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All you need to know about supersetting

All you need to know about supersetting

How many times should you work out each muscle group every week and how do you pair them?


There are three types of muscles in the human body – cardiac, smooth and skeletal. Cardiac muscles control heart functions. Smooth muscles control involuntary functions and skeletal muscles are those that are worked in the gym to help the body move. Skeletal muscles form about 40 per cent of the body weight.

As per a report published by the US Department of Health And Human Services, building stronger muscles also increases your metabolic rate and helps you properly maintain a healthy weight. It also recommends strength training two or more times per week for optimal health.

Supersetting (pairing certain muscle groups together) is often resorted to by many in their strength training programmes. Working out different body parts on different days typically provides the specific muscles more rest between conditioning workouts and helps one typically prevent overtraining.

Few active exercises truly isolate only one specific muscle group. The biceps curl is an established exercise to strengthen the biceps in the superior arm. However, while doing this movement, several other muscles also help your body flex at the elbow including the brachialis, which is beneath the biceps, and brachioradialis, which is a slack muscle in the forearm.

Some exercises may fit into more than one category as one designs his or her program. No matter what the program, the more joints that bend during an exercise, the more muscle groups are being put to proper use.

What is supersetting?

According to the book, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning brought out by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA, ‘superset training (also known as paired-sets training or compound sets) refers to the performance of two or more exercises in succession with limited or no rest between them.’

Supersetting can be done in many ways. It could be ‘antagonist’ (exercises that target opposite muscles), agonist (exercises for the same muscles) or random (exercises that target unrelated muscle groups).

The antagonist-agonist pair exercises have shown to increase power output in athletes in acute settings apart from being ‘an efficacious and time-efficient means of developing strength and power.

Strength coach and fitness educator, Pete McCall, in his podcast, All About Fitness, explains how working on opposing muscle groups (muscles that are ‘opposite’ of each other) benefits the body. Think, the chest and back, the hamstring and quads and the biceps and triceps.

“For example, you could do a chest press followed by a back row. As your chest muscles are contracting during the chest press, your back muscles are lengthening to allow the contractions to occur. Then the back is warmed up and can work harder, and while you’re using the back during a back row, the chest muscles are resting and renewing their energy,” says McCall.

That mini recovery will help enable the chest muscles to give the same effort level during the next round. Here are some examples of exercises could be paired together for antagonist supersets:

  1. Chest press and back row
  2. Glute bridge and front lunge (hamstrings and quads)
  3. Biceps curl and triceps kickback

“Because you’re going to be using different muscle groups, one muscle group is resting (while the other is working), so you’ll be able to lift a little bit heavier and get a few more reps in than you would with compound sets,” explains Rebecca Kennedy, a master trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp, an LA-based HIIT training programme.

“They (supersetting) are also extremely useful for building sufficient strength and to test the force your muscles are able to absorb and produce,” says Raymond D’Souza, the champion bodybuilder from Mangalore who has bagged the Mr India title five times.

“Supersetting supports me to reduce considerable time (in the gym),” he says. The long-time champion has participated in many Mr World contests as well. “I do that (supersetting) very often as I am employed in a bank and have to hurry for work. But without my gym exercises, I cannot build my muscles. So supersetting is very helpful for me. Building muscles is one thing, maintaining them in good shape is another. Supersetting comes in handy in that respect,” he adds.



How many times should you superset a week?

The primary benefit of supersets for better workouts typically splitting different muscle groups onto different days is the ability to provide each muscle more rest.

The American Heart Association recommends strength training three times a week, splitting muscle groups and allowing enough rest for recovery. The association has drawn up a supersets timings schedule as follows:

Monday: Arms and shoulders

  1. Push-ups: 3 sets 8 times
  2. Biceps curls: 3 sets 8 times
  3. Shoulder press: 3 sets 10 times
  4. Bench dips: 2 sets 12 times
  5. Lateral raises: 3 sets of times

Wednesday: Legs

  1. Barbell back squats: 3 sets 8 times
  2. Dumbbell lunges: 2 sets 10 times
  3. Romanian deadlifts: 3 sets 8 times
  4. Step-ups: 2 sets 12 times
  5. Calve raises: 3 sets 12 times

Friday: Back, chest, and abdominals

  1. Dumbbell bench press: 3 sets 8 times
  2. Dumbbell fly: 3 sets 8 to 10 times
  3. Bicycle crunches: 3 sets 20 times
  4. One-arm dumbbell rows: 3 sets 8 times
  5. Dumbbell bent-over rows: 3 sets 8 times
  6. Crunches: 3 sets 20 times

A program that balances different muscle groups is recommended for people who train for obtaining general supersets schedule fitness levels. But training for a sport commands a person to concentrate on certain muscle groups frequently used in the particular sport for better results.

But according to Kolar-based A V Ravi, a former Karnataka body-building champion and the winner of Bharat Kishore and Bharat Shri, one should not obsess over a very rigid schedule.

“I don’t believe in any particular schedule. If you have one, you tend to postpone or not work out at all. Most often, it naturally depends on your mood, the day’s happenings, etc. Instead of taking the risk of a possible postponement due to your mood, it is better to work out every day. That’s what I believe in,” says Ravi.

From the time he started training, he has been doing weight and strength training twice a day. According to him, diet is also important and it has to go hand-in-hand with training. “Some people train more for competitions. People who feel that they might have added more calories to their diet also train more. Yes, diet is very important.

“But no one stops you from eating more. But your training and workouts must be proportionate to your eating. I am also a good eater. When I am at home or if I attend a function, I will eat to my heart’s content. But I will put in extra effort that day,” opines Ravi.

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