A Training Guide For Bodybuilding Supersets

Everything is super-sized and maximized these days from the cars we buy to the meals we eat. If only there was a way to maximize your workout so that you could build up your muscles to look really ripped with a high intensity workout with the minimum of effort and time. Well, it just so happens that there is such a method. Its called training with supersets and it lets you build maximize muscle and minimize training time. Not only that, it ads excitement and dimension to workouts. If you’re looking for a way to jump-start your workout or break through a plateau, super-setting could be just what you’re looking for.

So how does it work?

Super-setting is a method of very high intensity training.

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, you then stop to rest for a minute or so before doing another set. A superset is an advanced training technique where you perform two exercises in a row with virtually no rest in between. This type of lifting is great for those interested in fatiguing the muscle maximally in a short amount of time. You can design an entire workout using multiple supersets, or you can add a superset at any point in your workout.

Because you don’t rest between supersets, you save time. It also means that intensity increases rapidly. Shortening the rest between sets is hard work however especially if you’re used to a long rest interval so you need to make sure that you give yourself plenty of recovery time at the end of your workout and top up on those body fluids. Supersets also reduce the risk of injury or enable you to work around injury because they don’t rely on the use of heavy weights.

There are three primary categories of supersets: same muscle group, agonist/antagonist and staggered sets.

Same muscle group

Same muscle group supersets are the most common category. These involve combining two exercises for the same muscle group, for example super-setting dumbbell flyes with the bench press. Within the same muscle group superset category there are four sub-categories. Each one has a slightly different effect.

Pre-exhaustion is probably the best known and most effective type of superset of all. Choosing two exercises for the same muscle group performs a pre exhaust superset; an isolation exercise first, followed by a basic, compound movement.

The whole point of pre-exhaust supersets is to push a muscle group beyond the point of exhaustion to achieve both muscle stimulation and growth that you would not normally achieve by doing straight sets alone. For example if you were doing regular straight sets of leg extensions to the point where you feel you can no longer do another rep, although you might feel you’re totally exhausted, you’d be surprised to find that you’re still able to do squats- though you may have to slightly lower your usual weight. Why? Because although you’ve completely drained your quadriceps with the leg extension exercises, the lower body muscles used in the squats (glutes, hamstrings, adductor’s and different sections of the quadriceps group,) are still fresh and ready to go.

So, by ‘pre-exhausting’ the target muscle with an isolated exercise, you can then continue to blast the fatigued muscle even further with the help of the assisting muscles in the compound movement. There is however, a drawback. By the second set of exercises you’ll only be able to use a fraction of the weight you used on the first set, which is fine if you’re aiming to build muscle, but if strength is your primary goal then you’re better off sticking to straight sets.

If you deliberately lower your weights on the second exercise and perform subsequent repetitions to failure this method is termed “drop-setting.” The “drop-set” method will not be effective if your training goal is maximal size and strength. While decreasing the weight to allow for more repetitions may provide a burning sensation within the muscle, the actual stimulus on the muscle fibers will be much less in comparison to a regular set (performed after a sufficient recovery interval). Most physiologists agree that muscle appears to grow in response to a stress of sufficient intensity and duration. Therefore, by sticking to heavier weights and adequate rest intervals, you can apply a greater stress in comparison to the “drop-sets” technique.




Leg Extension


Leg Curl

Stiff Leg Deadlift

Dumbell Pullover

Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

Tricep Pushdown

Close Grip Bench Press

Dumbell Flyes

Bench Press

Dumbell Side Laterals

Military Press

Barbell Curl

Curl Grip Pullups

A word of caution

It’s not uncommon for pre-exhausted muscles to suddenly give out without warning. If this happens during a bench press or squat and you don’t have a spotter, the results could be disastrous. A safer method, particularly for beginners, would be select a second exercise that requires minimal skill and coordination (leg press, smith machine squat, hack squat) or one with a built in safeguard (power rack, safety catch, spotter, etc.).

