Beginners > What Are Supersets & How Do They Build Muscle?
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What Are Supersets & How Do They Build Muscle?

10th Oct 19

Saving time is always an important factor for anyone in everyday life. That doesn’t exclude training either. Exercise styles like HIIT and Tabata are popular for that reason. When it comes to strength you are spoiled for choice. One of those choices is the superset.

So, what are supersets? Do they actually build more muscle? And what are the benefits of substituting your standard workout for a superset option? Let’s run through it.

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What Are Supersets?

First up, a definition: A superset is a form of exercise which involves moving from one exercise to another with no (or minimal) rest. That’s the bottom line.

Superset workouts are commonly split into five main types:

  • Compound Supersets  This form places a lot of stress on the central nervous system and involves targeting the same body part within the same set, with more than one muscle at once. An example would be pull-ups followed by barbell rows with an underhand grip.
  • Isolation Supersets – Recommended for beginners as a ‘finisher’, isolation exercises are commonly used by many to target single muscles like your triceps, such as rope pull-downs followed by barbell skull crushers.
  • Staggered Supersets – This is arguably the best method for targeting your entire body within one workout, as entirely different areas of your body are targeted within one set. For example, overhead barbell presses followed by dumbbell walking lunges.
  • Pre-Exhaustion Supersets – This one aims to pre-exhaust a muscle group with an isolation exercise before performing a compound movement to stress your central nervous system fully. A popular example is dumbbell straight-legged Romanian deadlifts followed by standard barbell deadlifts.
  • Post-Exhaustion Supersets – The reverse of the previous example, post-exhaustion focuses on truly taxing the muscle by beginning with a compound exercise, with an isolation immediately following. A tried and tested example is the classic barbell squat followed by excruciating walking dumbbell lunges!

Do They Build More Muscle Than Conventional Workouts?

Supersets are much more suited to increase muscle endurance rather than muscle mass. Of course, they do both, but they’re better for endurance and time-saving. Compared to a standard weightlifting routine, the best example for building muscle mass is a staggered superset, as one muscle is targeted whilst the other rests.

So, whilst they do not necessarily build more muscle than conventional workouts, they are the ideal time-saving option. On top of that, they’re a terrific way to increase the cardio intensity of any standard weight lifting routine. That’s even more exercise in less time!

Post-exhaustion supersets are also a fantastic way to increase the intensity of targeting a certain body part. So don’t rule any of them out.

Are They Suitable For Beginners?

a class doing different exercises

Whilst beginners can undoubtedly make use of a superset workout, a programme such as the ‘Stronglifts 5×5’ may be a better option to begin with. This programme allows compound strength to develop and quality form to develop with compound lifts. If you are a beginner and want to add one of them to your workout, consider adding an isolation superset at the end of your compound exercise workout. That’s likely the most efficient way to get started.

Superset Examples:

Arm Superset

  • Dumbbell Hammer Curl
  • Barbell Bicep Curl

Leg Superset

  • Barbell Squat
  • Dumbbell Split Squat

Back Superset Workout

  • Barbell Bent Over Row
  • Seated Cable Row

Chest Superset Workout

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Dumbbell Press

Be sure to create a superset routine that works for you and enjoy the time-saving benefits that come with them! If you’re not sold now that you have all the information, why not look at other set styles and how they help you too.

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.