Sunday, 5 February 2012

There's a reason why supersets are called "Super"...

So, I read an article on the benefits of supersets in a leading fitness publication the other day. I didn't like it, so I wrote a better one...

What are supersets?..
Superset: Two exercises performed consecutively without any rest between them. The two exercises are counted as just one set. No rest, no chatting, no sipping a drink between - nothing.

Where are they from?..
Supersets were popularised in the gym by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although Arnold may not be the creator of supersets, he was credited by a number of his training partners at the time for bringing the benefits of supersets to their attention and into the mainstream exercise community.

But why are they so "super"?..
Any of my clients, former clients or training partners reading this will be more than aware of my love for supersets; and with good reason...

According to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Performing antagonistic supersets increases the amount of calories you burn by 25% compared to traditional straight sets. Antagonist supersets involve working muscle meant for opposite functions, IE: A push and pull superset made up from push ups and a seated row.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also found that performing 4-6 supersets in a session allowed for gains of 40% more muscle mass than you would if you trained using a single set....

In short, you can use super-sets to burn more calories AND build more lean muscle - perfect no matter what your goals.

Types of supersets...
Generally supersets fall into 3 main categories:
1) Antagonist supersets (Described above): these allow for greater muscle gains and calorie burning as you're able to exercise apposing muscle groups allowing you to complete two exercises without experiencing fatigue. The majority of the muscles used in the first exercise are effectively resting during the second. Twice the resistance work and an elevated heart rate for a longer period of time
2) Vascular shunt supersets: These are designed to make your heart work harder and burn more calories by "shunting" the blood a large distance around the body. The most effective example would be to perform a leg exercise and then a shoulders exercise as a superset meaning that the blood is needed in a huge volume in the legs before travelling a large distance to the top of the body
3) Overload supersets: Effectively, two exercises for the same body part as a superset. For example, bench press followed by plyometric push ups. This adds an element of muscular endurance and also encourage an overload and tearing of the muscles for additional growth. Most popularly used by "mirror monkeys" looking to improve their arms.

What is a good example of a superset?..
So here's my suggestions for 10 of the best supersets you can do. None of the below fall into the 3rd category described above (overload supersets) as these are pretty easy to create on your own...
  1. Bench Press x 12 - Weighted Pull Ups x 8
  2. Reverse Dumbbell Lunges x 8 (each side) - Standing Push Press x 8
  3. Incline Dumbbell Chest Press x 12 - Renegade Row x 8 each side
  4. Incline leg press x 12 - Dumbbell lateral raises x 12
  5. Russian Step Ups x 8 each side - Plyometric push ups x 8
  6. Cable Flys x 10 - Cable reverse flys x 10
  7. Squats x 8 - Standing Arnold Press x 8
  8. (Kettlebell set) Kettlebell front squat x 8 - Kettlebell Standing shoulder press x 8 with the same kettlebells
  9. (TRX Super set) Chest Press x 12 - Inverted Row x 12
  10. (Sports specific set) Plyometric box jumps x 8 - Single dumbell snatch x 5 each side
Workout ideas...
Why not piece two workouts together this week from the above?
Try exercises: 1,3,6,9,10 for workout one and then, 2,4,5,7,8 for workout two? Or just mix and match for 2 full body workouts.
It's important to note that the calorie burning is significantly increased when an action called VASCULAR SHUNT occurs.

Vascular shunt is most effective when the path between muscle groups is greatest, hence pairing leg exercises and overhead presses. The results can be significantly lessened by shortening this path and using smaller muscle groups IE: Pairing biceps and triceps exercises. Great for the ego, less so for the heart.

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