No Rest For The Wicked: How To Cut Down Your Workout Time With Supersets

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If you’re short on time and want to lose weight, forget the old school method of resting between exercises.

At the gym, we call doing an exercise, resting, then doing another set “straight sets.”

While straight sets have their place, especially in strength and power training, they aren’t the most effective way to train… and certainly not the most efficient!

It’s time for you to try something called Supersets.

What Is A Superset?

Supersetting is a bodybuilding term that involves pairing two or more exercises with little or no rest between sets.

Straight sets usually call for one to three minutes of rest between sets, but with supersets there is almost no break, allowing you to get more done in less time.

(For a look at the science behind supersetting, check out this post: Inside Luke’s Head – Hacking Your Workout For Faster Results)

The simplest way to superset is to simply pair an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, such as squats and rows.  You would do a set of squats, then a set of row, then back to squats again until all your sets are completed.

While you’re doing the squats, your back is resting.  While you’re doing the rows, your legs are resting.  So you manage to get more work done in less time.

And, since the cardiovascular system only responds to muscular demand, it is actually better training for your heart and lungs than jogging on the treadmill.

There are seven basic ways for your body to move.  They are:

  1. Squat
  2. Bend (or Hinge)
  3. Lunge
  4. Push
  5. Pull
  6. Twist
  7. Gait (or Locomotion)

All exercises can be broken down into these movements.

Superset Strategy One: Fundamental Movements

If you want to try supersetting, here is a simple way to start: Choose two fundamental movements and pair them together.


Superset A:

1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat 3×10 (Squat)

2. Cable Woodchopper 3×10 (Twist)

Superset B:

1. Kettlebell Swing 3×15 (Bend/Hinge)

2. Push Up 3×10 (Push)

Superset C:

1. Lat Pulldown 3×12 (Pull)

2. Lunge 3×10 (Lunge)

In each superset, you would go back and forth between the exercises until you have completed all three sets for each, before moving on to the next superset.

And since each pairing works different parts of your body, your heart will be pumping blood up, down, left, and right, which gives it a great workout as well.

Superset Strategy Two: Opposite Movements

Another type of superset is the Reciprocal Superset, where you pair muscles on the opposite sides of a joint.  Quads and hamstrings, triceps and biceps, or chest and back are all examples.

The benefit of a reciprocal superset is that your nervous system charges opposite muscles.  If you do triceps pressdowns before a dumbbell curl, you will be stronger during the curl, which lets you use more weight (do more work) than straight sets of curls.

This is a huge advantage when it comes to transforming your body, as each workout you do will count for more.

Protip For Supersetting At The Gym:

If you work out at a busy gym, getting two stations can be difficult.  You do your squats and then toddle over to the cable row machine and someone else has taken it over, totally slowing you down.

So what you want to do if you’re at a regular gym is plan supersets that can be done in one place.

For instance, if you’re pairing barbell squats with dumbbell overhead presses, take your dumbbells over to the squat rack with you, so you can do them right away after your squats, and no one will take your squat rack.

Instead of machine chest flyes paired with deadlifts, do ValSlide chest flyes on the deadlift platform.

You get the idea, pick two exercises that can be done in the same place so you don’t have your workout interrupted.

Superset Strategy Three: Pre-Fatigue

This is a plan that will really kick up the intensity of your lean-muscle-building workouts.  With a pre-fatigue (also known as “pre-exhaust”) superset, you first tire out a muscle with a single-joint exercise and then immediately move on to a multi-joint exercise for the same muscle.  Some examples:

  • Triceps pressdown paired with close grip dip
  • Biceps curls paired with chin ups
  • Leg extensions paired with hack squats
  • Side dumbbell raises paired with overhead press
  • Chest flyes paired with wide grip bench press

To REALLY kick up the intensity of your workout, superset two pre-fatigue supersets together.  Something like this… Biceps curls then chin ups paired with triceps extensions then dips.

(And did you notice I made that one a reciprocal superset as well?  Craziness)

Superset Strategy Four: Post-Fatigue

A post-fatigue superset is a great way to “shock” your body into a new level of fitness.

The technique is just like it sounds, you perform a compound exercise, and then an isolation exercise that uses your target muscles and you really finish them off.

A great example would be squats paired with split squats – it will make your quads burrrrrn.

Post-fatigue training is something to use occasionally, when you want a tougher workout.  Not something to do every day!

Benefits Of Supersets

I told you that supersets are a great way to get more done in less time, which is a huge benefit to supersetting.  Some more benefits are:

  • Increased intensity, a key to making progress
  • Train hard without using maximal weights
  • Makes things more interesting, so you don’t get bored


One Response to “No Rest For The Wicked: How To Cut Down Your Workout Time With Supersets”

  1. Reno Personal Training: Burn 30% More Calories With Supersets! | Wold Fitness Notebook Says:

    […] (If you’re not sure what a superset is, check out this article: No Rest For The Wicked: How To Cut Down Your Workout Time With Supersets) […]