One of the most frequent types of workouts I do are supersets. I love supersets because they save time and are intense.
Let’s get down to business. The following are answers to common superset workout questions.
How much rest should I take in between supersets?
I vary the time between my supersets depending on whether I’m doing duo or triple supersets.
If duo supersets (which is what I usually do), I’ll take 30 seconds rest in between supersets.
If I’m doing triple supersets, I’ll take 10 to 20 seconds rest.
Again, the amount of rest will depend on you to some extent. If you find you don’t need as much rest to crank out powerful sets, then take less rest. Also, if you tend to do higher reps, your sets will take longer, which means you’ll take more time through the entire superset cycle.
One benefit to little or no rest is your workout is very aerobic as well (plus you don’t get bored sitting around taking rests).
If you like to get as much as you can out of your workout time, you can stretch between supersets. I’m a big believer in stretching and being flexible even though I love building lean muscle.
How many weeks should I stick with the same superset workout?
The answer to this is the same whether you do supersets or traditional weight lifting workouts (one set, rest …).
I usually stick with the same workout for 5 to 10 weeks. That’s long enough to get the benefit of the new routine but not so long as to plateau.
Generally, in my experience, it’s best to err on mixing up your workouts too often. Plateau isn’t fun. Besides, I get bored with the same routine over and over.
There’s no harm in changing workouts every 4 weeks; however, you won’t notice as much progress because by that point you’ll be in the swing of things.
Avoid changing workouts all the time or sticking with the same workout for months on end.
Should I schedule a day off in between each superset workout or is working out back-to-back okay?
My approach is to spread out my weight lifting workouts throughout the week … whenever possible. However, if you do a 3 day split and know you’ll only have 3 days available for working out, do all three in a row.
Which brings me to another frequently asked question, and that is whether it’s okay to work out the same muscle within the same week.
For example, if you do a 3 day split, is it okay to start the cycle before the week is up?
I typically work out each muscle group one time per week. However, that’s because I take a little while to recover.
Each person is unique in this regard so if you make better gains by condensing time in between cycles, by all means veer off the weekly program and speed up the cycle frequency.
However, I caution you to pay attention to any overtraining symptoms such as little or no progress, fatique, lack of motivation and any other adverse effects. Overtraining can sneak up on you. You’re better off taking too much time off in between workouts than too little.
Should I do only supersets or can I mix it up with other workouts?
In other words, if you really like the superset concept and are getting killer results, should you never do the traditional workout again?
Not at all. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional method (one set, rest …). I do both types of workouts over the course of a year.
If I do the traditional workout approach, I sometimes superset my weightlifting sets with stretching. Essentially, I avoid sitting and resting as much as possible. The one exception is when I’m doing some killer compound exercises such as squats and power cleans. These 2 exercises absolutely wipe me out and require rest.
Supersets can be a new workout way of life or a method for mixing up your current workout style. It’s really up to you.
As a matter of fact, I learned more about supersetting with P90X which incorporates non-resistance workouts throughout the week such as yoga, abs, and Kenpo, plyometrics. It’s a highly varied workout program that includes superset resistance training with other forms of working out.
Can I do same-muscle combination supersets?
Same-muscle superset combos are instead of doing 2 or 3 different muscles within a superset, you do 2 or 3 exercises targeting the same muscle in one set.
Are these good to do?
Again, as a way to vary your workouts, they’re great. Once in a while I’ll do these and then stretch between sets.
I find when doing same-muscle supersets that I won’t do as many sets per muscle because they get absolutely hammered with each set. It’s a good way to shock your muscles.
That said, same-muscle supersets for me are the exception instead of the norm. I find that if I go hard with the first set I don’t have a lot of gas to do another set on the same muscle. Therefore, I question whether the second and third sets no the same muscle are all that effective other than shocking muscles and providing workout variety.
Which brings me to a point that I believe is important and something I’ve alluded to many times. There is not one type of workout that is the best. That type of thinking results in hitting a plateau.
For me, the best results materialize by varying my workouts over the long run.
Don’t go chasing for the “best weight lifting workout ever” because it doesn’t exist. Yes, certain approaches will deliver different results; however, it’s still good to mix it up over the long term.
Sharing equipment when doing supersets
This isn’t a question, but a tip. One logistical problem with supersets is you need immediate access to two or more pieces of equipment which can be difficult in a buy gym. What can you do?
Instead of getting into an argument with someone who took over a piece of equipment I was using or waiting (I hate waiting for equipment, I always have a plan B. My plan B is doing a different exercise. This isn’t ideal, but I expect it to happen at least once every workout.
What else can you do?
I often place a towel on the one while I use another. This works most of the time to reserve it. However, sometimes somebody removes the towel and moves in anyway. If I’m inclined, I’ll say I was using that equipment. Other times when I don’t really want to be confrontational, I go with plan B and do a different exercise.
If you like the towel reservation system, bring 2 towels in with you so you can reserve 2 pieces of equipment at a time. However, just because you place a towel on equipment doesn’t mean you’re the owner of said equipment. I let other people work in, but the towel gives me a claim in the sense that the person working in with me can’t tell me that it’s his equipment for the next 3 sets.
Essentially, the towel trick makes other people the invitee which gives you some claim to the machine … and usually that’s good enough … at least for me.
On a lighter note, I saw a guy at my gym wearing a t-shirt saying “No, you can’t work in.” Awesome! Seriously, I’m all for working in and sharing equipment. That’s proper etiquette.
Can I do supersets with a partner/spotter?
Not really. The trouble with working out with a partner during supersets is you don’t really do a superset. If you spot your partner, you’re not going to move directly into the second set (and third set if doing triple supersets).
Isn’t this a problem?
I don’t think so. I don’t like working out with workout partners. It goes too slow. Supersets are all about getting it done fast and still getting stellar results.
What about working a muscle to fatigue?
Frankly, I’ve never noticed any benefit squeezing out a rep or two with the help of a partner. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I simply don’t need to do it.
Sure, if I’m not doing supersets and have a partner with me I’ll take the spot, but I’m not giving up all the terrific benefits of doing supersets so I can squeeze out a half-assisted rep or two.
What if you must work out muscles to exhaustion?
Ask someone in the gym to spot you. That’s common practice and there’s usually somebody around who can jump in to spot. I’m asked quite a bit and am never put off by it as long as they don’t expect me to be their spotter for the rest of their workout (I’m too busy doing supersets).
Therefore, you can still work muscles out to exhaustion by asking for the odd spot in the gym. But, supersets aren’t conducive to doing with a partner.
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