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My current weigth-training-plan is roughly like this:

arm-exercise-A 10-reps
2min pause
arm-exercise-A 10-reps
2min pause
arm-exercise-A 10-reps
2min pause
arm-exercise-B 10-reps
...
2min pause
leg-exercise-B 10-reps
2min pause
leg-exercise-B 10-reps
2min pause
leg-exercise-B 10-reps

Unfortunately it takes far too much time, and there is esentially nothing useful nor fun I can do in those 2 min pauses.

My question: Would the workout be less effective if I would intertwine the exercises of different muscle groups such that I fill the 2min pauses but there is still 2mins between the exercises of the same muscle-group?

For example (assuming that a 10-rep session takes about a minute):

arm-exercise-A 10-reps
    leg-exercise-A 10-reps
        1min pause
arm-exercise-A 10-reps
    leg-exercise-A 10-reps
        1min pause
arm-exercise-A 10-reps
    leg-exercise-A 10-reps
        1min pause
...

Will such a workout in your opinion be less effective in causing muscle growth?

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What you are describing is typically referred to as "super setting". There's nothing inherently wrong with that approach, and, it's typically used to try and invoke more muscle growth/strength. However, super setting is usually a fairly high intensity type of routine that should not be followed indefinitely. It can be used effectively if it's cycled with other approaches to training.

  • Could you maybe add sources describing the pros and cons on this kind of supersetting? As there're many kinds of supersetting, that would help to clear the fog a bit. – user8119 Aug 1 '14 at 13:14
  • I think Berin just did. – rrirower Aug 1 '14 at 13:23
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What you describe is called "super-setting" and sometimes a "barbell complex". It's a tried and true approach to training, particularly when working with assistance exercises or focusing on conditioning. There are a few things to consider with super-sets:

  • There is a major conditioning component to them, which can cause you to fatigue faster.
  • Planning super-sets requires you to have local rest, for example following lower body work with upper body work.
  • Planning barbell complexes require that you have a smooth progression from one movement to another.

The conditioning aspect allows you to use your barbell training for metabolic conditioning which is a great way to economize time in the gym. However, because your heart rate gets up and you don't have much rest between exercises you'll find you can't do as much work as if you were to do the exercise in isolation. There are approaches to manage this as well. Since my coach is having me focus on conditioning, he has me super-setting all my work twice a week.

Managing super-sets:

  • Super-sets usually have rest between sets. You can use time, or if you use a heart rate monitor you can use a minimum heart rate to dictate when you do the next set.
  • Sometimes super-sets have rest between exercises. Again, you can use time or a minimum heart rate. The idea is to keep the rest between exercises much smaller than the rest between sets.
  • Barbell complexes have a rep progression and goal time for the whole thing to be done. For example, the "Evil 8" complex has you performing sets of 6 on the first round, and working down to only 1 rep per set--90 seconds rest between sets. If you manage to do the whole thing in 12 minutes or less, you can increase weight.

Super-sets do allow you to condense your time in the gym, which is why they are a very effective way of doing your assistance work. Due to the fatigue component, they do have a greater training stimulus than if you performed the same weight and reps individually. Also, due to the fatigue component, they can interfere with the primary lift. It's best to save them until after your primary work, or use them as conditioning tools.

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I do this regularly and haven't noticed any ill effects. It has neglegible impact on how much weight or how many reps I can do, as long as the exercises don't hit overlapping muscle groups. It saves tons of time.

This is study shows no immediate ill effects on performance from supersetting vs traditional resistance training, although it didn't track long term adaptation results: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2008/05000/Physical_Performance_and_Cardiovascular_Responses.3.aspx

This long paywalled phd thesis examines the effects of supersets on strength and hypertrophy gains. I haven't read the whole thing, but the abstract seems to indicate that supersets were just as good as traditional resistance training. https://search.proquest.com/openview/4382dcc31c78878a78b546c6681ba843/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

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Youre essentially turning your workout into supersets if you are alternating between different muscle groups. assuming your resting 2 min originally-- there are two types that you can do...

arm exercise 1 leg exercise 1 rest 2 min, repeat

arm exercise 1 rest 1 min leg exercise 1 rest 1 min repeat

the first one can be taxing on your stamina and possibly reduce your work effort for the exercise, but its great for fat loss.it produces lactic acid switching between opposite parts of the body which can fatigue you(but increase fat loss). this also acts as a mini-metabolic conditioning workout for your aerobic system as the work to rest ratio is 2:1(2 minutes of exercise per 1 minute of rest)

the second one is best for you i think.. first it is less boring.. and it still gives you plenty of time to recover for each exercise. in addition to a minute rest between each exercise, you have a full 2 minutes before you have to hit your arms or legs again. so your body as a whole gets a minute rest and your arms and legs get a 2 minute rest before each of their respective workouts.

I personally do not think you need 2 minutes for a 10 rep exercise anyway, especially if its a small muscle like arms.. i would suggest 1 minute rest anyway and you could do this:

arm exercise 1 rest 30 seconds leg exercise 1 rest 30 seconds repeat

Pros: quicker workout, less boring, equal rest, improved cardio from less rest

cons: if your aerobic system is out of shape this can reduce your work effort in your reps. This can also produce a lot of lactic acid switching between opposite parts of the body back and forth. again this is great for fat loss but can really fatigue you.

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