There’s a good reason why you might be hearing a lot about supersetting around the gym these days. Supersets are simple to do and a highly effective and efficient way to build muscle. 

However, there are some common misconceptions about what supersetting actually is. While supersets are similar to some other, similar weight-training techniques, they have important differences that yield different physiological results. Once you know a few simple basics about how to do a superset, you’ll be ready to add the muscle-challenging technique into your workout routine.

What is a superset?

Simply put, a superset is a technique where you do a set of a particular exercise immediately followed by a set of a different exercise. What might be confusing is how a superset differs from other techniques like compound sets and circuits which also alternate different exercises. The main distinction is which muscle groups are being worked by the pair of exercises.

  • In a superset, the two exercises pair opposing muscle groups. That means that if one exercise works your triceps, the other exercise should work your biceps. When planning a superset workout, think about muscles that are opposite each other, like hamstrings and quads or chest and back, and perform one exercise for each muscle group, like a glute bridge and front lunge or chest press and back row. Allowing one muscle group to rest while working the opposing muscle group allows both muscle groups to do more work overall, which results in increased strength.
  • Compound sets pair two different exercises that work the same muscle group, like a chest press and chest fly or deadlift and squat. This type of set is most effective for sculpting the shape and appearance of the muscle.
  • Circuits are alternations of exercises for completely different muscle groups; for example, a lower body and upper body exercise like squats and pushups. Circuits are good for burning fat since they involve the whole body. 

How to do a superset

Once you understand how to choose exercises based on pairs of opposing muscle groups, you can follow some basic rep and set guidelines to structure your superset workout. 

The number of reps and sets that you perform can be varied to suit your personal fitness level, the amount of weight you’re lifting, and a number of other factors, but a simple starting workout structure might be as follows:

  • Exercise 1: 10-15 reps
  • Exercise 2:  10-15 reps
  • Rest: 20-30 seconds
  • Repeat 2 more times

A few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Pick exercises that are easy to pair. Choose exercises that use the same equipment or machines that are close to each other so you’re not having to run all the way across the gym between sets.
  • Extend your rest periods. The point of supersets is to mechanically overload your muscles in order to tear the muscle fibers and build greater strength. But this overload means that your muscles will need more rest between sets than with a lot of other workouts. 
  • Recover and refuel. Supersets are great because they work your body really hard. It’s important to replenish your energy by refueling with sufficient protein and getting plenty of sleep.

Supersets are a great way to push your muscles hard and build more strength quickly. You can use them as a way to finish your regular workout by using moderate weight to fully exhaust your muscles, or use them as the basis of your workout by increasing the weight. However you decide to work supersets into your routine, you’re sure to start seeing results without having to put in more time at the gym.