Thursday, April 11, 2013

Article # 459. Superset

How to Build More Muscle in Less Time with Supersets

Wouldn't it be great if there was a safe and natural way to build more muscle in a shorter period of time? If you've been training seriously for any length of time, it's something you're probably already familiar with but haven't fully exploited to the maximum degree.
What is this method for building more muscle in less time? 
It’s called Super setting
Even if you've used supersets before, you may not be familiar with all the different types of supersets or the many ways you can incorporate them into your workouts. Just in case you're not familiar with supersets, let me start from the beginning and explain the difference between a Conventional set and a Superset.   
Conventional Set: Conventional weight training is done with "straight sets." A straight set is performed by doing a series of repetitions; 8-12 in a row for example, then stopping to rest for a minute or so before doing another set.
Super Set: A superset is an advanced training technique where you perform two exercises in a row with virtually no rest in between. Supersets are an excellent technique for muscular development, especially if you are short on time. Supersets are not, however, the most effective technique for building strength or power. Let me explain why...

When you perform two exercises in a row with no rest in between, this will reduce the amount of weight you can handle, particularly in the second movement. Your strength will also decrease from fatigue with each subsequent superset. Because supersets don't allow you to use maximal weights, they are not well-suited to building strength.
Supersets are definitely a body building and "shaping" technique. You seldom (rarely) see power lifters or strength athletes doing supersets. In fact, they usually do the opposite; they take longer rest intervals between sets so that they can recuperate as much as possible. After a 3-5 minute recovery period, they can attack each set with maximum strength. If you are still fatigued from the previous set, and you start another set too soon, you won't be able to lift as much weight.
There are three primary advantages of superset training over conventional straight set training:
 1. Supersets save time: The most obvious advantage of super setting is to save time. Even if you truly enjoy training, it's probably safe to assume that you wouldn't mind getting equal or better results in a shorter period of time.

2. Supersets increase intensity: Usually when you think of high intensity, you think of forced reps, descending sets, negatives, etc. Supersets are simply another method of increasing intensity. Shortening the rest between sets is hard work - especially if you're used to a long rest interval. The principle is: more work performed in less time equals more intensity and more intensity equals more muscle.  
3. Supersets prevent injury or allow you to work around an injury: Supersets allow you to overload a muscle and generate high intensity without requiring heavy weights. This decreases your chances of injury.  
Primary categories of supersets:
1. Same muscle group
2. Agonist-antagonist
3) Staggered sets.
1. Same muscle group: The first and most common category of super setting is to combine two exercises for the same muscle group. An example would be super setting Dumbbell flies with the Bench press.  
Four factors of same muscle group: Within the "same muscle group" superset category there are four sub-categories. Each one has a slightly different effect:
Pre-exhaust: Pre-exhaustion is probably the best known and most effective type of superset of all. A pre exhaust superset is performed by choosing two exercises for the same muscle group; Starts from isolation followed by a basic, compound movement. The idea behind pre-exhaust supersets is to take a muscle group beyond the normal point of exhaustion and thereby achieve muscle fiber stimulation and growth that you normally could not achieve from a straight set.
Example for Pre Exhaust super sets: (Open with Isolation (1) and end with Compound (2)) 
A.    (1)Leg Extension / (2)Squat
B.     (1)Leg Curl /(2) Stiff Leg Deadlift
C.     (1) Dumbbell Pullover / (2)Reverse Grip Lat Pull-down
D.    (1) Triceps Pushdown / (2)Close Grip Bench Press
E.     (1)Dumbbell Flies / (2)Bench Press
F.      (1)Dumbbell Side Laterals / (2)Military Press
G.    (1)Barbell Curl / (2)Curl Grip Pull-ups
Post-exhaust: In a post exhaust superset you would again choose a compound movement and an isolation movement. This time, however, you would perform the compound movement first and the isolation movement second. The advantage of the post exhaust superset is that you will be fresh on the compound movement so you can use more weight. Post exhaust supersets can also be used as an effective variation on the heavy-light system. For example, instead of just doing the regular sets of 8-12 reps, choose a heavy compound movement for the first exercise and do about 6 reps. Then, follow it with a lighter isolation movement and do around 20 reps.
This gives you the best possible output: a) size and strength increase, and b) isolation with a wicked pump.
Example for Post Exhaust super sets: (Open with Compound (1) and end with Isolation (2)) 
A.    (1)Leg Press / (2) Leg Extension
B.     (1) Incline Bench Press / (2) Incline Dumbbell flies
C.     (1) Press Behind the Neck / (2) Dumbbell Side Laterals
D.    (1) Close Grip Bench Press / (2) Rope Pushdowns 

