There are a lot of different approaches and formats to strength training sessions. For example, you can perform drop sets, where you begin with a higher weight and fewer reps and then sequentially lower the weight or your subsequent sets while increasing the number of reps.
There is also circuit training, which involves rotating between a bunch of different strength training exercises back to back with limited rest in between, along with plenty of other ways to structure your workouts.
One of the more common strength training techniques is superset training. If you are a beginner, you are probably wondering, what is a superset?
A superset in strength training is an approach that involves pairing together two different exercises performed back to back without taking a break in between.
Experienced lifters are probably well-versed in superset workouts, as this type of training can provide cardio and metabolic benefits in addition to increasing muscular strength and endurance.
In this article, we will not only cover the basics, like the superset definition but also the benefits of superset workouts in strength training and some superset workout examples for beginners and advanced athletes alike.
We will cover:
- What Is a Superset?
- Benefits of Supersets In Strength Training
- Sample Superset Workouts
Let’s dive in!
What Is a Superset?
It is helpful to have a good understanding of the superset meaning in the context of strength training so that you can properly integrate this training approach into your workout plan.
A superset in resistance training refers to a “double set” where you perform two exercises back to back before resting. In other words, you move right from one exercise directly into the next without taking any break in between the two other than to move your body position or grab a different weight to set up for the second exercise.
Supersets are typically structured in one of two ways: either the two exercises that comprise the superset target the same muscle group, or they deliberately target opposing muscle groups.
For example, to do a superset that targets the same muscles, you might sequence together the chest press and chest fly or chest press and push-ups, both of which target the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles in the chest, along with supporting muscles like the triceps, deltoids, and rotator cuff muscles.
To perform a superset at target antagonistic muscles, you might perform bicep curls and triceps extensions or triceps kickbacks with dumbbells.
The approach you take in the specific exercises you select for your superset workout will depend on your fitness level and training goals.
It is worth mentioning that some people also use the concept of superset training in a more general approach, picking any two exercises to pair together in one set, but this approach is less common because it minimizes some of the intended benefits of superset training.
For example, you might perform a squat and then a push-up before taking a rest. Although this won’t have any benefits specific to muscular adaptations, it can still be an effective way to keep your heart rate elevated and provide cardiovascular and metabolic benefits over taking traditional rest intervals between each exercise.
Now that we have the superset definition clear, let’s check out the benefits!
Benefits of Supersets In Strength Training
The specific benefits of superset strength training workouts depend largely on how you structure your superset workouts, namely in terms of whether you are pairing together exercises that work the same muscles or opposing muscle groups.
#1: Superset Workouts Save Time
Regardless of the types of supersets you are performing, one of the primary benefits of superset training is that it is efficient in terms of time.
By eliminating the rest in between the exercises in the superset, you can move through your entire workout routine more quickly.
For example, if you perform a workout that involves five different supersets performed three times through, that’s 10 different exercises but 30 different sets.
If you would normally take 45 seconds of rest in between each exercise, your total rest time during the workout would be 22.5 minutes. However, when you perform the exercises as supersets, you are only resting half as often, cutting down your workout time by over 11 minutes.
#2: Supersets Can Improve Muscular Endurance
When your supersets involve two exercises that target the same muscle groups, you are working the muscles for an extended period of time. Even though you are performing different movements, the same muscles are recruited, requiring them to continue to generate force even when already fatigued by the first exercise.
This can increase the stamina or fatigue resistance of your muscles.
#3: Superset Training Can Help You Stay Balanced
One of the common challenges that weightlifters face in terms of their workouts is making sure that they are spending an equal amount of time, effort, or workload on opposing muscle groups.
It is all too common to see people spend a disproportionate amount of time on certain muscle groups, primarily those on the front of the body that we can see in the mirror, such as the pecs, biceps, shoulders, abs, and quads, to the detriment of the muscles on the backside of the body such as the lats, triceps, low-back extensors, glutes, and hamstrings.
It is important to work every muscle group fairly equally so that you don’t develop muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances can not only detract from your functional performance because you will be limited by the weakest link, but they can also make you more susceptible to injury.
This is because there is a tendency to overuse the stronger muscles in a movement that has been trained more thoroughly. This can either overtax these stronger muscles or can mean that the weaker muscles end up getting recruited for a lift that they really can’t support.
One of the benefits of doing supersets with opposing muscle groups is that there is inherently a deliberate emphasis on balancing the workload and training volume between antagonistic muscle groups.
Although you might think that you are generally doing a good job working out all of the different muscle groups in your body, superset training opposing muscle groups can be a good safeguard to ensure that you actually are.
For example, many people do split strength training routines where they might target the pushing muscles one day and the pulling muscles another day.
Oftentimes, the training volume for workouts for pushing movements is more robust than those for pulling movements, meaning that they might include more exercises per workout session, more reps and sets, or more weight lifted. Over time, this can lead to muscular balances between antagonistic muscle groups.
On the other hand, if you intentionally pair together antagonistic muscles with superset workouts, you can be more mindful of keeping your training efforts balanced on both sides of your body.
#4: Superset Training Can Improve Overall Fitness
By moving between the two exercises in rapid succession without rest, your heart rate stays elevated during superset training.
This can provide cardio or aerobic fitness gains, increase the number of calories you burn, and challenge your metabolic energy-generating systems above that which you would have experienced by doing traditional strength training with regular rest intervals between each exercise.
Sample Superset Workouts
Let’s move on to the practical part of our guide with some superset workout examples for beginners and experienced weightlifters.
Beginner Superset Workout
For beginners, it is best to structure your superset workouts with each superset comprising exercises that target opposing muscles.
This will ensure that you do not over-fatigue your muscles and end up compromising your form and technique. It is also a good way to familiarize yourself with antagonistic muscles and muscle groups.
Complete 2-3 rounds of the following supersets:
- Dumbbell front squats and dumbbell deadlifts
- Dumbbell chest press and dumbbell bent-over rows
- Pull-ups and push-ups
- Dumbbell split squats and dumbbell hip thrusts
- Bird dog and dying bug
See how close you can get to using the same weight for both exercises in each superset.
Although some amount of differentiation is expected between certain muscle groups, the closer you can get to keeping your weight consistent at the same effort level, the better balanced you are from a strength standpoint.
Now on to a more advanced routine:
Advanced Superset Workout
Complete 2-3 rounds of the following supersets:
- Dumbbell chest press and lat pull-downs
- Leg curls and leg extensions
- Dumbbell step-ups and barbell hip thrusts
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press and dumbbell reverse fly
- Cable triceps push-downs and cable curls
- Hanging leg raises and ab wheel
- Medicine ball V-ups and medicine ball Russian twists
You could also just do a handful of supersets within a regular strength training workout where the other exercises are performed in isolation.
Know that we have a good understanding of the superset meaning, you can see there is a number of ways to structure your superset workouts. Experiment with different structures and see what works best for you according to your fitness goals.
If you are looking for a large variety of exercises to add to your strength training workouts, either at home or at the gym, check out our complete compound exercise list for some new ideas.