We’ve all experienced various types of training, but to what extent are we going
to see true gains. One painful, yet delivering, way to maximize growth is to
super-set your workout routine. Super-sets are a style of training that we’ve all
heard about, but not always done correctly. Generally speaking, they are done to
overcome a plateau. Plateaus are just another word for hitting the wall; a place
we are stuck at and cannot progress from. Most know what super-sets embody,
but in case you have been MIA over the past few decades, here’s a brief
run-through. A set is performed with a rep range of 8-10 (hypothetical), and then is immediately followed by a counteracting set that is of equal or less rep range as the first. And yes, there are various types of super-setting such as:
Pre-exhaustion (Isolation then Compound)
Here, we superset any isolation exercise (ex. One leg extensions) with a compound exercise involving more than one body part (ex. Back squat).
Post-exhaustion (Compound then Isolation)
The same is reversed in this case. This shocks the central nervous system if you simply reverse the order. As a result, we increase muscle confusion, which is a great way to recruit more muscle fibers. The more fibers, the more strength and hypertrophy will occur.
Same Muscle Compound (Compound then Compound)
This exercise is most renowned and widely used. It involves muscle groups of more than one body part (ex. Bench press followed by push-ups). The same muscle group is being targeted to fully exhaust the desired muscle(s). This can force the muscle to failure, which is indirectly what you are shooting for. Most super-set situations will involve this kind of training, especially if used for a specific problem area. If stuck in a plateau, why not change it up a bit and bring on the muscle trauma? YES, this will hurt, but it could be just the cure for a bench press once at 290 lbs, increased to 310 lbs. Your glycogen stores will surrender mercilessly, causing you to increase in size and strength.
Isolation (Isolation then Isolation).
Once again, this involves a primary muscle for an individual body part super-setted by another (ex. One arm DB curl w/ one arm DB kickbacks). This style is fantastic for concentration, but can be quite time consuming.
Antagonistic (Opposing muscle groups).
This is one of the most effective and easy ways to reduce a workout session. In order to cut back time, super setting opposing muscle groups can render a quicker, yet killer, workout session. Push/ pull exercises win the popularity vote here. (Ex. Military press w/ pull-ups). In addition, you can also substitute upper body with lower body exercises.
An even more explosive way to train is one that most athletes use. The combination calls for super-setting a regular exercise (compound barbell or dumbbell) with an immediate plyomeric exercise. This innovative training method tends to have more impact on athletic performance vs. a bodybuilding effect. The set itself is accomplished by first completing a rep-range of your desire, then counteracting this by a forceful ploymetric jump or bound. In this case, most of the exercises preceded are done for the lower body. An example would be performing a back squat (6-10 reps), then immediately super-setting with 10 plyometric jumps or bounds. Using equipment such as jump ropes (use higher reps), plyo boxes, or simply body weight squat jumps can all be used accordingly. If you’re still not satisfied, challenge yourself by wearing a weight vest and then continue the process. The advantage is that you can decide what fits you the best. Do it yourself and notice the shredding away of fatty tissue, then observe days later as the lean, hard muscles takes its place. I can assure you your quads will never feel such a burn.
These multiple super-sets are great way to shock the body into a world of pain. However, if you can manage the endurance, the results are mind blowing. It is a benefit to all, not just those stuck in a plateau. The superset itself is not limited, however, to just DB’s or barbells. You can mix them both up or even use body weight calisthenics as an alternative method. Use minimal recovery time (30-60 sec) in between super-setting in order to recruit the most muscle fibers. Remember, if the body is in confusion, it can’t have time to adapt. Therefore, more strength can be produced as a result. Sets can range from 3 to 6 depending on the stress of the muscle. The phrase “less is more” can directly apply here. This is because each set is followed by a super set of even higher reps, therefore, total reps have almost doubled and an extra set is not necessary. So if you’re contemplating a quicker workout session, or simply want something more out of your training, don’t let this opportunity pass you by.