by Martyn Ford April 26, 2018

with Tavi Castro - 

I see so many people spending hour after hour in the gym, working out tirelessly and not really getting anywhere.  The old adage that more is better and longer is harder is not always the case. Sometimes it is the smarter the better, the more efficient we can become the greater the results and enjoyment.  I have tried endless methods and techniques over the years to try and find that perfect workout.

I have to say, I am a huge fan of supersets when used correctly.  There are many benefits of super setting and a fast and productive session that really stimulates the muscles and taxes the system, is one of them.  Due to its high intensity and volume, you are in and out of the gym in a short time.  Therefore, you can focus on recovery and replenishing the body sooner.  Remember, muscles don’t just grow in the gym. In the gym is where we stimulate the breakdown; outside of the gym is where we repair and recover.  The faster you can start the recovery process, the better for your results. 

Having the privilege of training with Tavi on numerous occasions after expos, we have always opted for superset training in order to get a good session in for our limited schedules.  Below are 5 different versions of supersets.  Some are more favourable for muscle gain, muscle strength or tone. Be sure to opt for the one which you are aiming for the most. 

What is a superset?

A superset is when you perform two separate exercises one after another with very little or no rest at all between exercises.  Supersets are amazing for developing muscle size.  However, they are not so good for muscle strength due to the fact you are fatigued by the second exercise. 

Advantages of supersets

  • Supersets save time by reducing the amount of rest you have between exercises.
  • When you shorten the rest, you will increase the intensity of the session.You are forced to perform a lot of work in a short time. 
  • Supersets will force you to overload the muscle, thus really increasing the intensity of the session.
  • Supersets allow you to overload the muscle, making the intensity so much harder. You can also achieve this intense burn and fail on smaller weights due to the lack of ability the body gets to recover between sets.

Different Types of Supersets

Pre-exhaust superset. – This is one of the most recognised and probably used supersets out there.  When performing a pre-exhaust set you must make the first exercise an isolation one.  So, if we were doing chest, your first exercise would be a fly, aiming for a decent number of reps, 8-10 ideally.  Once you have performed the fly, we would then go straight into the compound movement for the same muscle.  In this case we decided to use a chest press with dumbbells.  Do not expect to be strong during the second exercise due to the lack of rest and replenishment of the muscles.

Opposing muscles superset- This form of super setting is very popular, and as long as your fitness level is sufficient, it is a fantastic way to really hit two opposing muscles hard. Super setting in this way works really well for building strength as well as mass, as it allows the muscles to rest in between exercises.  The biceps and triceps respond really well to this form of training.  Hitting larger muscle groups can be very taxing on the system. 

Compound superset -  This form of super setting can produce some great and fast results in muscle size as we are hitting two compound exercises back to back with no rest.  However, as a result of the intensity that this demands on the system, it is important that you allow for adequate rest after the session has finished.  The main disadvantage of compound supersets is that form can get sloppy as you get tired, increasing the risk of injury and also reducing the amount of stress placed on the muscle. 

Isolation superset- These are performed with two isolation exercises back to back for the same muscle. So for instance, barbell curl superset with a dumbbell hammer curl.  These are great for when you want to tone up and bring out extra muscle definition and is performed more so at the end of a dieting phase.  Isolation supersets are definitely effective for muscle build or strength gains. 

Staggered superset -These are performed by picking two completely opposing muscle groups.  They are great at bringing up weaker body parts. For instance, you might want to focus on calves.  So while training chest, you could throw a set of calf raises in between each set of chest. 

As supersets of any kind are massively taxing, you need to be careful not to completely burn out your system.  The body needs recovery to really benefit from these intense sessions.  I would recommend no more than two sessions per week where you set out to perform supersets. 

Example Exercises for Supersets

 Exercise 1 Exercise 2
Isolation Superset Tricep Rope Push Down Tricep Kick Backs
DB Chest Fly Cable Chest Fly
Front Raise Lateral Raise
Compound Superset Incline Barbell Chest Press Decline DB Chest Press
Bent Over Row Deadlifts
Squats Leg Press
Opposing Muscle Supersets Flat DB Chest Press Close Grip Pulldown
Leg Extensions Leg Curl
DB Bicep Curl Overhead DB Extensions
Staggered Superset Shoulder Press Hamstring Curl
Bent Over Row Tricep Pushdown
Squat Bicep Curl
Pre-Exhaust Superset DB Chest Fly Flat Barbell Chest Press
Lateral Raise Shoulder Press
Leg Extension Leg Press
Martyn Ford
Martyn Ford



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