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In training for fitness, time is a valuable resource. The amount of time people have to dedicate to training vary. Simply put, most people don’t have unlimited time available to train.
Because of this constraint a need arises – maximising results within the limited time available. The way we go about maximising efficiency depends on how much time you have – someone who can train for 2 hours daily won’t require the same time-saving strategies as someone who can only train for 20 minutes a day.
With that being said, as coaches or athletes, we do have a few useful tools to cut down on training time and/or make our training more time efficient.
One of the most useful tools to have in your arsenal is the superset.
Enter The Superset
A superset is essentially when you perform one set of exercise A, and, with/without any rest between sets, perform a set of exercise B.
There are many variants of supersets. Most supersets are usually performed using two exercises training the same muscle group. In this type of superset, you would, for example,
Perform one set of Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Perform one set of Dumbbell Upright Rows
Since the two exercises differ in the plane in which you work, the joint angles etc., you’re able to do a few extra reps on the second exercise. This results in an increase in volume, since
Volume = Sets x Reps x Load
Or, it results a decrease in session duration.
If you choose to maintain session duration but replace regular sets by supersets, you’ll perform more volume in that session, and, since volume is the primary driver of hypertrophy, you could reasonably expect more muscle growth from that.
You could also decrease session duration while reaping similar benefits to longer training sessions, since you’ve successfully maintained volume while decreasing session duration.
Okay, so this type of superset is pretty cool and could be called a Muscle Group Superset. What are the other types of supersets?
Well, in my experience, two other types of supersets are valuable. First, you have the Antagonist Paired Superset.
The Antagonist Paired Superset
This basically refers to doing a regular superset, but, instead of supersetting exercises targeting the same musculature, you superset exercises that target the muscle groups working in opposition to one another. Because they work in opposition, performing one doesn’t usually negatively impact performing the other!
Let me explain. For example, in performing an Antagonist Paired Superset, you would
Do one set of Flat Barbell Bench Press
Do one set of Barbell Row
This allows you to save even more time and/or accumulate even more volume (and, hence, hypertrophy) in a given time frame. For illustration’s sake, let’s say you usually take 3 minutes between sets. In doing an Antagonist Paired Superset, you could rest for 1.5 minutes between sets working antagonistic muscle groups – and this would allow you to do two exercises in the time it usually takes you to do one.
Wait a minute. Wouldn’t you expect a decrement in performance from only resting 1.5 minutes between sets, even if they don’t work the same muscle group?
Well, as it turns out, probably not. In fact, some research suggests the opposite! In some studies, subjects performed more volume when supersetting antagonists than when performing straight sets. A limitation of the literature on this is that subjects in research are usually relatively untrained. As such, we can only speculate how an antagonist paired superset would affect a more advanced trainee.
Finally, perhaps my favourite superset:
The Time-Saving Superset
In the Time-Saving Superset (yes I just made that name up), you essentially superset two exercises whose requirements are dissimilar enough that supersetting them does not affect performance in either of them.
In practice, a good example would be Standing Calve Raises and Dumbbell Lateral Raises. Training your side delts is not going to interfere with training your calves. Hence, you stand much to gain by supersetting these two exercises – the stimulus you provide your delts and calves with doesn’t decrease by supersetting them, but it does save you a whole lot of time!
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