A superset is two exercises performed in a row without rest periods. Supersets can target one muscle group or antagonistic (opposing) muscle groups. They are a great way to shake up your existing routine and push past a plateau, they allow you to work at a higher intensity in a shorter space of time and promote muscle growth with an increased workload. In a study published in the Journal of strength and conditioning research, men who performed a full body supersets session burned 30% more calories a minute and finished their workout in 31 minutes while the straight sets too 40 minutes.
Push-pull supersets are similar to regular supersets, but exercises are chosen which work opposing muscle groups. This is especially popular when applied to arm exercises, for example by combining biceps curls with the triceps pushdown. Other examples include the shoulder press and lat pulldown combination, and the bench press and wide grip row combination.
A muscle is first fatigued by a single-joint isolation exercise and then further exhausted by performing a multi-joint compound exercise involving the same muscle group and additional muscle groups. You could perform biceps curls followed by chin-ups, or lateral raises followed by behind-the-neck presses.
Pre-exhaustion is a training principle that was introduced to the bodybuilding world in 1968 by Robert Kennedy in Iron Man magazine, but it was Nautilus founder Arthur Jones who popularized it and was obsessed with finding the most painful ways to use this training system. Jones liked the pre-exhaustion method so much that he even designed several of his early Nautilus machines to combine two exercises into one to minimize the amount of rest time between sets. For example, he designed these two-in-one machines: a leg extension/leg press machine, and a lateral raise/overhead press machine. Possibly because these machines were much more expensive than single-station units and because fewer gym members could use them at one time, these units are no longer being produced.
With a post-exhaust superset you first perform a compound lift working multiple muscles and now follow it with the isolation movement. The idea behind this is that the highly intense effort in performing the compound exercise shocks the nervous system to allow greater recruitment of muscle fibers when performing the isolation exercise.
If you do not at first have sufficient endurance to complete the supersets you can go beyond failure with negative reps. Have a spotter help you lift the weight then concentrate on resisting the downward progress in a slow controlled manner through an eccentric contraction. Alternatively, an individual can use an exercise machine for negatives by lifting the weight with both arms or legs, and then lowering it with only one.
- Triceps: Skull crushers superset with close grip bench press
- Biceps: Dumbbell bicep curls superset with chin ups
- Chest: Incline dumbbell press superset with Incline dumbbell flyes
- Shoulders: Dumbbell overhead press superset with front dumbbell raises
- Back: Back rows superset with wide grip pull ups
- Legs: Squats superset with lunges
Supersets keep the heart rate high to burn more fat and cut down the overall time spent on a workout. Everyone has to find what work’s best for them but it’s certainly worth trying to introduce supersets into your routine, they can be very effective at giving you the pump in your arms when you isolate biceps and triceps. To take this principle further you might want to try German volume training, you perform supersets of opposing muscle groups but perform 10 sets in total and cut the rest time between supersets down to 90 seconds. It makes for a grueling workout but the German volume training program works because it targets a group of motor units, exposing them to an extensive volume of repeated efforts, specifically 10 sets of a single exercise. The body adapts to the extraordinary stress by hypertrophying the targeted fibers. You should use weight that’s about 60% of your one rep max every set.