I’m a huge fan of supersets for two reasons: they’re time efficient and they’re effective. Supersets are also versatile. You can use supersets with your body weight, barbells, kettlebells, bands, and so on. There are 3 main types of supersets and this article is not meant to determine which one is best but rather help you choose the one that is most appealing.

 

  • Antagonist Superset: Push/Pull
  • Agonist Superset (aka Compound Set): Push or Pull + Accessory
  • Body Split Superset: Upper Body Push or Pull/Lower Body Push or Pull

 

ANTAGONIST SUPERSET

An antagonist superset refers to pairing 2 exercises of opposing movement patterns. A basic example would be performing a set of bench press followed by a set of dumbbell rows. This type of routine was a staple of my training program back in college and I did notice considerable size added to my frame after just a few months. One thing I noticed with this routine was how much stronger I felt on the second exercise when compared to the first.

 

I don’t know why but I assume the first exercise warmed up the antagonistic (opposing) muscle. The stronger and better prepared your antagonistic muscles are the stronger the primer (agonist) lift will be. Simple guides to remember which muscle groups are antagonists to each other are as follows:

 

  • Horizontal push/Horizontal pull (i.e. bench press + bent over rows)
  • Vertical push/Vertical pull (i.e. military press + pull-up)
  • Lower body push/Lower body pull (i.e. squats + deadlifts)
  • Isolated (i.e. tricep press down + dumbbell curl)

 

This type of program is beneficial to both beginners and advanced trainees. Beginners will rapid muscle hypertrophy while advanced trainees can use antagonist supersets to provide a new stimulus to their muscle fibers to stimulate change. These supersets can be performed on back-to-back (2 days on, 1-2 days off) or alternating (1 day on, 1 day off) training days. Try both and see which one you like.

 

AGONIST SUPERSET

Also known as compound set, agonist supersets are when you perform a primary muscle exercise with its synergist, or ‘assisting’, muscle exercise. An example would be pull-ups and curls. The pull-up is a compound exercise that focuses on the back while the biceps assist in the movement but are not the targeted muscle group. In order to break down the bicep even further we follow up with an isolated (synergist) exercise such as bicep curls.

 

This style of training is popular with fitness models and bodybuilders who are doing everything within their power to create as much muscle damage as possible during a workout session. Due to the damage that it can cause, and this is good damage, they will need longer rest periods during the workout and longer recovery periods between training sessions for the same muscle group. While antagonist supersets can be perform every 1-2 days agonist supersets need 4-5 days to recover. Here’s an example of an agonist superset:

 

  • Back Focus/Bicep Focus : Pull-ups + Dumbbell Curls
  • Chest Focus/Tricep Focus : Bench Press + Tricep Press Down
  • Squat Focus/Quad Focus : Front Squat + Leg Extension
  • Deadlift Focus/Hamstring Focus : Deadlift + Leg Curl Machine

 

BODY SPLIT SUPERSET

My personal favorite! Body split super sets are great if you’re trying to get an upper and lower body workout done in a jiff. I always prefer to do a lower body movement first followed by an upper body movement. Why? Personally, I feel lower body movements take more out of me and require more concentration. I like to get that out of the way first then give my attention to an upper body movement that doesn’t require as much focus. If you wish to do the reverse then make your lower body exercise something explosive like box jumps, jump rope, or kettlebell swings. Again, this is personal preference.

 

Similar to the previous superset styles you should take shorter breaks between exercises. However, you have the ability to train the same muscle groups multiple times a week (sometimes as much as 4) because you’re only going to perform 1 exercise per body part or movement. This is great for the beginner who will see continually strength gains during their first year. Here’s an example of body split supersets:

 

  • Upper Pull/Lower Press: Barbell Row + Back Squat
  • Upper Push/Low Pull: Military Press + Deadlift

 

STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!

About Josh Jarmin

Originally from Washington, D.C. (NOVA) Josh moved to Atlanta to be a Middle School history teacher after graduating from James Madison University. He joined the Marine Corps infantry as a reservist and served in Iraq honorably. Josh then turned his attention to personal training after his tour in order to help others reach their health/fitness goals. At one point he was 275lbs and 28% body fat. Now he's 195lbs and 13.5% body fat. Josh worked for several fitness facilities in Atlanta and developed a loyal following of trainees. He's created a training program of his own personal design and has established himself as one of the top kettlebell and body movement experts in the Atlanta area. Josh is currently the Co-Owner and Director of Fitness at Blueprint Fitness.

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