Supersets are a type of workout that is designed to increase the amount of sets you do for an exercise without resting in between sets. For example, if you’re doing a push-up, you might push your way up and then grab weights on the floor to do some bicep curls.
The goal of supersetting is to get more work done in less time by minimizing rest periods. And because of this, supersets are often used for building muscle mass.
So what’s the verdict? Are supersets good for building upper body strength? Read on to find out!
The truth about supersets for strength gains
Some say that supersets are great for adding intensity to your workout if done correctly, but others say that supersets don’t show any advantage over regular sets. As with most workouts, there are no absolutes in the strength training field. You can add a superset to your workout, and if you go about it the wrong way, it can be counterproductive.
It’s not that supersets can’t be an effective addition to your routine, it’s that you should be careful going about it. And you definitely need to have a plan in mind.
One of the biggest misconceptions about supersets is that they show no improvement in strength, but as with all exercise protocols, this is not the case. The truth is that high-intensity workouts, like chest and tricep supersets, will show a greater increase in strength gains than low-intensity ones.
You can do either type of workout in a split set (doing a high-intensity set, followed by a low-intensity set), or you can do a full superset (one high-intensity set followed by a low-intensity set). Either way, you’re going to see a big difference in your performance. The question is, how can you pick the right superset workouts?
This is where it gets a bit complicated. The first thing you need to know is that when training muscle with high intensity, the way you perform your superset is going to affect the way you build strength.
The problem with doing this is that you tend to go all-out on your first set and then use the low-intensity set as a warm-up. This is a good way to help you get accustomed to the high-intensity energy, but this isn’t the best way to do supersets.
The best way to do supersets is to increase your volume over a few weeks. When you do a high-intensity set, it’s best to keep your reps at about 20-25 (but if you’re new to the higher rep range, go down a notch or two). The low-intensity set will be low reps, but you’ll still be using a fair amount of intensity (probably about 40-60%) to drive your muscles to fatigue.
How Do You Do Supersets Right?
When you’re looking at a program for doing supersets, the program should focus on progressing slowly. The higher you go in the weight category, the more you’ll want to include in your supersets, but this is very difficult to measure.
The best way to do a superset is to increase the weights slowly, so you’re not burning out your nervous system. The good thing about doing supersets is that the high-intensity set will be done fast, so you can have more time for the low-intensity set.
This is a good way to add more intensity to your routine without adding a lot of volume.
Beginner mistakes with supersets
Use of too few sets: It’s better to use more sets than too few to reap the benefits of supersets. When you use a limited number of sets, you are less likely to get adequate rest between sets.
Severely Limited Rest Periods: Being able to rest for 45 seconds or more between sets in some programs can give you a significant amount of time to recover. In these programs, however, you are going to have to do one “one rep max” set and then rest. You won’t have that recovery time between sets.
Inadequate stretching: It’s good to stretch after your supersets, and post-workout stretching is generally recommended over pre-workout stretching. However, if you’re too sore to stretch at all, it’s a sign you’ve done something wrong.
With supersets, you can easily end up training to failure or to exhaustion. As soon as your heart rate drops below the anaerobic threshold, your muscles will stop working effectively and you will have to stop the exercise.
The problem is that it’s hard to recover from this kind of workout. When you train to failure, you aren’t able to recover from it because you are going to be unable to get into the zone for the next exercise.
The Bottom Line
Super sets are an awesome way to add intensity to your workouts. If done properly, you can dramatically increase your strength and power in the gym, but you must remember that this is a short-term benefit. With hard workouts, you will be forced to give your body the rest it needs to heal and rebuild.
You have to balance this short-term benefit against long-term goals and your training volume. If you’re trying to increase your strength, you want to stick to a structured program that can safely help you to that end. Supersets won’t get you there, but they will help get you started.