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Do Supersets make it any easier for you to go through with your workout ?

And since you train different body parts when doing a superset is the intermediate rest period accounted for at least partially?

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I just started supersets and so far like the short-term results. I did a combination of bicep and tricep dumbbell exercises at 50% of 1RM and noticed an increase in size right away. – Salsero69 Mar 18 '12 at 21:54
up vote 4 down vote accepted

As with all training options, there are tradeoffs depending on your goals.

Do Supersets make it any easier for you to go through with your workout?

That's not really the best way to think about it. Will the time go quicker? Yes. Will it be easier? Definitely not.

A key aspect to supersets is dealing with fatigue. Because fatigue is now part of the training, you have to mentally push yourself harder. Accumulating fatigue can be an effective way of intensifying the training stimulus, as it never really lets you come to a full rest.

And since you train different body parts when doing a superset is the intermediate rest period accounted for at least partially?

There is no rest between one exercise and the next when you superset. You only rest when the superset is fully complete. The length of time that you rest between one superset and the next depends on your training goals.

Why Superset?

  • Supersetting gives you some metabolic conditioning. A more extreme example of this is called a barbell complex where you string between 4 and 8 exercises together.
  • Supersetting trains your ability to function when fatigued. This can help you grind out new personal records when you don't give up because the bar is moving a glacial speeds.
  • Can keep exercise from being boring.

Why Not Superset?

  • Focusing on one main compound lift without the extra fatigue will give you a better chance to make the required sets and reps.
  • The layout of the gym may not support supersetting. You need all the equipment in a relatively small space. If someone comes along and starts using the equipment you need while you are in the middle of your superset, it will break your rhythm. The chances of that happening go up considerably when you have to run from one end of the gym to the other.
  • You are focusing on technique, or employing other methods to break through plateaus.
  • Supersetting won't let you use weights that are closer to your maximum abilities. This is due to the fatigue built into supersets.

How to Decide

Programming is the discipline of looking at your goals and developing a plan to meet them. There is as much art as there is science when making these choices. The best bet is to make a plan, test it out for a month or so, and make adjustments as you learn how your body responds to that type of training. It's also important to realize what works today may need adjustments later on due to your body's adaptation to the training.

While there are several program templates out there to help meet your goals, you still need to understand the pros and cons to decide if that is what you want to do. The choice to superset, or when to superset is entirely up to you. It's important to keep in mind that you don't have to always do one method or another.

  • You can have some days be traditional programming, and other days use supersets or complexes
  • You can have a main lift done traditionally, and your assistance lifts supersetted.
  • You can do all the lifts traditionally.
  • You can do all the lifts supersetted.

You may favor supersetting when doing bodybuilding style workouts because you are pushing your muscles to failure much more quickly. While this has a profound affect on releasing Testosterone and building muscle size, it takes a long time to fully recover. You will also be using sub-maximal weights.

You may favor all traditional exercise by exercise when doing powerlifting style workouts to cause your body to adapt to higher maximum weights. Even this requires varying the intensity and volume to continue getting the results you want.

I favor the traditional approach for main strength training days, but barbell complexes work wonders for a high intensity metabolic conditioning session. So I will mix them together.

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Do Supersets make it any easier for you to go through with your workout?

Supersets are an advanced strength training technique that allow you to increase the intensity of your workout while decreasing the time spent working out. Incorporating supersets will make your workout more difficult, but also more efficient.

And since you train different body parts when doing a superset is the intermediate rest period accounted for at least partially?

Supersetting, at its most basic, is a training method where you do two exercises with no rest in between. Training different body parts with each exercise is only one of several types of supersetting you can do. My favorite type of supersetting is pre-exhaustion where you do an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise. This is great because in the compound exercise, there is usually one muscle working much harder than the rest, but if you warm up one of the supporting muscles in the isolation, now you have two muscles working to failure in your compound exercise.

Here is a good list on the types of supersets you can do.

Is there any benefit to doing supersets over taking the traditional one-exercise-at-a-time approach?

Yes, there are several:

  • Overloading muscles makes them work much harder and gives you better results.
  • Adding supersets can save several minutes of time otherwise spent resting.
  • Not resting between exercises adds to the intensity of your workout, regardless of what type of supersetting you choose to do.
  • Incorporating supersets in your workout is a great way to break through plateaus.
  • Variety and muscle confusion are good things. Like humans, the body gets bored of doing the same thing over and over. Doing supersets adds variety to your workout which makes it a little more interesting, for both you and your body.
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I might add that it is not an either/or proposition. You can focus on your main lift, and then superset your assistance exercises. – Berin Loritsch Mar 15 '12 at 15:45
@BerinLoritsch Agreed. For me, it all came down to personal preference. I found myself cheating much more in post-exhaustion sets, so I decided to go with pre-. – Moses Mar 15 '12 at 15:52
Additionally, a Barbell Complex is a more involved kind of superset that is great for conditioning: – Berin Loritsch Mar 15 '12 at 15:59
However, supersetting reduces the amount of weight you can lift per rep because rest periods aren't rest periods. If you're training for strength and want to be lifting as much weight on a 5 rep set as possible, you shouldn't superset. Your body won't "get bored" with lifting heavier weights than you lifted last session. Instead of lifting near your 5-rep max, which gives quick strength gains, you may be working closer to your 8-rep max (for example), which is less useful for strength gains. You'll still get stronger, just not as quickly as you would had you not been supersetting. – user3085 Mar 15 '12 at 16:46
I limited my comment to apply "if you're training for strength". Better alternatives to supersetting when strength training through a plateau are using micro-increments or switching to a weekly periodization if you're actually lifting heavy enough to not recover between lifting sessions (Texas Method, for example). If you're not training with strength as your primary goal (so, bodybuilding, conditioning, weight-loss, etc.), then sure, supersetting is fine. – user3085 Mar 15 '12 at 17:49

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