Between writing programs for my one-on-one and online clients, marketing, running adult fitness camps with Camp Gladiator, managing my website and various social networks, I have to be VERY efficient with my training time. You’re a busy individual so I’d recommend you do the same with your training time. But what if you could be more efficient while developing more power and strength? Here’s how…
Let me introduce you to superset training. Superset training is basically the pairing of two exercises of opposing muscle groups such as a horizontal push exercise with a horizontal pulling exercise. Research has found that there are several benefits to this modality of resistance training.
Greater Power and Strength
According to a study in the Journal of Sport Sciences, alternating pushing and pulling exercises in a superset fashion could lead to greater gains in muscle power and strength. The purpose of the study was to determine the benefits of a more complex training method as compared to the traditional set training methods.
Traditional resistance training methods involve focusing on one muscle group then proceeding to the next (i.e. working out chest and then back). Complex training via supersets (going from one exercise immediately into another with no rest) would involve combining both exercises but alternating from one muscle group-targeted exercise immediately followed by the next muscle group-targeted exercise. A great example pairing with upper body would be starting with barbell bench press succeeded by a bent-over barbell row, hence completing one horizontal pull exercise preceded with a horizontal push exercise. When attempting to improve your 1-RM, this study concludes that complex training produced better strength development, peak power, and peak velocity while also being more time-efficient.
Enhanced Fat Loss
Imagine how jacked up your heart rate will be when you pair two multijoint exercises like bench press and bent-over rows! The repeated increase of your heart rate during this method of training makes it more like interval training provided that your rest periods between supersets is kept short (which they should be) to keep the intensity up.
Interval training at near maximal heart rates has been proven in many studies to burn more calories both during the training session and AFTER the training session is over due to an increase in resting metabolic rate. Researchers from Syracuse University had recreationally active young men perform a superset style routine for one week pairing chest/back, biceps/triceps, and quads/hamstrings. This lead to a 35% increase in caloric expenditure during the training session and a 35% increase in caloric expenditure AFTER the session was over due to the increase in EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
[UPDATE 11/6/17: EPOC isn’t that much of a contributor to total daily caloric expenditure. Focus more on the exercise bout itself.]
This is one of the many benefits you can obtain from performing exercise at higher intensities which is one reason why performing lower to moderate intensity cardio is a less efficient use of your time (but still very useful). Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t perform lower intensity modalities of exercise but my point is that higher intensities have more of a metabolic advantage by increasing your resting metabolism hours after the work has been put in!
Race Against Time
Like I said in the beginning, sometimes we get pressed for time and have to manage our recreational activities more efficiently than others. For those of you that are really busy, try incorporating supersets into a training session to get a quick metabolic boost if you’re ever crunched for time. If you have a little more time however, try pairing together antagonist muscle groups with a higher number of total sets to target more muscular hypertrophy, strength, and power output. All it takes is some creativity, determination to kick it up a notch, and some consistency to acquire the gains you’re after.
This method of training has gained much more popularity over the years and chances are that you may have done it before but didn’t know it was called a superset. I have personally been incorporating this modality of training into my routines on a regular basis for many years and have seen impressive gains in muscular size and strength so I’d strongly suggest doing the same if you’re looking for a change of pace with your routines. See the example routines below to add some intensity to your training!
Beginner Superset Routine
Goblet Squats & Cable Pull-Throughs
Push Ups/Modified Push Ups & Seated Cable Row
Lat Pulldown & Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Barbell Curls & Tricep Extensions
Advanced Superset Routine
Barbell Squat & Good Mornings
Barbell Bench Press & Pendlay Rows
Pull-Ups & Barbell Push-Presses
Incline Dumbbell Curls & Dumbbell French Press
- Baker, D. and Newton, R. U. Acute effect on power output of alternating an agonist and antagonist muscle exercise during complex training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19(1): 202-205, 2005.
- Ebben, W. P., et al. Antagonist knockout training increases force and the rate of force development. Annual Meeting of the National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2011.
- Kelleher, A., et al. The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. traditional resistance exercise in young recreationally active adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(4):1043-1051, 2010.
- Robbins, D. W., et al. Agonist-antagonist paired set resistance training: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2873-82.
- Robbins, D. W., et al. The effect of an upper-body agonist-antagonist resistance training protocol on volume load and efficiency. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2632-40.