Slider Top

[5] [true] [slider-top] [Random News]
You are here: Home / Frequently Asked Questions about Supersets

Frequently Asked Questions about Supersets

| No comment
The following are answers to frequently asked questions about superset workouts.

Do I Need a Gym Membership to do Supersets?

Frequently Asked QuestionsNot at all. You can easily do body weight supersets combined with cardio and/or yoga at home. Alternatively, you can buy some basic weightlifting equipment for your home and do resistance training supersets at home.

Another option is to do cardio and yoga supersets at home. For this you need no equipment if you run on the spot, do jumping jacks, squat-jumps or other cardio methods that don’t require equipment. Of course if you have a cardio machine such as a treadmill or elliptical or exercise bike you can use that in combination with resistance training and/or yoga.

With a little ingenuity, you can easily design excellent at-home superset workout routines.

How Many Reps per Set?

Obviously this pertains to weightlifting. You want to restrict your reps to 5 to 15 sets. You can mix it up during a superset. For example, your exercise of 4 sets may have rep volume of 2x12, 1x10, 1x8.

The higher the rep count, the bigger muscles you’ll grow. The lower the rep count and you end up building strength, not huge muscles (but will develop dense muscle).

Most weightlifters vary their workout cycles in the long run incorporating various rep-counts. For example, during a mass-phase, it’s good to do reps in the range of 8 to 12. For a strength-building phase, rep volume will be 4 to 6.

If you’re starting out, stick with rep volume ranging from 8 to 12.

How Many Exercises and Sets?

The answer to how many exercises/sets per muscle depends on:

  • Your workout objective.
  • How quickly you wish to achieve your fitness objective.
  • How much time you can dedicate to your superset workouts.
  • The type of supersets you’re doing.

Build Muscle Objective

If you wish to build a lot of muscle as fast as possible, you’ll need to work your muscles out hard during each workout. You’ll want to do a weightlifting-centric superset program. It can be working out 2 muscles back-to-back, or better yet, doing 2 exercises targeting the same muscle back-to-back.

If you’re just starting out, do 1 to 2 exercises per muscle with a total of 5 to 6 sets. If you’re a veteran weightlifter, do 3 to 4 exercises per muscle totalling 9 to 12 sets per muscle.

Burn Fat / Tone Muscle Objective

If your goal is to burn fat and tone your muscle, go with a 2 day split (upper and lower body) or a full circuit training workout. 1 to 3 exercises per muscle is more than sufficient totalling 3 to 6 sets per muscle.

You can do resistance training-only supersets or combine resistance training with mini-cardio sessions.

Cardio-Centric Supersets

If you go with cardio-centric supersets, do as many supersets as you can or wish to do (although I seldom work out longer than 90 minutes … a 90 minute superset routine would be incredibly intense).

Can I Work Out My Muscles More than Once Per Week?

Yes. If you do full body workouts with limited exercises/sets per muscle (i.e. 5 to 6 sets per muscle) you can do 2 to 3 full body workouts each week.

If you’re doing splits such as 4 or 5 day splits, you can incorporate what I call “muscle blasts” into your split routine in order to accelerate development of under-developed muscles.

For example, if your biceps are under-developed compared to other muscles, you can add a “bicep blast” in your 4 or 5 day split so that you hit the bicep twice.

A “muscle blast” workout will be slightly lighter than the main workout for that muscle. The set volume should be no more than 9 or 10 sets.

Can I Change My Workouts Every Week?

It’s not a good idea to change up your workout regimen every week. Instead, stick with a regimen for 6 to 12 weeks, and then change it.

Choosing/designing a workout regimen depends on your fitness objective. It’s best to choose one objective during a workout cycle/phase (i.e. 6 to 12 week program) and go with a workout that works toward that objective. Chapter 11 covers choosing/designing a superset workout.

This is the case whether you want to build muscle, burn fat, improve your cardio or improve flexibility. When you do the same exercises over the course of 2 to 3 months, you can apply progressive loading/training principle, which is very important.

If, on the other hand, you change up your exercises each week, you won’t be applying the progressive loading principle and will make fewer gains/progress. Yes, this applies to cardio-centric workout regimens as well.

Do I Need to Track My Workouts?

It’s best to track your workout results. The reason for this is it helps with training progressively. If you can’t remember how much weight you lifted for a particular exercise/set the previous workout, you may lift less or try to lift too much.

When you write down the weight lifted and number of reps achieved for each set, you know when during future workouts whether to increase the weight or not. For example, if for your first set of chest you do barbell bench press and you press 165 pounds for 13 reps and your rep goal is 12, you know for the next workout to increase the weight to 170 pounds.

