Less Time, More Gains: How to Super Set
Today we're doing something a little different! My good friend and fellow coach Paul from LB3Fitness wrote an awesome blog on Super Sets that is going to be so helpful for all of you who don't have that much time to get busy!
You can connect with Paul here:
Captains log: October, 2018. Hello world. As I sit here and write this, we live in tumultuous times. I don’t know what the future holds for our society. I recently listened to a podcast where Elon Musk said that Teslas are going to be our machine overlords any day now.
I hope that this letter finds you all well. If the machines have taken over by now, then I don’t know who will be reading this. If that is the case, then may god (or the machines I supposed at this point) have mercy on our souls
If however, the terminator sci-fi apocalypse has not happened yet, then we are all in luck! That means you’re reading this, and the internet still exists! Woohoo, go internet!
This is indeed great news, since having access to the internet means that you literally have access to all of the information in the known world. Right at your finger tips, the answer to any question is just a short keystroke away.
At any second, you are a short Google search away from knowing “what is the difference between who, whom, and whomst?”. or a simple “Hey Siri” away from answers to burning questions like “is whomst actually a word?” (I checked. It is not).
Why is it then, that in this day and age, when all the info is out there and so easily accessible, that people are not exercising?
The jury is clearly in. Exercise is good. It is something everyone should be doing, young or old, male, female, or other. It’s not a debate anymore, it’s a fact. It’s a fact that we literally all know.
No one comes in to my gym to train with me, or gets on a coaching consultation call and says “hey you know, I heard about this cool new fad called ‘ex-hur-size’? I don’t know exactly how to pronounce it, but I got an insider tip that it will be all the rage in a few years. Wanted to get on it now.”
The conversation usually goes more along the lines of “Yeah, I know I need to get in shape,” “I know I need to exercise more,” “my doctor told me I need to get moving,” or tons of other things. The overarching theme hear tends to be, KNOW and NEED.
You KNOW it’s good for you. You know you NEED it. If not right this minute, years down the road. The facts are out there, and this day and age with Facebook, Instagram, hell, even regular TV media taking note, it’s literally in our faces every single day. Health and fitness are important, and should be a top priority for anyone and everyone.
Yet, there are so many of us who still can’t get with the program. Why?
That’s a loaded question, and the answer for everyone will be different. However, I’d venture to say that if you asked a lot of people (and I have), the most common answer would be lack of time. Busy work life, busy family life, busy life in general, and many people feel they just don’t have the time in their schedule.
First off, I’ll just come out and say, I hate this excuse. It’s bull-shit. Everyone has time for the things they want to have time for. Be it waiting on line for your Starbucks every morning, scrolling Instagram for a few minutes here and there, or catching up on your favorite Netflix show now and again.
Whatever it is, these things take time, and that time adds up. If you really really wanted to, you could prioritize health and fitness, and fit it into your schedule like you do those things. It’s just that simple.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is also not to say that people are not busy. I get that we live in the real world in the 21st century, where we all have a hundred responsibilities and a thousand obligations pulling us in infinite directions every day. You might not have all the time in the world to dedicate to working out, but you should have SOME time. Which is fine, because coincidentally, some time is all you need.
A lot of people have a common misconception about working out which is it has to be extremely time consuming. “I can’t work out, I don’t have two hours a day to dedicate to the gym five days per week.” That’s fine, because you know who has time to do that? Literally no one.
No, quite the opposite in fact. The best way to be successful with your fitness goals in the real world, is to make fitness work with your life, and your schedule, not the other way around.
"The best way to be successful with your fitness goals in the real world, is to make fitness work with your life, and your schedule, not the other way around."
You don’t need to be in the gym for multiple hours at a time. You also should not think that there is a minimum threshold you need to hit for exercise, and that if you can’t get that number, then there is no point. I hear all the time “I can only make it to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour once or twice a week, is there even a point?” The answer is most certainly yes. There is always a point.
