What would you say if I told you there was a method of building more muscle mass in less time? For those of you who are interested, I’ll attempt to explain a very underestimated training technique that will shock your muscles into extreme growth.
Many of you may have heard about Superset Training or you may have used supersets in your training before, you may not know it in all its forms, or the many different ways to incorporate it into your workouts.
WHAT IS A SUPERSET TRAINING?
Just in case you’re not familiar with supersets, let me start from the beginning and explain the difference between a conventional set and a superset.
Conventional weight training is done using “straight sets.” A straight set consists of a series of nonstop repetitions, usually somewhere between 6 and 12, followed by a rest interval of one to three minutes.
Superset training, as described in Bodybuilding.com, is combination of one exercise performed right after the other with no rest in between them. Superset is an advanced training technique which is an excellent technique for muscular hypertrophy, especially if you are short of time.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SUPERSET?
There are four primary advantages supersets have over conventional straight sets:
1. Supersets save time. The most obvious advantage of supersetting is to save time. Even if you truly enjoy training, it’s probably safe to assume that you wouldn’t mind getting equal or better results in a shorter period of time. By eliminating the rest intervals between sets (when you would normally be doing nothing), you can finish your workout in as little as half the time (or you can do more volume in the same time).
2. Supersets increase intensity. Usually when you think of high intensity muscle building techniques, you think of forced reps, descending sets, and negative-emphasis reps. Supersets are simply another method of increasing intensity. Shortening the rest between sets is hard work and represents an overload to your body — especially if you’re used to a long rest interval. The principle is: more work performed in less time equals more intensity and more intensity equals more muscle.
3. Supersets helps your body boost more Growth Hormone. Supersets increase Lactic Acid production, which helps boost Growth Hormone (GH) levels in the body. The body responds to the reduced pH (increased acidity) in the body from the production of Lactic Acid by secreting GH. GH is a powerful fat loss and muscle building hormone.
4. Allows individuals to break through a strength plateau. Super sets are excellent for breaking through strength limitations (i.e. when your maximum weight for a given exercise doesn’t seem to be increasing), and can be performed for all major muscle groups.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUPERSET TRAINING?
Based on the muscles group worked during superset, there are three primary categories of supersets:
- Same muscle group superset, which will be divided into 4 sub-category.
- Antagonist (different muscles group) superset
- Staggered sets (a.k.a “non-competing” muscles group)
SAME MUSCLE GROUP SUPERSET
The first and most common way to superset is to combine two exercises for the same muscle group. An example would be performing two different chest exercises back to back. Within the “same-muscle group” superset category, there are 4 sub-categories: pre-exhaust, post-exhaust, compound, and isolation.
a. PRE-EXHAUST SUPERSET
Pre-exhaustion is probably the best known type of superset among bodybuilders. A pre exhaust superset is performed by choosing two exercises for the same muscle group; the first exercise is an isolation movement that targets a single major muscle group, while the second exercise is a compound exercise that targets several muscle groups, including the original major muscle group.
One example of a pre-fatigue super set would be to perform leg extensions followed by barbell squats. The leg extensions isolate, exercise and fatigue the quadriceps muscles. The second exercise, a barbell squat, will be performed after the leg extensions and without any rest. The barbell squat exercise will exercise the fatigued muscle group (the quadriceps) as well as the gluteals and hamstrings, which are not fatigued.
The idea behind pre-exhaust supersets is to take a muscle group beyond the normal point of exhaustion and thereby achieve muscle fiber stimulation and growth that you could not achieve from a straight set.
The only drawback with pre exhaust supersets is that you will only be able to use a fraction of your normal weight on the second exercise. That’s ok when it comes to muscle growth, but remember, if your goal is power or pure strength then this would be counter productive.
b. POST-EXHAUST SUPERSET
This type of super set is the exact opposite of the pre-fatigue super set. Contrary to the pre-fatigue super set, the compound exercise is performed before the isolation exercise. Using the same example as before, the barbell squat would be performed first, followed by the leg extensions.
Under this scenario, the quadriceps would be exercised along with the gluteals and the hamstrings and then isolated when the leg extensions are performed. In other words, this approach allows you to exercise the quadriceps in unison with several other muscle groups and then isolate them as the major muscle group.
Personally, this type of superset workout is my favourite. This type of superset gives you the best possible of both worlds: a) size and strength increase, and b) isolation with a wicked pump.
Post exhaust supersets can also be used as a very effective variation on the heavy-light system.
c. COMPOUND SUPERSET
The compound super set is probably the most difficult type of super set to perform as it combines two exercises that work multiple major muscle groups. An example of a compound super set would be to perform a set of barbell lunges followed by a set of barbell squats, with no rest in between sets. The barbell lunges will exercise the gluteals, quadriceps and hamstrings, while the barbell squats will exercise the same three major muscle groups.
In this example, the barbell squats could be performed first, followed by the barbell lunges. Performing a compound super set requires a large amount of effort and energy as three major groups are being exercised simultaneously through a single exercise.
d. ISOLATED SUPERSET
Performing an isolated super set is similar to performing a compound super set in that it combines two exercises that work the same major muscle group. For example, performing a set of flat bench dumbbell flyes followed by immediately performing a set of cable crossovers would be considered an isolated super set.
In this case, both exercises work the pectorals in an isolated and similar way. In addition, the pectoral muscles are the only primary muscle group being exercised. Similar to performing a compound super set, performing isolated super sets require a fair amount of energy and effort.
When you do two exercises in a row for the same muscle group, it tends to significantly limit the amount of weight you can use because of fatigue and lactic acid buildup. Pairing opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups together can help you keep your strength up because as one muscle is working, the opposite one is resting.
Antagonistic Supersets are excellent for allowing you to compress workout time while maintaining high strength levels. When you work an opposing muscle group directly after the original muscle, studies have shown that the nervous system activation can actually INCREASE strength in the second muscle group when you work it.
Opposing muscle group supersets involve performing a superset using a push muscle group and a pull muscle group that oppose one another.
For instance, the triceps and biceps muscle groups are considered opposing muscle groups. As an example, if an individual performs a set of straight bar pushdowns (works the triceps) and immediately follows up with a set of standing barbell curls (works the biceps), they would be performing an opposing muscle group super set.
The final category of supersetting is staggered sets. The concept associated with performing a staggering super set is to alternate back and forth between two or more exercises that target completely different muscle groups. As with all super sets, no rest may be taken between sets.
For example, performing a set of flat barbell bench presses, a set of abdominal crunches, a set of flat barbell bench presses and a set of abdominal crunches would be considered a staggering super set. This approach would then be used for the total number of sets defined for both exercises (i.e. 4 or 5 sets of each exercise).
All in all, many benefits can be gained from including supersets in your program. Supersetting is a legitimate way to get more results in less time. The concept of super setting should be considered by any individual that regularly performs a weight training routine and has developed a reasonable level of structural strength.
It is also important to understand how each of the major muscle groups function (individually and collectively), the exercises that work each muscle group, and the correct form with which to perform each exercise.
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Happy Training and stay motivated!