Post-Exhaust supersets are the opposite of pre-exhaust. Again these involve a basic compound and isolation movement but this time you make the compound movement first and the isolation movement second. So what’s the advantage? Basically it means that you’re fresh for the compound movement allowing you to use more weight. This leaves you the option to use a heavy basic movement with low reps for your first exercise and the follow it up with a lighter weight and boost up your reps. Now you can pump up your size and get ripped at the same time.




Leg Press

Leg Extension

Incline Bench Press

Incline Dumbbell flyes

Behind The Neck Press

Dumbbell Side Laterals

Close Grip Bench Press

Rope Pushdowns

Compound supersets are tough and exhausting. These supersets work two compound exercises together. Not for the faint of heart! While compound supersets can create great muscle growth very rapidly they are also very taxing on the whole system.





Leg Press

Bent Over Rows


Isolation supersets are the other way of using same muscle group supersets. This is a useful method to use when definition is of prime importance over strength building, or you want to work up a particularly weak area on your body.




Dumbbell Flyes

Cable Crossover

Leg Extension

Sissy Squat


An agonist/antagonist relationship is one where on any given lift, one muscle is contracting and the other muscle is relaxing (such as the biceps and triceps when performing a biceps curl). Working opposing muscle groups has a distinct advantage over same set muscle groups. When you do 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 buildup. Pairing opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups together can help you keep your strength up because as one muscle is working, the opposite one is resting. In order for this exercise to work you must choose muscle groups that are physically close together such as biceps and triceps, or chest and back, or quadriceps and hamstrings. For example, do a set of Tricep Pushdowns and then immediately do a set of Cable Curls. Since these two muscle groups are close to each other and have the agonist/antagonist relationship, it’s easy to force blood into the arm region this way. You would not want to superset the shoulders and calves, because they are so far apart it would be impossible to target blood into both these muscles in such a short space of time.




Barbell Curl

Tricep Extension

Leg Extension

Leg Curl

Finally, a staggered set is a type of superset where you combine a major muscle with a minor and completed unrelated muscle. This method is most commonly used for abs and calves. 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. This way you can get your workout finished much more quickly and avoid the monotony of working the minor muscle groups alone.

Weekly Superset Routine

Monday- Legs
Leg extensions / leg curls 4 sets
Squats / stiff leg deadlifts 5 sets
Standing calf raises 5 sets

Wednesday- Chest, Shoulders and Back
Flat benches / lat pulldowns 4 sets
Dumbbell inclines / pully rows 4 sets
Dips / shrugs 3 sets
Dumbbell presses / hyperextensions 4 sets
Dumbbell side raises 4 sets

Friday- Biceps and Triceps
Barbell curls / triceps extensions 3 sets
Dumbbell curls / overhead dumbbell extensions 3 sets
Preacher curl machine / triceps pushdowns 3 sets

So now you know… why superset?

There are three primary advantages of superset training over conventional straight set training:

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.

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.

Supersets prevent injury:

Or allow you to work around an injury. Supersets allow you to overload a muscle and generate high intensity without requiring weights. This decreases your chances of injury.


The only drawback with supersets, especially pre-exhaust where you do the isolation movement first is that you will only be able to use a fraction of your normal weight on the second exercise. For example if you superset Leg extension and Leg Press. If you can normally Leg Press with 135lbs. (per side) for 10 reps when you do the exercise first. When you switch the order and do leg extensions first, you might find that your quads are so tired from the leg extensions that even 265lbs. for 10 reps on the Leg Press is difficult. That’s okay, when it comes to muscle growth, but if your goal is power or strength then this would be counter productive. If strength is your primary goal, it would be better to just do straight sets of squats and to do your squats first. In a periodized training schedule for a bodybuilder, straight sets should be used almost exclusively during the off season strength and mass phase. Supersets can be added later during the pre-contest phase.

We have many more Exercise and Fitness Routine Articles Now Available.