Supersets


OK, this could be a confusing blog post, but stick with me. I’ve put a list of keywords at the end; any word which is bold is included.

Ever felt like you’re short on time in the Gym, or just need that extra bit of a push to get your muscles to feel properly worked? Well, try supersets.

Perform two different exercises back-to-back, with no rest in between (the recovery time comes after the second exercise, at the end of the superset). They can be for different muscle groups, or the same muscle, depending on your goal.

They can be performed in two ways:

  • Two exercises back-to-back for the same body part (known as agonist supersets). An example of this would be bicep curls followed by preacher curls.
  • Two exercises for opposing body parts (known as agonist/ antagonist An example of this would be bicep curls to tricep pushdown.

As with all exercise, there are positives and negatives:

Pros:

  • It’s time effective – rest is only allowed after the second exercise, cutting the overall workout time down.
  • Helps train in local muscular fatigue, as there isn’t enough time for any lactic acid that has built up to be removed.
  • Promotes accumulative fatigue – greater than the normal fatigue felt when performing just one exercise. The can help encourage hypertrophy.

Cons:

  • Equipment for both exercises needs setting up before the start – not ideal when the Gym is mega busy!
  • If you’re using two resistance machines (e.g. abductor and adductor) that are close together, you lose some of the benefits.

Two other forms of superset are pre-exhaust and post-exhaust. Pre-exhaust is where you perform an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise for the same muscle group – leg extension (isolation) and squats (compound) for the quads. Post-exhaust is a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise for the same muscle group – bench press (compound) followed by a fly (isolation) for the pecs.

Both are good for saving time during your workout and have accumulative fatigue benefits, as with agonist supersets.

Post-exhaust also allows for the muscle to be completely fatigued after performing both the compound and isolation exercises and it also means that more motor units within the muscle are more likely to be recruited, which can lead to hypertrophy.

Key words:

  • Agonist: This muscle causes a movement to occur through their own contraction. Agonists are also referred to as ‘prime movers’ as they are the muscles that are primarily responsible for generating specific movements.
  • Antagonist: The muscle that opposes the agonist, typically relaxing s as not to stop the agonist from working. Another function is to slow down or stop a movement; ensuring gravity doesn’t accelerate the exercise and cause injury.
  • Isolation: An exercise working only one muscle or muscle group and only one joint at a time – e.g. leg extension for the quads.
  • Compound: Multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time – e.g. a squat, using (or engaging) the quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, the lower back and core.
  • Hypertrophy: The term used for growth and increase in the size of muscle cells and, therefore, muscles.

If you feel like you want to include supersets into your workout and aren’t sure how, get in touch. They’re great for adding variety and even better if you’re pushed for time.

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