the sets.

However, it is important that you pick exercises that aren't that taxing on the body.

Otherwise, you will face a lot of central nervous system (CNS) fatigue and you might find it hard to keep training intensely.

For example, if you try to superset a set of heavy barbell bench presses with a set of heavy barbell squats, you're going to die.

Do not try this.

Instead, you should look to choose exercises that aren't that taxing on the muscles and central nervous system.

Exercises such as the seated dumbbell shoulder press and the goblet squat would be fine to superset.

Or, isolation exercises like the bicep curl and the calf raise would be fine to superset as well.

This kind of superset is a great way for people to achieve more total workout volume without having to commit too much more time into the gym and without causing too much of a drop in your workout performance.

Same Muscle Group Supersets

This is a kind of superset that allows you to really focus on a single muscle group and make sure it gets the majority of your attention during the session.

Many people will use this kind of superset to fix up lagging body parts and help even out muscular imbalances.

Basically, it involves you pairing two strength training exercises together, and having them both target the same muscle group.

You may notice that the first type of superset I mentioned: post exhaustion supersets actually fall under this category.

By doing two exercises back to back without rest, you can really shift the focus onto one particular muscle group.

An example of this could be a back superset like:

  1. Pull ups for back strength and muscle mass

  2. Superset into straight arm pulldowns to isolate the back and finish them off

Or more commonly, you’ll pick two exercises that each target different parts of a muscle group.

For example, a bicep superset would look something like:

  1. EZ bar curls for overall bicep growth

  2. Dumbbell hammer curls to build up the brachialis, long head and forearms

Fit and muscular man doing bicep curls superset to focus on a singular muscle group.

This kind of superset is a great way to really focus on a singular muscle group and is usually used to lessen muscular imbalances.

For example, if you've got much stronger triceps than biceps, you may want to add an additional superset for your biceps whilst keeping your tricep training the same for a couple of weeks.

This would gradually even out the muscular imbalance, and then you could return back to the same training volume for both muscles once you're satisfied with the proportions.

Antagonistic Supersets

Alright, now this is where it starts to get a little technical.

I’ll start by explaining what antagonistic muscles are.

Every muscle group is paired with another muscle group, and they always move together.

Whenever one muscle group is lengthening or protracting, the other is shortening or contracting.

For example, the chest and back are a pair of antagonistic muscles.

During a barbell bench press, the chest stretches at the bottom when the bar is on your chest, and contracts at the top when you arms are locked out.

The back does the exact opposite.

The muscles of the back are shortened at the bottom end of a bench press, and are stretched when you push the bar up towards the ceiling.

In antagonistic pairs, the muscles are always doing opposing movements to each other.

Other examples of antagonistic pairs would include: