Supersets are a great way to increase workout efficiency, increase muscular endurance, and, strange as it may sound, lift heavier weights. When we do a set of bench press, followed by a set of bent rows, we can go a little heavier on the rows (lats and biceps, agonists) because we have just worked the chest and triceps, the opposing (antagonist) muscle groups.
Coach Charles Poliquin describes the agonist/antagonist superset as follows:
Alternating between agonists and antagonists has also been proven to lower fatigue drop-off curves more than performing traditional station training, even with complete rest intervals. This approach can increase the work capacity by as much as 40 percent for a given workout, compared to using the old standard-sets approach; this is because there is less cumulative fatigue due to having more rest time between each exercise. The approach has the added benefit of allowing you to double the workload per training unit. In effect, you get the strength training benefits of station training and the time saving benefits of circuit training.This is only form of superset, although it probably is the most popular and efficient. Coach Eric Cressey, of Cressey Performance, has written a "survival guide" on the use and construct supersets. The beginning of that article is below.
Written on October 14, 2012 by Eric Cressey
I’ve come to realize that over the past 13 years in strength and conditioning, I’ve gotten a little spoiled. Many of my readers are some of the more educated weight-training consumers on the ‘Net. I’ve been around Division 1 athletes who have four years of strength and conditioning continuity in their lives. I’ve lifted alongside world-class powerlifters. And, now, I have a host of athletes at Cressey Performance who are completely “indoctrinated” with my training philosophies, as it’s the only thing they’ve ever known.So, I guess you could say that I’ve become a bit of a lifting snob in the sense that I assume I’m always surrounded by people who know how to interpret my programs, leaving me to just program, coach technique, help select weights, and turn up the volume on the stereo.I came to the realization that I was just in a fantasyland, though, when my second book, Maximum Strength, was published in June of 2008.This book, which had a bit more “mass market” flavor than the overwhelming majority of my work, was being sold online and in bookstores from Idaho to Thailand – and many of the people buying it were Average Joes who didn’t know how to interpret the programs I’d written. One question that I received in about 50 different emails sticks out in my mind:“I've recently purchased your book and have a quick question related to the training schedules. I see the "A1 and A2" / "B1 and B2" designations, but am not sure I fully understand if I'm supposed to alternate the exercises that day (for example, do a set of one-arm DB push press and then do a set of close-grip chin-up and cycle through to complete 3 sets each) or am I supposed to pick one exercise for week 1 and then choose the other exercise in week 2?”The answer, as the overwhelming majority of my readers knows, is that A1 and A2 indicates a superset. You go back and forth between the two (in all weeks), and once you’ve completed A1 and A2, you move on to B1 and B2, then C1 and C2, and so on. So, you do all the exercises in all the weeks. The idea is pretty simple:
Read the whole article.
Supersetting makes your training far more efficientSo, rather than doing a set of bench presses and then standing around for two minutes before the next set, you superset the bench presses with a variation of rows or a flexibility exercise, for instance. You increase training density, and can use the pairings to bring up weak areas.All that said, we know superset training works; it might be one of the few things that the overwhelming majority of strength coaches and personal trainers agree on, in fact! However, I often see poor choices in terms of exercise pairings in the lay population. For instance, you’ll often see people supersetting walking dumbbell lunges and chin-ups, both of which are pretty grip-intensive. As such, I thought it’d be a good time to throw out some of my favorite supersets.