Remember this number — 32.
If you’re still relying exclusively on straight, traditional sets as your only workout technique (e.g. 3 sets of 12 reps), blow up your training before it gets stale. You’re bleeding intensity, vulnerable to plateaus, and leaving ENORMOUS potential on the table.
The simple solution: tap into your full fat-incinerating, muscle-building ability with supersets.
For the uninitiated, a superset is a series of 2+ exercises done back-to-back without rest. Think lateral raises followed by front raises. Or dips and push ups chained back-to-back, until your triceps spontaneously combust. If you’ve ever worked with a trainer or taken a boot camp class, you’ve definitely experienced them in all of their masochistic glory.
The superset universe is vast. Some supersets link unrelated exercises and muscle groups. Others combine similar exercises to tear up muscle tissue and push a specific muscle beyond failure. That acts as an uber-potent catalyst to help spark new growth. Some even blast opposing muscles back-to-back, as a way to generate uncharacteristic strength.
They typically follow one of four patterns, all of which have powerful benefits:
- (A) Pre-Exhaustion (same muscle group) — these involve two exercises that hammer the same muscle group by using an (A) isolation exercise and then a (B) compound exercise. It’s an effective way to push an individual muscle head past the point of failure, and beyond where it can go with straight sets. That helps dig into muscle tissue and spark new growth. For instance, you could do a lateral raise—which hits the lateral deltoid—and then a dumbbell shoulder press, which uses all 3 deltoid heads. On the press, you’re using the front + rear deltoids, triceps, etc. to help compensate for the fatigued lateral deltoid, which pushes it past failure.
- (B) Post-Exhaustion (same muscle group) — same concept, but the order is flipped. These start with a compound lift and finish with a smaller isolation exercise; usually one that involves a different movement pattern. It’s an effective way to heat up an entire muscle group and push the limits of fatigue. Doing a dumbbell chest press followed by dumbbell flies is chest massacre.
- (C) Antagonistic Supersets (opposing muscles) — muscles tend to generate a stronger contraction when they’re preceded by contractions in an opposing muscle group. Blood is also pumped to a common region, which creates skin-tearing pumps and vascularity. Doing rows and then a bench press, or biceps curls and then triceps extensions, is a powerful way to generate extra strength during a given set.
- (D) Staggered Supersets (unrelated muscle groups) — by combining unrelated exercises, it slashes rest time, keeps the intensity soaring, and helps maintain an elevated heart rate. That equates to increased calorie burn, without any decreases in strength/performance. It also drastically cuts total workout time. By doing curls or planks in between sets of squats, you’ll maintain a high intensity AND consolidate your workout.
Altogether, they’re an effective tool to help galvanize new muscle growth, condense workout time, and pump out more sets in a shorter window. You’ll also boost fat-burning ability. One study out of Syracuse revealed that antagonistic supersets burned 32% more calories—both during a workout AND afterwards (courtesy of EPOC)—than traditional resistance training did.
They also obliterate plateaus by adding variety and upping the stress on individual muscles. Challenge and change are key elements of growth — supersets do both, in a way that isn’t insufferable or excruciating.
To help invigorate your workouts, we’ve unloaded 8 killer superset combos. Squeeze in all 8 to heat up your workouts and thrash your muscles until the burn rages.
8 Killer Superset Combos To Boost Workout Intensity And Invigorate Muscle Growth
1. Dumbbell Chest Press + Dumbbell Flies
Superset Type: Post-Exhaustion
Target Muscle(s): Chest (Sternal Head)
Do 12 reps of the Dumbbell Chest Press immediately followed by 12 Dumbbell Flies. They’re an effective way to hit the entire chest and add mass to the upper body, with an additional emphasis on the inner chest and midline.
Make sure to use a lighter set of dumbbells when switching to flies.
2. Dumbbell Lateral Raises + Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Superset Type: Pre-Exhaustion
Target Muscle(s): Shoulders (Lateral Deltoids)
Do 12 reps of Dumbbell Lateral Raises immediately followed by 8-12 reps of the Dumbbell Shoulder Press. It’s a pre-exhaustion superset. Push through the burn and try to hit 12 on set 2 if possible.
By fatiguing the lateral deltoid during the first half, you’re able to push it far past failure during the set of presses. You’ll feel a slow burn down the middle of your shoulders—that’s your lateral deltoid screaming—but your front delts, rear delts, triceps, and traps will more than compensate. It’s a 1-2 punch to effectively add width to your shoulders.