If you do cardio mini-sessions in between weightlifting sets, it’s helpful to note down which type of cardio exercise you did.

Tracking cardio mini-sessions in between weightlifting sets is trickier. It really depends on the type of cardio exercise you do. If you run on the treadmill or use other cardio equipment, you can track speed, incline, and intensity (for elliptical trainers and exercise bikes). In this case you can strive to improve your cardio effort.

However, if you use a jumping rope or do jumping jacks in between weightlifting sets, you can only do so many in 45 seconds. You won’t be able to increase the effort. In this case, tracking isn’t as important.

For yoga/stretching, I find it’s best to do the same stretches for a workout cycle so that progress can be made. However, it’s a good idea to include a variety of stretches throughout a superset routine so that you stretch all of your major muscles.

Machines, Free Weights or Both?

I use both free weights and machines during my workouts (both traditional and superset workouts).
Both machines and free weights have their advantages and disadvantages

The primary disadvantage with free weights when doing weightlifting supersets is the time spent on set-up such as adding/removing weight. Also, if the gym is busy, you may have to work-in with people which can upset your timing. However, it’s still very doable to do weightlifting supersets with free weights.

The following sets out the pros of both weightlifting machines and free weights.

Pros of weight machines

1. Target your muscles

Resistance machines provide excellent isolation exercises, which means they zone in on specific muscles very well. Do they do it better than free weights? Some do.

Take smith machine squats or hack squats for example. With those two squat machines, you can use a narrower stance which targets your outer quad muscle. You know the muscle you develop on the side of your quad for that killer slab look? Well, that's better developed with a narrower stance.

Another example is the lateral pull down for working back muscles. Not everyone can crank out 8 reps of wide-grip chin-ups. However, with the lateral pull down, you can target your lateral back muscles very nicely. I include lateral pull downs in my back workouts often.

My favorite example is using overhead cable triceps extensions. Because it's a cable, there's resistance for the entire movement. Compare this to DB overhead triceps extensions where the resistance is uneven throughout the movement. Frankly, I get a better triceps workout using the overhead cable triceps extensions over the DB extension.

2. Easier to work in with strangers

Machines are easier to work in with other people. Sure, if you have a partner, free weights work well because you both change the weight in between sets. However, if you want to work in with another person on a bench press, and you both use different weights, it's a hassle ... it doesn't work well.

Weight machines, on the other hand, are very easy to adjust weight (most times ... machines requiring plates are an exception). Therefore, 3 people can easily work in together on a single machine.

This reason also makes weight machines more often available. If there are 2 bench presses and 2 chest exercise machines in a gym, up to 6 people can use the machines while only 2 people can use the bench presses (unless there are 2 workout partners on the bench press).

3. Faster

Machines are undeniably faster to use. You don't have to add and remove weight plates. You simply insert a pin into your desired weight.

This is particularly important if you do circuit training and/or supersets or you have very little time to work out.

4. No spotter needed

When you lift to exhaustion on free weights, you need spotters for many exercises (bench press, squats, shoulder press, etc.). Spotters aren't always available. Moreover, you don't want to annoy everyone else in the gym always asking for a spot.

Machines don't require a spotter. There's no danger of you getting pinned under a bar. If you can't finish the lift, you just let the weight down.

5. Variety
Yes, you can do a lot of exercises with a bench, dumbbells and barbells. However, when you have a gym full of machines plus free weights, you have more exercises to choose from. You can dramatically increase the variety of your workout exercises.

Pros of Free Weights

1. Compound exercises

The only real compound exercises (hitting multiple muscles / muscle groups with one movement) are free weights such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.

You aren't going to hit multiple muscle groups with a machine. This is the primary reason many weight lifters focus on free weights - they builder bigger muscles faster. Be that as it may, I don't ignore weight machines. I use them with free weights.

2. Purist Weight Lifting
I don't buy the purist arguments. However, there are purists out there who only use free weights and swear by it. I find purist line-of-thinking not very good. If a machine can deliver benefits, why not use it?

3. Lift heavier weight

Machines have a maximum load. Free weights don't. You just add weights. Obviously this is only a concern for strong people. I have yet to use a machine that doesn't offer enough load.

4. Stabilizing works multiple muscles
When you lift free weights, you use several muscles to stabilize the weight. This is the compound nature of the lift/pull. This is good and bad. Bad in the sense that you expend energy on muscles you aren't targeting. It's good in the sense you give your body a more comprehensive workout where the muscles work together to perform a lift.

