Fitness School: Supersets 101

Welcome to Fitness School, your drop-in class on introducing you to different fitness techniques that will bulk up your workout regimen.

Today, we’re talking about Supersets! Supersets are a great tool for pushing yourself past those plateaus in your training, or just to add intensity and fat-burning moves into your workout.

What are Supersets?

Supersets are the combination of two or more moves done in succession without a break. An easy example would be pushups followed by jump-squats, or dips followed by pull-ups. If you’ve done fitness classes like body combat or boot camp, you’ve definitely done supersets. The key to supersets is making sure you don’t lag in between exercises, go straight from that set of bench presses immediately into dumbbell flys.

Why are Supersets so good?

One of the best aspects of Supersets is their versatility. If you are looking to really blast an individual muscle, you can do targeted supersets which focus on certain muscle groups. Alternatively, you can choose moves that hit all different muscle groups for a wider burn. These types of supersets are split into a few different groups:

  • Pre-exhaustion Supersets (same muscle group) – The key here is to hit the same muscle groups in isolation followed by a compound move. This is a great way to really push yourself because you are exhausting a muscle in the first move, then pushing it further with the help of other muscles in the second move.
    • Example: Lateral Raises followed by Shoulder Press
  • Post-exhaustion Supersets (same muscle group) – These supersets are the same idea as the previous, simply in reverse. You target a muscle and do a supported compound move, then finish off the superset by really firing the individual muscle with an isolation exercise.
    • Example: Shoulder Press followed by Lateral Raises
  • Antagonistic Supersets (opposing muscle groups) – These supersets are all about pitting one muscle group against another. Research has shown that muscles have stronger contractions after directly opposing muscle groups are contracted. Essentially, you are getting extra strength for your second move by using opposing muscle groups in the first.
    • Example: Barbell Bent-Over Row followed by Bench Press
  • Staggered Supersets (unrelated muscle groups) – Here, it’s more about overall benefit than targeting specific muscles. Putting moves that are unrelated together in a superset is great for fat-burning because it decreases the time between exercises, keeps your heart rate up, and boosts calorie burn. This is a great way to consolidate your workout without sacrificing any moves.
    • Example: Squats followed by Bicep Curls