Supersets involve performing two exercises back to back with little or no rest in between. They are an ideal way to increase exercise intensity, break out of an exercise plateau and save time in the gym. In this case, supersetting with opposing muscles involves training the primary muscle, or agonist, and then immediately training the opposite muscle, or antagonist.
Push and Pull
The chest muscles are involved with pushing and the back muscles are involved with pulling. Do an equal amount of exercise for the chest and back, suggests DualFit, because muscular imbalances can cause significant postural problems. To start a push/pull superset, start with a flat bench press combined with seated cable row. Follow that with an incline bench press combined with a standing barbell bent over row, and then do a lat pull down combined with dumbbell chest press. Finally, do an inverted row combined with push-ups.
The shoulders have three major muscles, which are the anterior, posterior and middle deltoids. In this case, it is appropriate to incorporate tri-sets with three exercises instead of two. Start with dumbbell shoulder presses, then do dumbbell front raises for the anterior deltoids, and finish with bent over reverse flys for the posterior deltoids. For the next set, start with the rear pec-deck machine, then do the front pec-deck, and finish with dumbbell lateral raises.
Quadriceps and Hamstrings
Since many leg exercises involve multiple muscle groups, ease the stress on the legs by doing a heavy exercise followed by a lighter exercise. Start with barbell front squats to target the quads combined with a barbell deadlift to target the hamstrings. Do walking lunges with dumbbells in each hand, combined with glute bridges on the floor. Do barbell back squats combined with step-ups onto a bench. Finish by isolating the quads and hamstrings with leg curls and leg extensions, respectively.
Biceps and Triceps
The biceps and triceps aid the chest and back muscles, so wait at least 48 hours after your push/pull workout for adequate recovery. On the cable machine, use a rope attachment positioned close to the floor, and do biceps hammer curls. Move the rope to the top attachment, and do triceps pulldowns. Do the same exercises using a straight bar instead of the rope, and start with the triceps. Using dumbbells, perform overhead triceps extensions with a single dumbbell combined with biceps curls. Finally, do barbell biceps curls combined with dumbbell triceps kickbacks.
Human Kinetics suggests varying the muscle group you start each super set with so that each one has the opportunity to start fresh. In the example of a biceps and triceps workout, do a few sets starting with a biceps exercise, and do a few starting with a triceps exercise. The American Council of Sports Medicine recommends doing three sets of each superset for eight to 12 repetitions for optimal strength gains. Exercise each opposing muscle group once per week.
Riana Rohmann has been working for the Marine Corps doing physical training and writing fitness articles since 2008. She holds personal trainer and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications from the American Council on Exercise and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology from California State University-San Marcos.