What weightlifting cadence should I use?
Weightlifting cadence refers to the speed at which you lift and return the weight you lift. There isn’t a specified cadence for supersets. If you like doing negative sets (i.e. returning weight slowly) or lifting slowly, by all means do so. Cadence is another way to vary your workouts.

Should I Lift to Failure?
What is lifting to failure? It’s when you lift to the point that you can’t move the weight anymore without assistance or returning the weight to its resting position. As often as you can, lift to failure. This provides for the biggest bang for your buck.

However, for some exercises it’s not possible without a spotter. Bench press and squats come to mind. Nobody likes getting stuck with a barbell on their chest that they can’t lift. It’s not fun.

A work-around, other than to ask someone in the gym to spot you, is to do drop sets. A drop set is when you reduce the weight and lift a few more reps. You can do 1 to 3 drop sets for a set.

For example, if you’re cautious and return the barbell fairly early in your set to avoid getting pinned under the barbell, you can reduce the weight and squeeze out 4 to 5 (or more) reps. This helps work out your muscle to failure.

That said, whenever safe to do so, lift to failure.

What If the Equipment I Need is Not Available?
I hate waiting around for equipment, so I don’t. If only one person is using the equipment, I ask to work in with them. It’s proper gym etiquette to invite people to work-in on equipment up to 2 or 3 people.

If there are already 2 to 3 people using the equipment item, skip to the next exercise for which the equipment item is available. If nothing is available, do a substitute exercise. This is the worst possible situation, but it’s better than waiting 10 minutes. I prefer to maintain a 45 to 60 second rest pace in between sets (unless I’m lifting to increase strength and/or doing power lifting exercises such as squats, in which case I rest for 90 to 120 seconds).

Do I Need a Workout Partner?
You don’t need a workout partner; however, you can certainly do so for supersets. While you do one exercise they can do the other. This means that you won’t really be able to spot one another very well for heavy lifts.

Supersets are great for working out solo as well. I seldom have worked out with a partner over the years. I’m more of a lone-wolf in the gym.

If you have plenty of money, you can hire a personal trainer to workout with you. This is an excellent way to work out because they’re there to spot you, help with loading/removing weights and motivate you. They also provide feedback about your form.

How Much Rest Should I Take In Between Supersets?
Remember, a superset contains all the exercises you do back-to-back. You don’t want to rest in between exercises within a superset; however taking 30 seconds of rest in between superset is fine.

With respect to circuit training, you don’t need to take any rest. Just keep moving through the routine. This is excellent cardio and resistance training all rolled up into one workout.

How Many Days a Week?

This depends on your fitness objective, how much time you have and the workout regimen you use.

For most people, how many workouts scheduled in a week depends on their schedule. That said, if you make working out a priority, you can usually fit in at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

The ideal number of workouts in a week is 3 to 5. I do 5 workouts a week plus a few walks with my family.
The ideal workout duration is 30 to 90 minutes. I typically workout for 60 to 90 minutes; however, sometimes I only have time for a quick 30 minute session. I adapt when necessary. It’s better to fit in a modified workout than skip it altogether.

Can I Do Non-Superset Sets?
Yes. There’s no rule saying you that if you incorporate supersets into your workout that you must only do supersets.

For example, you might do same-muscle superset combinations for specific muscles and/or specific exercises.

You might also incorporate a cardio/yoga superset workout during your workout.

The only superset workout you incorporate may be abdominal supersets.

That said, if you do different-muscle combinations (i.e. chest then biceps supersets), it’s best that your entire weightlifting regimen be different-muscle supersets. Or, you might superset your better-developed muscles leaving more energy to focus on under-developed muscles.

And yet another scenario may be if you do a 4 or 5 day split and include “muscle blasts” in your regimen, the muscle blasts could be different-muscle combination supersets, which results in a slightly lighter workout for the second session for those muscles within a week.

Are There Any Superset Combinations to Avoid?
There is really only one weightlifting combination to avoid (in my opinion):
Chest and shoulder exercises together (or on the same day). Chest exercises also work out shoulders quite a bit. Both are large muscles with several parts to workout (if you’re gunning for building muscle).

If you do chest, you’ll workout your shoulder. This means your shoulders will be fatigued by the time you work out your shoulders. Likewise, if your shoulders are tired, it will reduce how much you lift for chest.

I realize that chest works out triceps at the same time; however, triceps require less intensity and therefore can be worked out with chest. That said, I prefer chest and bicep combination or chest and hamstring combination.

Other than that, you can combine supersets, whether weights only, weights and cardio, weights and yoga or any other combination that’s in-line with your fitness objective.