How Using Supersets Accelerates Results
Supersets are a widely used method of increasing density of a workout and ramping up metabolic demand. This article tells you what you need to know and provides some superset examples.
How Supersets Can Accelerate Results
While supersets are a widely used method of increasing density of a workout and ramping up metabolic demand, most trainers simply aren’t using them as effectively as they could be accelerate the results their clients want to see.
So where do most trainers go wrong?
For starters a majority of the supersets, trisets or giant sets that I see in programs are typically done using non-competing or antagonistic movement patterns or muscle groups.
For example you may pair a push up with a row alternating between sets of the two exercises with minimal or short rest periods during a workout.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a very effective method of training, but…
…for some advanced trainees or trainees that need a change in stimulus it might not be enough to get the job done.
The biggest reasoning for pairing up movements this way is to get more work done in less time (you can work one pattern or muscle group while the other is resting).
That is great when you need to keep a session a certain length but accomplish a lot in that session. It also works great for those using total body sessions in their training where they may only get to train a few times a week at most.
I would say that 75%+ of the programs I have ever written use this type of set up. It’s easy to layout a program this way and it gets results.
However, there are times when you need a change of pace in your clients’ workouts to get them the results they want.
That’s when you go back to a few of the old school principles of training that we can take from the bodybuilding crowd. Namely, time under tension.
If you or your clients are anything like me though you hate the idea of doing controlled eccentrics or counting that much.
Do you really want to do this for your entire workout…
“One-Thousand-One…One-Thousand-Two…One-Thousand-Uh where was I….”
There are lots of ways to increase TUT without focusing on the eccentric portion of the lift and spending your entire workout counting seconds and reps.
One of my favorite recently has been using competing supersets or trisets in my training.
How to Set Up Competing Supersets
The easiest way to set these up is to pick two movements or exercises that use the same pattern or muscle group. (I am going to continue to use both terms so I don’t get slammed for saying muscle groups from the fitness elitists out there).
I enjoy using a larger, main movement such as an Overhead Press or Bench Press (any variety with any implement) with a higher rep movement such as DB Flies or Push Up Variations.
Your set up might look like this:
- Barbell Bench Press x 6-8 reps
- No Rest
- Push Up Flies On Sliders x 15-20 Reps
- Rest for 60-90s
- Complete 3-4 sets of each
Here’s an example of one I did in a hotel (I had to use controlled eccentric and pause reps on the DB press due to the weights available):
The great thing about using something that self limiting like a push up as the second exercise in the pairing is that you can take it to failure if needed without much risk. It’s a great way to really ramp up the intensity of the training.
For advanced clients you can also flip the exercises so that you use a smaller, more focused movement first and then finish with your larger movement. I am not a big fan of this set up due to the risk involved with it. The fatigue you experience during your first exercise makes anything you do after a bit more risky.
Lower body set ups are typically a bit more tricky to set up depending on the level of the client. If a client is squatting or deadlifting they probably aren’t going to have anything paired up with it that will fatigue them. I want to focus on quality movements in those lifts, especially with a barbell.
…focus on quality movements.
However, with the use of lunges, goblet squats, swings and other movements patterns training the lower body it becomes a little bit easier to create these supersets.
Lower Body Superset Examples
- Slider Leg Curls x 10-15 reps
- No Rest
- Walking Lunges x 10-12 each side
- Rest 120s
- Goblet Squat x 20 reps
- No Rest
- KB Swing x 10-15 reps
- Rest 120s
How to Make This Work for You
I want to make sure you understand that in no way am I saying you should completely change your training to include only competing supersets. However, you now have another tool to put in your tool box to keep training fun and exciting for your clients and challenge them a bit when needed.
Everyone likes the feeling of accomplishment they get when they complete a tough workout.
Focus on the basics.
But, understand that you can accomplish results with a lot of different methods.
This type of training works best when you have clients that are training 3+ days per week and using some type of split training. It can be used in an total body workout, but it is most effective in an upper/lower split.
For a quick workout you can use the following principles:
- Use 3-4 supersets or tri-sets per workout
- Perform 2-5 sets per super or tri-set (depending on rep ranges used)
- Keep rest brief but long enough to recover between super or tri-sets. Typically 90-120s.
Those basic rules will get you started experimenting with this superset method for your clients.
Oh, and one more thing— don’t forget to test these on yourself first! They can be quite challenging and you need to know what your clients will be experiencing. 😉