Resistance training systems: Supersets

Supersets involve performing two different exercises back-to-back with little or no rest in between. There are typically two key variations of this resistance training system.

  1. Supersetting exercises of the same muscle or muscle group
  2. Supersetting  agonist and antagonist exercises

Supersetting exercises of the same muscle group

This variation of supersetting involves performing two exercises for the same muscle back-to-back.

An example of a same muscle superset for the glutes and quads

1a) 12 reps of barbell back squats

1b) 12 reps of dumbbell lunges 

This sequence can be repeated following a standard rest interval of 60 to 90seconds. 

The second exercise (1b) in each superset is always performed with significant muscular fatigue present. As a result of this fatigue the intensity of the second exercise is always much lower than if the muscle had been allowed to recover during a standard rest interval. This renders this type of supersetting relatively ineffective for maximal force development (strength training).

However, completing two exercises in this manner would be good for local muscular endurance and possibly hypertrophy because the volume of work performed is relatively high (note that a hypertrophic response would be most likely if the initial set were performed within the hypertrophy repetition range).

Supersetting  agonist and antagonist exercises

The second variation of supersetting consists of performing two exercises back-to- back that involve antagonistic muscle pairs i.e. biceps brachii and triceps brachii or quadriceps and hamstrings.

This version of supersetting allows a significant load to be placed on the target muscle during each set. This is possible because while the agonist is working the antagonist is recovering and vice versa. This allows more intensity to be utilised as each set is performed from a relatively rested state.

Fleck and Kraemer (1997) report that significant strength gains have been achieved by individuals trained using this variation of the superset system.

An example of an agonist/antagonist superset for legs

1a) 10 reps of leg extension machine

1b) 10 reps of leg curl machine 

From a commercial point of view both types of supersetting can prove useful to the trainer who only has limited time with certain clients. The lack of rest intervals means that the work element of the session can be completed in less time than usual.

Learn more about these advanced resistance training systems and how to instruct them by enrolling onto our level 3 certificate in personal training or our level 3 diploma in fitness instruction and personal training.

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