What Are Supersets in Bodybuilding?

This targeted approach turns up the heat on your routine

Black man lifting weights in gym
JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

Supersets can power up your routine in record time. They require more intensity and a faster pace, both of which get you to your goal of building more muscle mass and definition in a short amount of time. Supersets are combinations of exercises performed consecutively with no rest in between the sets and can be performed on the same muscle group or different groups, depending on your goals and preferences.

Supersets allow you to overload your muscles without using heavy weights that might require a spotter and can inject interest into a stagnant lifting routine. By speeding things up, supersets also add cardio to bodybuilding.

Working the Same Muscle Group

The first strategy for supersets is to do two exercises for the same muscle group at once. To target the biceps, for example, performing a set of dumbbell curls and cable curls without resting in between is a good superset. You will not be as strong as you usually are on the second exercise, so either the amount of weight or the number of repetitions will have to give, but this is a great technique to pre-exhaust a muscle and really isolate it. 

Antagonistic Muscle Groups

Antagonistic supersets are preferred by many bodybuilders. These pair exercises of opposing muscle groups, such as back and chest, thighs and hamstrings, or biceps and triceps.

As one muscle contracts, the other relaxes, providing a complementary workout. Supersets might include antagonistic exercises such as bicep curls followed immediately by triceps extensions. With these types of supersets, there is no drop of strength whatsoever because you are using different muscles, and once your cardiovascular system is well-conditioned, you can lift as much as when you are not doing supersets.

Supersets With Different Muscles 

Supersets can also be done with completely different muscle groups, such as shoulders and calves, or upper abs and lower abs. These don't involve the same muscle group, but also don't involve antagonistic muscles. Completing a set of shoulder presses followed by calf extensions without any break is a superset of different muscle groups.

Choosing a Superset Routine

Supersets of biceps and triceps often produce good benefits, as do pairing chest and back exercises consecutively. Leg muscles and abdominals also get pumped up with this strategy. But results vary, and you could see more gain simply because adding supersets breaks a plateau in your routine, so you should try different kinds of supersets with each muscle group to see where you get the most gain for your pain. 

Building Muscle in the Kitchen

The gym is not the only venue that's important for bodybuilding. Eating about a gram of protein daily for every pound of your weight helps to build muscle though more than that doesn't mean you'll put on more mass. Good protein sources include lean beef, pork, chicken, and milk, as well as healthy nuts. Round out a balanced but healthy diet with complex carbohydrates like whole grains and brown rice.