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What is a Weightlifting Superset? 5 Types of Supersets and When to Use Them

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What is a Weightlifting Superset? 5 Types of Supersets and When to Use Them
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Do you ever feel like your weightlifting routine is getting a little stale? If so, consider mixing things up with supersets. But what, exactly, is a superset? Simply put, it's two different exercises performed back-to-back with no rest. For example, you might do a set of dumbbell curls followed immediately by a set of triceps extensions. Or you could do a set of leg presses followed by a set of shoulder presses.

A superset is a weight training technique in which you perform two exercises for different muscle groups back-to-back with no rest. For example, you might immediately do 12 reps of biceps curls, followed by 12 reps of triceps extensions.

Because supersets involve working for different muscle groups in quick succession, they're an efficient way to build strength and muscle mass. In addition, supersets can help to improve your muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Supersets can help you make significant muscle size and strength gains when done regularly.

This article will discuss the benefits of supersets and how you can use them to maximize your gains.

Advantages of Supersets

Supersets have several advantages.

First, they're a great way to save time. When doing two back-to-back exercises, you're cutting down on the time you spend resting between sets. This makes supersets ideal for when you're short on time or trying to get in a quick workout.

Second, supersets are just perfect for increasing workout intensity. When lifting weights, your muscles generate energy by breaking down ATP (adenosine triphosphate). However, your body can only produce a limited amount of ATP, so after about 10 seconds of all-out effort, your muscles start borrowing energy from other sources.

This is why supersets are so effective at increasing the intensity of your workout; by the time you finish the first exercise, your ATP levels will already be depleted, so you'll have to work much harder to complete the second exercise.

Third, Supersets burn fat very efficiently because they don't allow your heart to rest between exercises, which forces it to work harder and ultimately encourages cardiovascular exercise. And since cardio burns more calories than other types of exercise, supersets are great for fat loss.

Fourth, supersets allow working on a muscle group's range of motion. The best part about supersets is that you can adjust them to fit your needs better. If, for example, you want to only focus on building one muscle group's range of motion and capabilities, connect exercises that all work for the same muscle group.

Fifth, supersets increase functional strength. You can use supersets in your functional strength training routine by pairing exercises that utilize big opposite muscle groups.

For example, you could do sumo squats followed by an overhead press. Moving between the two exercises will raise your heart rate, and the longer you perform the two exercises, the more endurance you'll build. This full-body high-intensity training routine is similar to Tabata or HIIT and is designed to improve overall athletic performance.

Disadvantages of Supersets

Just like everything else, supersets are not flawless, either. Of course, there are a couple of disadvantages to using supersets.

First, they can be tough on your joints and connective tissues since there's no rest period between sets. If you have joint or connective tissue issues, it's best to stick with traditional sets where you rest for 1-2 minutes between sets.

Second, supersets can make it difficult to maintain good form on the second exercise since your muscles will already be fatigued from the first exercise. This increases your risk of injury, so if you decide to use supersets, focus on maintaining good form throughout both exercises.

Types of Supersets

Now that we've gone over some of the advantages and disadvantages of supersets, let's look at five types of supersets and when to use them.

1. Push-Pull Supersets

These sets involve two exercises that work opposing muscle groups (e.g., chest and back or biceps and triceps). Push-pull sets are great for beginners because they allow you to focus on one muscle group at a time while still getting a good cardio workout.

For example:

  • bench press/barbell rows
  • quadricep extension/hamstring curls
  • barbell overhead press/pull-ups

Push-pull supersets are an excellent way to reduce your total workout time while building muscle. Using opposing muscle groups, you can minimize the strength lost between sets, even with a short rest period.

Push-pull superset training is ideal for maximizing gains in a shorter time frame.

2. Pre-Exhaustion Compound-Isolation Sets

These sets involve doing an isolation exercise for one muscle group followed immediately by a compound exercise for that same muscle group. For example, you might do a set of leg extensions followed by squats.

Pre-exhaustion sets are great for advanced lifters looking for a more intense workout to keep making gains toward their higher goals.

3. Post-Exhaustion Supersets

These sets involve doing an isolation exercise for a particular muscle group followed immediately by a compound exercise for another muscle group (e.g., chest followed by shoulders or triceps followed by biceps).

Post-exhaustion sets serve experienced lifters who want to target multiple muscle groups in one workout.

4. Upper-lower Supersets

These sets involve doing an upper-body exercise followed immediately by a lower-body exercise (e.g., the overhead press followed by deadlifts or bench press followed by squats).

With this method, you can use large muscle groups in the lower body and get the upper body training in the same time frame. Supersets are a good way to reap aerobic benefits and strength training, especially when rest periods are kept short.

Additionally, if your goal is to perform a full-body workout all at once, supersetting the upper and lower muscles is a great option. You can use kettlebells and dumbbells to follow a proper full-body workout routine at home.

5. Compound or Cluster Sets

Cluster sets are the most advanced type of superset and involve performing a high-resistance compound exercise in multiple mini-sets instead of one long set. For example, a cluster set may include doing 3–5 repetitions, resting for 10-30 seconds, then repeating this pattern 2-4 times.

A traditional set has a specific number of repetitions, while cluster sets have the same volume of repetitions as a traditional set. However, with cluster sets, there is added rest time between repetitions.

This extra resting time allows you to lift at a higher percentage than you normally would. For example, instead of lifting at 75% 1RM, you may be able to lift at 90%.

According to some studies, cluster sets may help improve power and velocity during training for a sporting event because this method allows you to work at or near your maximal output level for more repetitions.

FAQs

1. How do you superset when lifting?

A superset is when you do two exercises consecutively with a short break in between-- not always, but usually. By doing this, you're doubling the amount of work while keeping the same recovery periods as if you did each exercise separately.

2. Is superset good for gaining muscle?

Supersets help you build muscle faster by perfectly training your muscles to work together. A common method uses supersets for antagonists, such as biceps and triceps.

3. What is a superset of 3 sets?

Supersets are when you do two exercises consecutively with no break in between. Tri Sets are three exercises back to back, and Giant sets are when you do four or more exercises one after the other with no rest.

Conclusion

A superset is two exercises performed back-to-back with no rest in between. Supersets can save you time at the gym and help you push your muscles to new limits, leading to faster gains.

There are five types of supersets: push-pull, pre-exhaustion compound-isolation, post-exhaustion, upper-lower, and compound or cluster sets. When choosing a superset routine, select exercises that complement each other and pair well together.

As always, listen to your body and mind when performing any workout routine – supersetting included and make adjustments based on how you feel that day. What's your favorite type of superset? Let us know in the comments below!

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