Compound superset: This type of superset is quite challenging task to perform. Super setting two compound exercises together can create amazing muscle growth in a short span though it’s incredibly demanding and exhausting. It takes complete energy that you can muster to get through a series of compound supersets. We require special attention to recover muscle after the work out session as these sets keep taxing the nervous system during the work outs. An example would be super setting squats with leg presses. Combinations like these can easily leave you lying flat on your back gasping for air (but the results are well worth it!)
Example for Compound Supersets: - Compound Exercise #1 Compound Exercise #2

A.    (1)Squats / (2) Leg Press
B.     (1)Bent Over Rows / (2) Deadlifts
NOTE: A word of caution about pre exhaust and compound supersets: If your second exercise is a compound free weight movement that requires a great deal of neuromuscular coordination or is the type of exercise that requires a spotter, pay extra attention to your form. When your prime movers are fatigued from the first exercise, you may feel "wobbly" and your form is much more likely to break in the second exercise. If you let your form become sloppy because you are fatigued, you are more likely to get injured. It's not uncommon for pre-fatigued muscles to give out suddenly without warning. If this happens during a bench press or squat and you don't have a spotter or safety mechanism in place, the results could be disastrous. A safer method, especially for beginners, is to select a movement for the second exercise that requires less skill and coordination (leg press, smith machine squat, hack squat) or one with a built in safeguard (power rack, safety catch, spotter, etc).
Isolation supersets: The fourth and final way to do a same muscle group superset is to superset two isolation exercises, such as cable crossovers and dumbbell flyes. This is a useful technique for isolating one particular muscle group or section of a muscle group to the exclusion of others. It is used most often during pre-contest or definition phases when mass and strength are no longer the primary concerns.
Example for Isolation Supersets:  Isolation Exercise #1 Isolation Exercise #2

A.    (1) Dumbbell Flies / (2) Cable Crossover
B.     (1) Leg Extension / (2) Sissy Squat
Ok, now that you know all four types of same muscle group supersets, let's take a look at the other two categories of supersetting: antagonistic supersets and staggered supersets.
2. Antagonistic Super sets: When you perform two exercises in a row for the same muscle group, it tends to significantly limit the amount of weight you can use because of fatigue and lactic acid build-up. Pairing opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups together can help you keep your strength up because as one muscle is working, the opposite one is resting. Common examples include pairing biceps with triceps, chest with back, or hamstrings with quadriceps. This is also an excellent technique for bringing up lagging body parts (priority training). For example, barbell curls paired with Tricep pushdowns are a great combination for blasting the arms.
Example for Antagonistic Superset Exercise #1 Exercise #2

A.    Barbell Curl / (2) Triceps Extension
B.     (1) Leg Extension / (2) Leg Curl
3. Staggered sets: The final category of super setting is staggered sets. A staggered set is a type of superset where you combine a major muscle with a minor and completed unrelated muscle. This technique is most commonly used for abs and calves. The way you use this principle is to "squeeze in" a set of abs or calves in between sets for any major muscle group. For example, you could throw in a set of calves in between every set of chest you do. Instead of resting and doing nothing in between sets of chest, you are doing something productive - working your calves! This gets your workout finished much more quickly and spares you the monotony that many people feel from doing these small body parts by themselves.
As you can see, many benefits can be gained from including supersets in your training program. They are a proven technique for increasing intensity and bringing up lagging body parts. They allow you to gain muscle while working around injuries that might be aggravated with heavy weights. If your training program is getting stale, supersets can also help relieve your boredom. Best of all, super setting is a legitimate way to get more results in less time. If you need to squeeze a result-producing workout into a short period of time, then supersets could be the answer to your muscle-building prayers.