The Power of Supersets

Does your workout routine ever get stale? Is it because you do the same exercise(s) day in and day out and it lacks variety? Is it because you feel you don’t have as much time as you would like to get to everything you want to do? Or is it because you feel like you’re not making the progress you hoped to see? If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, try adding supersets to your workout regimen. Doing a workout with supersets will increase your fitness level, strength, and power, while adding variety to your routine, and decreasing your workout time. Sounds like a no-​​brainer, right?

Many active people and athletes think of supersets as doing multiple strength exercises using the same muscles back to back. While this is one way to superset, I’m going to focus on supersets of strength and aerobic exercise. Incorporating this method of training will allow you to get a more comprehensive workout, and achieve improved fitness and strength.

How to get started:

  • Choose a type of cardio exercise to use in your supersets – usually steps/​stair climbers, treadmills/​ellipticals, or bike. If you are working out outside, feel free to use walking/​running, jumping jacks, or any other type of aerobic movement.
  • Choose some exercises that will complement the aerobic exercise modality you are using. One way to superset is to “overload” the specific muscles being worked to build strength and power. Using this method, you would use the same muscles in both the cardio and strength sets. Another way to superset is to use different muscles in the cardio and strength sets. This method would allow the muscles a little rest in between sets, while working a wider variety of muscles (especially upper body).
  • Exercises can be simple/​isolated for beginners – such as treadmill walking or stationary biking and isolated muscle exercises like leg extensions or curls; or can be more complex for more fit/​advanced exercisers – like treadmill running/​sprints, and squats and other compound movements.

Here are some examples of supersets using similar muscle groups (from IDEA Fitness Journal):

  • Pair treadmill walking or running with seated adduction, plié squats, or hamstring curls.
  • Pair elliptical exercise with cable kickbacks, prone hip extensions, squats, or dead lifts.
  • Pair cycling with knee extensions or angled leg press.
  • Pair stair climbing with knee extensions, squats, lunges, dead lifts, and good mornings.

To target more muscle groups in one workout and give the muscles a short recovery, try supersetting cardio with upper body strength exercises like shoulder presses, push-​​ups, bicep curls, tricep extensions, and back rows – or some core work.

Cardio supersets can be done at any intensity level and can focus on endurance, intervals/​power (high intensity), or active recovery for more novice exercisers. Endurance exercise is work done at a steady intensity level – usually low to moderate. High intensity intervals can be used for more fit individuals looking to improve their aerobic fitness level and lose weight. This would include “bursts” between 30 seconds and two minutes, as in sprints. Active recovery could include periods of walking or low intensity cycling in between strength sets.

Try aerobic and strength supersets and reinvigorate your workouts!

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4

  1. Great article! I usually do resistance training supersets done with opposing muscle groups (chest press, lunges), but this method might work even better.

    Tim

  2. Jpworldwide says:

    Nice article. Is it bad to do supersets too much?

    • Shana Maleeff says:

      No, I don\‘t think you can do supersets too much, as long as you give your body some recovery time. However, it\‘s good to change it up and focus on other things like distance/​endurance, strength, etc.
      Thanks for your comment!
      Shana

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Shana Maleeff

Shana Maleeff, M.A., R.D., ACE-GFI, received a B.S. in Nutrition from Penn State University and an M.A. in Nutrition Education from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. She works in the New York and New Jersey Metropolitan areas counseling clients on nutrition, exercise, medication adherence, and stress management to help them with weight management and treatment/prevention of heart disease and diabetes. Shana is the creator of the groundbreaking weight loss program "The 21 Diet and Exercise Weight Loss Solution". Previously, she worked as a hospital dietitian and as an adjunct professor of nutrition at Philadelphia Community College.

Shana takes a special interest in fitness and works as a group fitness instructor at Crunch Fitness and Equinox gyms in Manhattan. She currently resides in New York City and enjoys living a healthy lifestyle.

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