A superset is simply the act of performing a set of one exercise directly after a set of a different exercise without rest. This tactic has the dual benefit of enhancing fat loss and saving you time. Supsersets are an essential tool to have in your fitness arsenal.
Melt more fat in your resistance training workouts
Standard cardio workouts have been a longtime staple for exercisers seeking fat loss. While that is certainly one way to burn fat, adding supersets to your workouts may be a more effective and efficient method. Instead of conventional straight sets where each set is separated by a rest period, supersets utilize two sets with little to no rest.
According to a September 2011 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, subjects who used supersets in their workouts experienced “significant decreases” in body fat percentage by the end of the eight week study, when compared to their straight set training counterparts. Supersets are extremely effective in burning fat because they raise your heart rate, and keep it elevated throughout the entire workout. The short or nonexistent rest periods between sets help keep your heart rate consistently high, and jumpstart your metabolism.
Supersets are time efficient
The other major benefit of supersets is the amount of time they save. By combining two exercises and working them back-to-back, your standard workout is condensed and can be done in a fraction of the time. This is especially helpful if you work long hours or get to the gym near closing time. Now the common excuse of, “I have no time to go to the gym” is obsolete.
Shorter workouts aren’t just easier on your schedule, they can help you avoid overtraining as well. Overtraining is a condition that occurs when trainees do not give their body adequate rest and nutrition. The result is catabolism, or muscle breakdown, among other symptoms that are a detriment to reaching your fitness goals.
When workouts are too long, testosterone levels slowly begin to decrease and cortisol levels rise- the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Since testosterone is responsible for muscle building and maintenance, it is important to keep levels elevated. Cortisol is a stress hormone that causes fat gain in people with high levels. Therefore, it is essential to keep your workouts short, and using supersets is a great way to ensure efficiency.
As great as they are, use supersets as a tool, not exclusively
While incorporating supersets in your workout routine can be beneficial, it is not recommended that every exercise of every workout involve this technique. Instead of supersetting every exercise, keep it as a tool to use sparingly. For example, a chest workout may include straight sets of bench press and incline dumbbell press, then include a superset of wide grip dips with pushups. Combining supersets with straight sets will get you the maximum benefit. If you superset all the time in every workout, your body will become adapted to it and it will lose its efficacy.
Another reason to avoid consistent workouts filled entirely with supersets is that it can put you at risk for overtraining. Exercising muscles in superset fashion is a high intensity activity, and if you aren’t giving your body enough rest and proper nutrition, you can become overtrained.
A superset traditionally includes only two different exercises, but circuit training is another way to incorporate this method. Circuit training workouts include several exercises, and one set of each exercise is completed consecutively before doing the circuit again. Although similar, circuit training workouts tend to be quicker and use less weight than standard supersets.
Another unique benefit of adding supersets to your training regimen is the ability to train opposing muscle groups with enhanced results. As the agonist muscle, or active muscle, contracts, its antagonist muscle is stretched and actively relaxed. This is called reciprocal inhibition. For example, in a superset workout for the arms, as the triceps, in this case the agonist muscle, contracts, the biceps are stretched and relaxed. Then, when the exercise is switched to biceps curls, the biceps are rested and ready to handle the resistance while the triceps are actively recovering. Other muscle pairings that work especially well with reciprocal inhibition are diametrically opposed muscle like the hamstrings and quadriceps or chest and back.
Supersets are a simple, yet highly effective tactic that can make a boring routine interesting, and help you get a lean body in less time.
Parker Cote is the founder and owner of Parker Cote Elite Fitness, an award-winning private personal training studio on Newbury Street. He has enjoyed over 5,300 hours of sessions at the studio, helping countless people improve their lives through fitness by teaching sustainable techniques that last a lifetime. He has appeared on over 45 national and international fitness magazine covers and was named one of “Boston’s top personal trainers” by People Magazine.