superset infographic



What is supersetting and why you should try it


We’re always looking for new ways to challenge our bodies to get those gains. You can change up your exercises, lift heavier for fewer reps, lift lighter for more reps, or adjust how quickly you move to keep your body guessing and build your fitness.  Another popular practice is experimenting with the order in which you complete your workout and a great technique for this is the superset.


New to weight training and don’t know where to start with supersets? We’ve got your back! Briana Radar, fitness manager at In-Shape Palmdale East breaks it all down for us and even shares her favorite superset combo to get you going.


What is supersetting?


Supersetting is pairing two exercises with no rest between them. Though there are many types of supersets, you usually choose a protagonist and antagonist muscle (opposing muscles) to pair – think bicep and tricep, chest and back or quads and hamstrings – alternating until you finish each set. Another separate, but related technique is a 'compound set' where you pair two exercises that target the same muscle group (rather than opposing muscle groups like the superset). And finally, there is also something known as an 'unrelated superset' where you complete two totally different exercises targeting unrelated muscle groups – think of a lunge followed by a bicep curl.


What are the benefits?


There are a couple of benefits Briana always mentions to her clients when designing workouts with supersets involved.


Saves time – By completing two exercises back to back rather than resting, your workouts will be shorter but more efficient. 

Increases intensity – It taxes the targeted areas with no rest time between sets while the added challenge on the body forces physiological changes.

Active rest – This technique enables one muscle to rest while you work the opposing muscle. This will keep the heart rate elevated and maximize muscle growth while burning body fat.

Keep it interesting – One of Briana’s favorite reasons to incorporate supersetting into her sessions is that it adds more variety for her clients and more opportunities for her to personalize it from a program design perspective.

Burns more calories - Supersets have been proven to burn more calories during and after your workout than traditional resistance training. So, while there may be complaining during the training, we CAN’T complain about the added calorie burn after the training!

Improves endurance - By using the superset method, you are training your muscles to endure longer periods of physical activity. You’ll get stronger and be able to sustain activity for longer. It’s a win-win!


Are there any drawbacks to this type of training?


Briana explains, “Because supersets eliminate rest periods, it’s not the right training style for you if your goals are to increase muscular power. Complete recovery between sets is essential when training for power.”


Because of the intensity, this technique requires high amounts of energy expenditure resulting in muscle fatigue fairly quick if not appropriately conditioned. She also cautioned that if you put superset together incorrectly, it can lead to aches, pains, injuries, overtraining or it might just be an ineffective workout.  


Does it make you bulk up?


It’s all in the detail of the design. Supersets can help you build muscle mass if that is your goal, or they can help you burn a substantial amount of body fat. It all depends on how the superset is put together, from the types of exercises selected, to the amount of weight, to the number of repetitions and sets. “The simple answer is it can if you want it to,” she said.


How to get started with supersets:


For your next arm day, try choosing three bicep and three tricep exercises. Pair one bicep with one tricep to make 3 different supersets. Start with 10 to 12 repetitions for each movement with no rest between. Rest for 30 – 45 seconds between each superset.


How to level up with supersets:


If you’re a superset pro, try another type of superset such as cardio and strength supersets. Putting these together can add intensity to your workouts by overloading your muscles and forcing them to adapt and grow stronger. For best results, try working the same muscles for both exercises. For example, the Stairmaster paired with strength moves that involve the quads such as a squat or lunges.  Tri-Sets are also a great way to add a little more of a challenge. It’s the same idea as a superset, but complete three exercises rather than two.


Briana urges you not to superset with your core. Since it is what keeps you stable, if you tire it out before completing other complex exercises, the postural stabilizers of the spine will be too fatigued to properly support you, putting you at greater risk for injury.  With that said, she does recommend warming with a plank or two to turn the core on.


Have questions? Hit up any of our friendly, helpful trainers for tips on how to incorporate supersetting into your workout routine to get those gains.