Best Supersets to Build Muscle

Best Supersets to Build Muscle

You might be stuck in the rut of doing the same 3 sets of 10 every workout. After a while, your training can get monotonous and stale. To continually elicit adaptation, you need to introduce new stresses to your muscles.

Insert supersets.

A superset is when you perform two exercises back to back with little to no rest in between. Here’s why you should do them:

  • Time efficiency: Train more muscles in the same amount of time by pairing exercises together.
  • Time under tension: Supersets can increase the total TUT to stimulate greater hypertrophy effects.
  • Increased intensity.
  • Improved work capacity and recovery: Your conditioning and recovery in between sets skyrockets.
  • They keep your workouts fun and motivating.

Have I sold you yet?

That last point is critical. Most people lose motivation in the gym because they’re bored. They’re bored because they do the same routine day after day, week after week, month after month. With no results to show for it.

Your muscles need new stresses to adapt, and supersets can help.

Here are five of the best types of supersets to build muscle.

  1. Opposing Superset

Perform two exercises that target opposing muscle groups (ex. bi’s and tri’s; chest and back; quads and hamstrings).

Opposing supersets are great because you can train more muscle groups in the same amount of time. Since both exercises focus on different muscles, you can minimize your rest in between sets. So instead of just scrolling Instagram until your next set, you can perform a second exercise to target the opposing muscle. Ah, time efficiency.

Rep and Set Guidelines

All things considered, the amount of reps and sets you do depends on your goals.

Sets: 3-4

Reps: 6-15 each exercise

Rest: 1-2 min after both exercises have been completed

Note: For the best results, don’t rush into the second exercise. Take your time and “stroll” your way to the second set so you’re recovered and can perform the exercise with optimal technique.

Examples of Opposing Supersets

Push/Pull

(Choose one exercise from category A and one exercise from category B)

Category A (Push)

  • Flat Bench Press
  • Inclined Bench Press
  • Push-Ups
  • Arnold Press
  • Floor Press

Category B (Pull)

  • Bent Over Barbell Row
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Inverted Row
  • Dumbbell Row
  • Face Pull

Bi’s/Tri’s

(Choose one exercise from category A and one exercise from category B)

Category A (Biceps)

  • Barbell Curl
  • Rope Cable Curl
  • Seated Hammer Curl
  • Isometric Dumbbell Curl
  • Zottmann Curl

Category B (Triceps)

  • Skull Crushers
  • Triceps Rope Extension
  • Dumbbell Tate Press
  • Overhead Dumbbell Extension
  • Close Grip Push-Ups

Quads/Hamstrings

(Choose one exercise from category A and one exercise from category B)

Category A (Quads)

  • Goblet Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Hack Squat
  • Sissy Squat
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Category B (Hamstrings)

  • Dumbbell RDL
  • Kettlebell Deadlift
  • Hack Squat Good Morning
  • Swiss Ball Leg Curl
  • Single Leg RDL
  1. Compound

Perform a multi-joint (compound) exercise followed by a single-joint (isolation) exercise that targets the same muscle (ex. bench press and chest fly’s).

You build muscle by creating tension. Compound sets are a great way to increase your muscles’ total time under tension. What’s more, they establish a stronger mind-muscle connection.

You ever do a bench press and feel your chest light up? That’s because blood rushes to your pecs as you do the press. Pair the press with an isolation exercise (ex. chest fly) and you’ll feel a greater contraction than if you were to do them on their own.

Rep and Set Guidelines

Sets: 3-4

Reps: 6-15 each exercise

Rest: 2-3 min after both exercises have been completed

Examples of Compound Sets

Chest

(Choose one exercise from category A and one exercise from category B)

Category A (Compound)

  • Flat Bench Press
  • Inclined Dumbbell Press
  • Push-Ups

Category B (Isolation)

  • Dumbbell Chest Fly
  • Inclined Chest Fly
  • Cable Chest Fly

Biceps

(Choose one exercise from category A and one exercise from category B)

Category A (Compound)

  • Underhand Barbell Row
  • Chin-Ups
  • Prone Dumbbell Row

Category B (Isolation)

  • Barbell Curl
  • Hammer Curl
  • Zottmann Curl

Glutes

(Choose one exercise from category A and one exercise from category B)

Category A (Compound)

  • Back Squat
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Reverse Lunge

Category B (Isolation)

  • Hip Thrust
  • Glute Bridge
  • Cable Kickback
  1. Pre-Exhaust

A pre-exhaust superset is pretty much a compound set in reverse. Perform a single-joint exercise followed by a multi-joint exercise that targets the same muscle(s).

This technique is common among bodybuilders seeking to enhance the development of a target muscle. Performing a single joint exercise first fatigues the agonist in isolation, placing greater stress on the agonist and increasing it’s activation during the multi-joint exercise and potentiating it’s hypertrophy (1).

Perform 12-20 reps with moderately light weight for the single-joint exercise. Then perform 8-15 reps of the compound lift immediately after.

  1. Contrast

Perform a heavy compound lift followed by a dynamic/explosive exercise of the same movement pattern. The goal is to increase total power potential and maximize muscle growth.

You can my full article on contrast sets HERE.

  1. Mobility/Corrective Fillers

I know, mobility isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Actually, it’s one of the most important things you should be doing.

Perform a mobility drill after each exercise in between sets. Mobility is your joints’ ability to actively travel through their intended ranges of motion. Without it, you’re increasing your risk of injury and minimizing your potential to build muscle and get stronger.

Why you should do mobility filler supersets:

  • Time efficiency. Instead of sitting on your ass in between sets, kill two birds with one stone and do some mobility.
  • Better recovery, which means more muscle.
  • Better posture. Low back pain and postural issues are a dime a dozen among lifters and bodybuilders. Train better and incorporate mobility to reverse this issue.
  • Reduced pain. You can’t train if you’re always hurt.
  • Better range of motion. Increased ROM means increased time under tension and greater muscle fibre stimulation.
  • Do you like lifting? Do your mobility work and you’ll be able to lift for a long time.

Summary

Supersets are one of the best ways to elicit adaptation so you can continually build muscle. You have tons of options to keep your workouts fun and motivating.

References

  1. Fleck S.J., Kraemer W.J. Designing Resistance Training Programs.4th ed. Human Kinetics; Champaign, IL, USA: 2014.