Gunsmith’s Complete Guide to Supersets

You’ve heard the word whispered in the locker room, seen it mentioned discretely online, and possibly even watched a YouTube video on the subject, but you’ve still got questions, namely:

What the hell are SUPERSETS, and should I be doing them?

We Alpha-Chads here at Gunsmith Fitness have a definitive opinion on supersets (yes, you should add them to your routine) and have prepared this handy article to educate you on the benefits of supersetting your exercises.

We’ll teach you everything you need to know, from the history of supersets to the muscle groups that respond the best to superset training, so read on if you want to learn a thing or two and get jacked as a result.

A Brief History…

Supersets are nothing new to bodybuilding.  In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself (perhaps you’ve heard of him) was a huge (in more ways than one) proponent of using supersets.  Arnold was one of the true pioneers of bodybuilding, so you can be assured that if he was using something, more than likely, it worked.

 gunsmith fitness superset guide

This guy did his supersets (and a lot of steroids)

Although Arnold is greatly associated with the superset technique, the method and etymology of the term come from the previous generation of bodybuilders.  Joe Weider actually coined the term all the way back in 1951 in his Muscle Power magazine!  

Ok, But What Are Supersets?

Plainly stated for you grug-brains out there, supersets are sets of two different exercises performed without rest between sets.  Let’s say you were going to superset bicep curls with tricep extensions.  In order to superset these two exercises, you would perform your curls and then immediately transition to the tricep extensions. 

supersets for big arms

"No I'm not smuggling horseshoes, why do you ask?"

Essentially, you’re taking two exercises and forming a single set, resting only after all reps for both exercises in the set are complete.  To take our example even further, let’s look at a simple workout scheme for biceps and triceps:

Bicep Curls (dumbbells)

3 sets of 10 reps at 25 lbs

dumbell curls for big arms

Overhead Tricep Extension

3 sets of 12 reps at 50 lbs

gunsmith fitness tricep extensions supersets

Normally, you would do your 3 sets of bicep curls, and then move on to your tricep extensions, with a rest period in between each set.  With supersets, however, you would add the tricep extensions onto the end of each set of bicep curls, so your workout would look like this:

First Set

Bicep Curls 10 reps

Overhead Tricep Extension 12 reps

Rest

Second Set

Bicep Curls 10 reps

Overhead Tricep Extension 12 reps

Rest

Third Set

Bicep Curls 10 reps

Overhead Tricep Extension 12 reps

Rest

As you can see, one ‘set’ is actually two exercises, hence why we refer to it as a SUPER-set.

Benefits of Using Supersets

Now here’s where we get to the meat and potatoes of the article: why should you add supersets to your training regimen?  Here are a few of the benefits of using supersets:

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, by supersetting your exercises, and especially supersetting antagonist muscle groups (more on that later), you greatly increase the volume, intensity and blood flow to a certain area.

 supersetting arm workouts

In our above example of supersetting a biceps workout with a triceps workout, you would notice a massive pump in your entire arm from working both muscle groups.  This oxygen-rich environment is perfect for creating positive growth, feeding each muscle with oxygen and nutrients.

Another benefit of supersets is getting an almost cardiovascular level of training.  By working two muscle groups with little rest, your heart rate will increase for a longer period of time, and as you switch exercises, the other muscle gets a chance to recover.

Finally, supersetting exercises allows you to skip rest periods, decreasing the amount of time in the gym.  You may not notice it unless you time your rest periods, but the recovery time between exercises accounts for a big portion of the time spent inside of the gym.  By supersetting your exercises, you can effectively cut your rest periods in half.  

Most Common Types of Supersets

Here are some of the more common types of supersets.  Give each a try and see what works for you, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do some experimentation of your own:

Antagonist Training- The definition of an antagonist muscle is a muscle that opposes the action of another.  Our example above of a biceps and triceps superset shows a classic antagonist superset.  You could also mix any other type of push/pull exercises, such as a bench press (push) with a seated row (pull), or leg extensions (push) with leg curls (pull).  

Antagonist Supersets are what most people think of when they hear the term ‘superset’, and were a favorite of Arnold.

 arnold superset workout

Give Arnold's arm workout a shot and see if you notice any improvement

Similar Muscle Groups-  Like the name suggest, you’ll superset similar muscle groups with each other.  This is commonly understood as the opposite of Antagonist Supersets.  For example, you might superset your normal bench press routine with some tricep cable extensions.  Or you could add curls into your lat pulldown exercise.

This type of superset requires a bit more thinking, as you don’t want to totally exhaust a support muscle for your main workout, such as burning your triceps out in between the bench press.

Same Muscle Groups-  In this method, we’re going to focus on a certain muscle group, such as our lats.  We may want to superset wide grip pull-ups with a straight arm lat pulldown.  

This is a great option for the last exercise of the day, as it’s an excellent way to get a great pump and totally exhaust a specific muscle group.

*Note: Not to be confused with drop sets*

And there you have it, Gunsmith Fitness’ Complete Guide to Supersets.  Now that you have a full understanding of the benefits of using supersets and the knowledge to pair a few together, go out and explore what you like and which supersets work best for you.  Some of our personal favorites include:

Superset Biceps with Triceps:  This will give you an amazing arm pump that will last all day, especially if paired with a set of Blood Flow Restriction Bands.

Superset Bench Press with Pushups:  This is a great way to end your chest workouts.  By the end of your last set, you won’t be able to lift yourself off the floor. If you need any help with your bench, check out our Bench Blasters.

Superset Squats with Walking Lunges:  Wanna grow massive tree trunks for thighs, and have issues with your shorts cutting off the circulation to your lower legs?  Try adding these to your leg routine.  These also work well with the Blood Flow Restriction Bands.

Good luck!

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