If you’re ready to add some sizzle to your workouts, you’ve got to incorporate compound sets and supersets into your fitness routine. Performing supersets and compound sets will keep your workouts rolling because you don’t stop to rest between exercises; if you’re using machines, for example, you just hop off of one and onto another and start pumping more iron. To employ these workout strategies properly, however, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
Despite the name, supersets aren’t for action heroes, nor are they limited to extreme bodybuilders. Rather, a superset is a quick series of two exercises that work opposing body parts, such as your chest and your back. You don’t rest between the exercises, other than the time it takes to transition from one to the other. The main benefit of the superset is an increase in your workout’s intensity. Instead of taking a typical minute or two of rest and allowing your heart rate to drop, you keep your heart pumping for a longer period and, therefore, you burn more calories. Additionally, you rest one muscle group while simultaneously working another.
Like its superset cousin, a compound set involves two, or occasionally three, exercises performed without rest, so you gain the same calorie-burning advantage. However, the exercises in compound sets all target the same area of your body. As a result, not only do you rev up your intensity by remaining in constant motion, but you double down by working the same body part in at least two different ways.
Don’t target two large muscle groups back-to-back when you begin doing supersets. You’ll lose some of the superset’s benefits if you’re too tired to perform the second exercise at the necessary intensity. Instead, target two medium-sized muscle groups in your superset or, if you wish to work a large muscle group, do that exercise first, then follow up by targeting a smaller muscle group with the second exercise. For example, begin with a dumbbell chest press, which targets your pecs, and follow with a barbell mid-back row, which involves several smaller back muscles. You can also perform a leg extension targeting your quads, plus a hamstring curl.
Compound Set Strategy
The compound set is a more advanced technique. Don’t be afraid to try it, but be prepared to slow down or stop if you feel discomfort. Above all, don’t be discouraged if you can’t perform a compound set immediately. Instead, set a goal of improving your fitness level to the point where you can perform compound sets. When you reach your goal, perform the more intense exercise of the set first, so you’ll have sufficient energy for the second. For example, pair a bench press with a cable chest fly or, to work your shoulders, follow an overhead dumbbell press with a cable or lever front raise.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.