When it comes to fitness, something is always better than nothing, and every little drop counts. Every positive step you take towards bettering yourself adds up, it is all cumulative. It might happen for you at a faster rate if you had the ability to dedicate more time to it, but if you don’t, you don’t. What’s the point of thinking about what isn’t currently possible?
Rather than saying “I don’t have the time,” or “I can only dedicate two hours per week, what’s the point?”, let’s try something different. Instead, try asking yourself “if in only have ‘X' amount of time, what is the best and most efficient way for me to make the most out of it?”. A small change in the way you frame these things mentally can be a huge step in the right direction.
One of the best ways to make your workouts more time efficient so that you can get in and get out of the gym faster, is by incorporating super-sets. Super-sets are literally just two different exercises, performed back to back, with no rest in between. They have been a staple in the routines of bodybuilders for years, and for good reason. Incorporating super-sets in the correct way can help you build more muscle, burn more fat, and get more done, all in a shorter period of time. Who wouldn’t want that?
While super-sets can definitely be great, that doesn’t mean they all are inherently. Just like all exercises are not equal, all super-sets are not created equal either. Every exercise in your routine should have a point. The reps, sets, and weights should all be for your specific goal, and the order matters as well. This is even more so the case with super-sets.
Sure you could just throw two random exercises together back to back and call it a super set, but you should be doing more. Choosing and pairing the right exercises for your super sets can not only speed up your workout, but also increase your gains and amplify your results.
There are many different ways to super set, so I’m going to break down a few of my favorite variations, and give you some examples of things you can use today to start increasing the efficiency of your workout.
Superset 1: Opposing muscle groups
This is a classic example of super sets. The idea being, you work one muscle, then as soon as you’re done you go straight to a different muscle group, that way the work you did in the first set isn’t hindering your work for the second set. This is great if you work full body, or even upper/lower splits. These types of super sets will save you time by allowing you to rest less in between sets, but still working each muscle as if it were fresh.
Some of my favorite opposing muscle group super-sets would be:
- Push to pull for the upper body, push-up to inverted row, or pull-up to dips
Superset 2: compound to isolation
This is another classic example that you’ve probably seen around the gym or even tried yourself. It consists of doing one technically difficult, multi muscle/joint compound movement, directly followed by an easier, single muscle/joint isolation movement. Usually, the second movement is one of the muscles that was worked during the first movement. This style is great if there is a muscle or area you’d like to zero in on further and really work, or burn out a muscle completely towards the end of your workout.
Some of my favorite compound to isolation super-sets would be:
- squat to leg extension- Lat pulldown to bicep curl
Superset 3: Mechanical drop set
A traditional drop set is a set in which you perform an exercise at a certain weight, and when you are done immediately drop the weight so you can continue doing the same exercise. A mechanical drop set is a type of set in which you do an exercise until failure or near failure, but then instead of dropping the weight, you alter the movement slightly to make the movement slightly easier and give your body a bit of mechanical advantage so you can keep going. These are often small variations in grip or body position, but done correctly, can make a big difference in keeping you moving past where would normally be your end point.
Some of my favorite mechanical drop sets would be:
- hammer curl to traditional dumbbell curl
- reverse grip tricep pushdown to traditional tricep pushdown
- kickstand RDL to RDL
- Or try a Giant set (back to back to back sets) of reverse curls, to hammer curls, to traditional curls
Superset 4: Isolation to compound
This type of super-set is less seen in the general gym population, which is a shame. It is technically another type of mechanical drop set, which is also amazing for pushing past your limits and breaking plateaus. By using a single joint isolation movement first, you can work until failure or near failure, then, rather than stopping when you’d normally by finished, you can keep pushing by changing the movement and bringing in other muscle groups to help out.
Some of my favorite isolation to compound super-sets would be:
- tricep skull crusher to close grip tricep bench press
- standing bicep curl to standing bent over row
These are just some of the many types and examples of super-sets out there. Mix it up, get creative, and use them as a tool to increase your workouts effectiveness, while reducing time spent in the gym.
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