If you want to add intensity to your workouts while not having to push bigger weights on your compound movements, supersets are a great option. Obviously, we all want to train as heavy as we can while still effectively targeting the muscles we are training. However, there are those days when the joints say, “Oh, hell no; ain’t happenin’ today, bruh.”
As much as I advocate training as heavy as possible with good form, this is not the only way to train for hypertrophy. One of the options I like to use on days where the big numbers just don't feel like they are going to be there (for whatever reason) is supersets for the same muscle group. The trick is to get the right combination for the muscle or the area of the muscle you are working. Below, I have listed what I feel are the best supersets for each muscle group, and I have also thrown in some crazy options. You know, just in case you want to go psycho and do something that everyone else doesn't have the balls to do.
Before getting into the list, let me point out the biggest mistake made while doing supersets for the same muscle group. You would think that logic or common sense would prevail, but not always. Do NOT do one side at a time for the first set of a superset and then do the second set with both sides at the same time. I hate to call something stupid because there are a lot of different ways to train, but this is just plain stupid. It should seem obvious that if you do one side at a time for the first set, there will be different levels of fatigue from the right side to the left side for the second set of the superset. Sometimes I have to scratch my head and wonder how people can miss something so obvious.
By definition, a superset is a combination of two sets without any rest between the two sets. You do one set and immediately do the second set of a different exercise before resting.
My list of what I consider to be some of the best superset combinations:
- Dumbbell side laterals while lying on a high-incline bench
- Behind-the-neck push press (only bringing the bar down to where the upper arms are parallel to the floor and using full lockout at the top)
- Dumbbell front lateral raises
- Neutral-grip overhead dumbbell press
- Seated rear laterals on the pec deck machine
- Standing rows on the Hammer Strength Shrug Machine
- Cable Flys
- Hammer Strength Decline Press with full lockout at the top (no partial reps)
- Incline dumbbell fly
- Incline dumbbell press
- Supported T-bar rows
- Long pulley rows
- Dumbbell or machine pullovers
- Bent barbell rows
- Wide-grip chins
- Shoulder width, neutral-grip lat pull-downs
- Hammer seated rows
- Rack deads with retraction at the top (so not as heavy as you can possibly go)
Both sets at least 15 reps each
- Kneeling Rope Crunches
- Calf raises on a vertical leg press machine
- Standing calf raises
- Seated leg curls
- Stiff-legged deadlifts
- Seated leg curls
- Barbell squats
All for at least 15 reps each
- Hack squats
- Smith squats
All for at least 15 reps each
- Incline Skullcrushers with an EZ bar
- Hammer strength dip machine using full lockout
- “Double-biceps pose” cable curls
- Undergrip shoulder-width lat pulls
Keep in mind that as the fatigue sets in while doing supersets, every rep should look like the one prior. It can get quite easy to break form, so pay attention and make sure that your form is tight for every repetition.
It is important to note that if you usually do 10 working sets for a muscle group, you can't jump to doing 10 sets of supersets without crippling yourself from soreness the following day. If you typically do 10 working sets, you will want to cut that in half if doing all supersets.
Another option is to do only the supersets in place of the last movement for that muscle group. This will allow a stimulus for growth without taxing your system so hard that you struggle to recover before the next workout. Intensity is only a good thing if you can recover. If you can’t recover before training that muscle again, it’s wasted time and effort.
Personally, I prefer to take about 20 seconds between the first set of a superset and the second set. This allows me to get in some deep breaths during that time and to still get into the second set fatigued from the first set, but not so fatigued that the second set ends up being useless.
High-intensity techniques, like supersets, should be used sparingly. Doing supersets for every muscle or every workout is not going to work for very long. If used infrequently, they can allow for a great workout on those days when your body just doesn’t want to set personal records or move the big weights. Try out these combinations, and let me know what you think. If you have a favorite superset, post it below in the comment section.