It seems to me that it’s getting more difficult to be a productive, happy, family oriented dude and still prioritize fitness. Maybe I’m getting a bit older (with more responsibilities – thanks adulthood) or maybe fitness isn’t as fun so it’s easier to save that one until tomorrow? In any case, I had to find a way to earn and sustain my level of fitness – to make sure I’m putting in the work but limiting my time in the gym due to all those other fatherly, workably (no – not a word), or other activities. Happening upon supersets helped me become a more efficient exerciser.
A superset is performing more than one set of an exercise in a row without stopping (i.e. doing 8 reps of bench press and then going immediately into some number of squats without pausing to catch your breath in between).
You know what? Supersets are phenomenal – let me tell you why.
How I’ve designed a workout around supersets lately –
I’ll come up with about 4-7 complimentary moves and decide how many reps of the moves I’ll do. To keep it simple, every exercise gets the same number of reps (number of times you’ll do 1 exercise). What do I mean by ‘complimentary?’ I’m saying that I won’t blast chest or legs in a single day, so I’ll pick a variety of moves that target different muscle groups. When I’m deciding on reps I’ll also decide on number of sets (completing 8 reps of an exercise comprises 1 set).
Here’s an example:
For this barbell workout I chose to keep things simple and go for 5 sets of 5 reps. I put a set number of weight on the bar and went to work. Here are the exercises if you want to try at home:
Once I grab the bar for deadlifts, I won’t set it down until I’m done with squats. At that point I’ll press it back to the front and deadlift down. Then I’ll walk or jog over to pull-ups and sit-ups.
This gets pretty taxing on the grip after a while but wow does the heart rate elevate. This workout takes me about 20-25 minutes depending on the day and I feel whipped when it’s over. One thing to pay attention to though is to make sure your form is superb. Holding the bar for that long can lead to overcompensating in some area. Don’t do it. If the form is faltering – lower the weight. Don’t be a hero.
It forces you to have a plan before you get to the gym
I try not to judge but sometimes I can’t help but look at the guy or gal in the gym just floating from machine to dumbbell to water fountain, and I think, “Man, you can be so much more efficient here. Isn’t there something else you’d like to do today?”
Using a superset approach to your workout forces you to have a plan before you step foot in the gym, because this doesn’t quite work if you go for 8 reps of lunges then have to think about what’s next. I outline one plan above and I’ll provide another workout plan below but the point is to know where you’re going so that you can focus on working out. I’m all about efficiency and maximizing my time in the gym.
It can be hard to carve out 30 minutes from your day for exercise – make sure that when you do you use those minutes as best you can!
You can blend strength and cardio days
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an advocate for running (without carrying weights), swimming, or biking for some number of days/week, but on lifting days why can’t I have some cardio too?
No reason why not.
Any time that you’re able to elevate your heart rate and build muscular strength and endurance, that’s a good thing. I recommend doing this responsibly though.
It hasn’t worked for me to hammer one body part or two all workout for 1 day and then focus on another muscle group tomorrow. What I’ve seen lately is that your muscles work best in tandem and absolutely killing your shoulders will have some affect on your chest workout 2-3 days from now.
-Three reasons why I try to vary the muscle groups within my workouts:
1) I’m going to be lifting again within the next 2 days and I’d like to have the full use of my back. If I lift 5 different back exercises on Monday, I’d be saying ‘goodbye’ to the upper body for the remainder of the week.
2) Working different muscle groups in a single day makes me more well rounded. I’m not saving leg day for Friday (which may or may not get cut due to any number of reasons), I’m lifting legs every workout – maybe a different muscle group each day, but they’ll be incorporated.
3) I don’t know about yours but my muscles work best together. I will try to find moves that use as many muscle groups at a time as possible. Check out the workout above for proof or do some kettle bell swings, because those things are pretty effective.
It has been the most efficient use of my time in the gym
Combining having a plan, having a finite end to the workout, and utilizing supersets make it easier for you to push yourself. There are only so many repetitions to be done in the workout, so I race against the clock to see how fast I can finish this week.
Honestly there have been times where I’m walking out of the gym 25 minutes after I got there, sweating like crazy, and thinking, “Is it too early to leave now? Maybe I should go back in there?”
But then my body’s like, “Dude – you’re good.”
You can lift more body parts in a day
By now you may see this one but by eliminating rest times and properly designing a superset minded workout, you can really get a lot done in a short amount of time.
Your heart rate stays elevated so you burn a ton of calories
This is a form of interval training which has some period of high intensity exercise followed by a period of moderate or low movement. Our low movement is getting from one exercise to the next. We can vary our workouts a ton of ways but one way is to geographically separate or group together your different exercises to shorten or lengthen your ‘down time.’
Another idea – run from exercise to exercise (every day is now running day)!
Eliminating rest time and moving from one set to the next in sequence can have a drastic impact on heart rate and overall calorie burn. Your heart rate stays elevated to the point that more calories are burned than would be in a typical 60 minute workout.
Nice job winning the day!
You don’t have to worry about anyone trying to interrupt your workout
It’s difficult to share equipment, or ‘work-in,’ with someone while super-setting your lifts. No worries for them though, good chance if they come back in 15 minutes you’ll be done with the equipment… And sweating your tail off.
The counter-point here is this – It can be a ton of fun to do this with a buddy. You two can start with different exercises and then chase each other around the circuit until it’s complete.
I’m telling you – give this a shot if you haven’t already. Supersets have been a total game-changer for me and the same could be true for you. Good luck and stay after it – your health and body will thank you later!
Here’s that other workout I promised
4 sets of 8 reps – total superset (no rest between sets or rounds of the circuit). This one requires a couple more pieces of equipment but definitely gets the job done:
Incline bench press
Kettle bell swings
Alternating step back lunges
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