Gain Superhero Strength with Supersets
Supersets are not as hard as people imagine them to be. Over the past few years, since Supersets became a ‘thing’ on the workout scene, there has been a lot of misinformation spread about exactly what they are and how to do them.
Let’s start with what they are not. They are not super-gruelling, overloaded workout routines that can only be performed by super-advanced bodybuilders. Far from it.
In fact, supersets are a great way for anyone to promote extra muscle growth. If you’ve noticed your muscle gains slowing down doing your standard workouts – it may be time to vary things up and try throwing in some supersets.
This article will explain exactly what supersets are, why they are a great addition to any workout programme and we’ll also share our all-new superset workout routine to build muscle and optimize your gym time.
What are Supersets?
Let’s dispel any myths and misconceptions straight off the bat.
Despite the name, you don’t need to be Superman to perform superset exercises. In essence, a superset involves merging two or more separate workout exercises into one by performing them back-to-back with no rest in-between.
In theory, you can take any two exercises and turn them into a superset. But, to get optimal results, you should combine exercises that complement each other. The most effective supersets for muscle growth are given in the following table.
Type Of Superset
Training the same muscle groups
Alternating bench presses and push-ups
Training opposing muscle groups
Bicep curls merged with tricep extensions
Training Isolated muscle groups
Fatigue one muscle group during the first exercise, so that another muscle group takes over in the second exercise
Limit muscle fatigue and preserve energy during high-intensity workouts - rather than build or tone muscle mass.
Mixing burpees with push-ups
The benefits of supersets
Supersets have four main advantages over standard exercises:
1 | Saves Time
Shortens rest intervals between exercises
2 | Boosts Intensity
Stands to reason as you’ll be doing more work in less time
3 | Shocks Muscles into Increased Growth
Overloads the muscle groups without using heavy weights
4 | Increases Stamina and Mental Resilience
The added intensity gives you more staying power, physically and mentally.
More than likely, if you’re reading this article you probably want muscle gains. The good news is that supersets are perfect for this as they promote hypertrophy – a fancy way of saying muscle growth.
By performing intense exercises back to back with no rest, your body’s anabolic hormone response will be supercharged, creating the right conditions for accelerated muscle growth, both during and after your workout.
The Superset Workout
Ok, so now you know what supersets are and why they’re good for you. It’s time to get real and get stuck into the exercise routine we’ve prepared for you. We’ve included at least one set of exercises for each of the major muscle groups, as well as a combination of pre-exhaust exercises to target the ‘harder to reach’ muscle groups and antagonist supersets.
Rest days are super-important with superset workouts as they are fairly intense and involve exhausting the muscles.
That’s why we recommend only 3 days per week of exercises allowing muscle recovery in-between.
These supersets can be performed in addition to a standard workout and cardio exercise but be careful not to over-do it and over-fatigue the same muscle groups.
The exercises require basic free-weight and body resistance equipment such as bench press, pull-up bars, and barbells. Where possible, alternatives are given to make it easier to perform at home with dumbbells only.
Day 1 | Chest & Back
- Select a weight you’re comfortable with – remember: with supersets you don’t want to lift your maximum weight, go for the middle of your range instead.
- Lie on your back on the bench and set your feet firmly flat against the floor, drawn back as close to your butt as possible without lifting them.
- Arch your lower back very slightly.
- Grip the bar tightly at a width that is comfortable for you - wrists bent pointing away from your head. Try not to spread your arms too wide - make the angle between your biceps and forearms slightly more than 90o.
- Inhale deeply and take the bar off the rack, exhaling as you do.
- Hold the bar above you for a moment, take another deep breath, brace your abdominal muscles and begin to lower the bar.
- Keep lowering it in a controlled motion until it touches your chest, with forearms 90o to the ground. It should hit your chest somewhere around your diaphragm.
- Tense your glutes, push your feet into the ground and lift the bar back up in one steady motion, breathing out as you do so.
- Repeat for the required number of reps.
- Take a pair of dumbbells, lie flat on a bench and rest each dumbbell on top of your thighs with palms facing each other.
- One at a time, bend your legs up to lift the dumbbells to a shoulder-width position in front of you.
- Rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing away from you. The dumbbells should now be to the side of your chest and forearm and upper arm at a 90o angle.
- Exhale and raise the dumbbells using your chest muscles. Then follow instructions 6 to 9 for the standard bench press (above).
Bent-over Two-Dumbbell Row
- Grab a pair of dumbbells with palms facing the side of your torso.
- Keep your knees slightly bent and bend over at your waist slowly, keeping your back straight until your upper body is almost parallel with the floor. Keep your head up, looking forward, and arms and dumbbells hanging down towards the floor.
- Keeping your upper chest and back still, exhale as you bring the dumbbells up to the side of your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in as close to your body as possible.
- Once your arms are as contracted as possible, tighten your back muscles and hold this position for a couple of seconds.
- Inhale and lower the weights slowly back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the required number of reps.
Day 2 | Rest or Standard Workout
Take a day off or perform a standard strength or cardio workout, avoiding too much chest and back exercise.
Day 3 | Arms
- Fully grip the pull-up bar with hands roughly shoulder-width apart, ensuring your palms are facing down.
- Hang from the bar by bending your knees, raising your feet slightly behind you. Keep your arms perfectly straight.
- Pull your body weight up. Imagine you are trying to pull your elbows down towards the ground to use your upper body power, keeping your elbows pushed in together as much as possible.
- Make sure your chin goes above the bar – don’t stop until it does!
- Lower yourself steadily until your arms are in a straight extension, take a quick breather – no more than 3 seconds, then repeat for the required number of reps.
- Grab hold of the dip bars and jump up into a balanced position with arms straight and locked elbows. Bend your knees up at a 90o angle behind you.
- Start the dip by leaning your torso forwards slightly, bending your arms and lowering your body steadily, inhaling as you do so.
- Keep going until your shoulders are slightly below your elbows. If you can, hold yourself in this position for a moment.
- Exhale and raise your body by straightening out your arms, bringing your shoulders back above your hands.
- Lock your elbows back at the start position and take a quick 2-3 second breather, then repeat for the required number of reps.
Day 4 | Rest or standard workout
Same as day 2, but avoid anything too strenuous with your arm muscles.
Day 5 | Legs
- Choose a pair of dumbbells that are a comfortable weight. It is recommended that you use wrist wraps for added safety.
- Standing straight, hold them at your side with palms facing the top of your thighs.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing outwards slightly. Look directly ahead to maintain balance, with your back perfectly straight also.
- Inhale and bend your knees to lower your upper body in a slow and steady motion.
- Keep going until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for a moment.
- Exhale and raise your body while pushing your heel into the floor, straightening your legs slowly.
- Repeat for the required number of reps.
Rear Dumbbell Lunge
- Start in the same position as the dumbbell squat (above).
- Inhale and step your right leg back until your right foot is approximately two feet from your left one, lowering your upper body from as you do so. Ensure that your upper body above your waist remains straight.
- Make sure your bent knee doesn’t go past your toes, and your calf is at 90o to the floor. Go as far as you can to exercise your quads fully.
- Exhale, then raise your body and push the ball of your foot towards the floor as you straighten up the bent leg.
- Repeat, switching your bent leg. Repeat for the required number of reps.