If you consistently lift heavy weight and progressively increase the amount of weight you lift, you will get stronger and build muscle. This simple formula is true for everyone, regardless of age or sex. However, over time you will invariably find that your body will hit a plateau.
In order to jumpstart your gains once again, many times all your body needs is a small change in your workout program. Some trainers call it “shocking the system.”
One of the best ways to change things up is to utilize supersets. A superset is when you combine two exercises back to back with no rest in between. Here are a few techniques I have used with some of my advanced clients…
1. Pre-Exhaust Superset. This is one of my favorites… First you “pre-exhaust” a muscle with an isolation movement before immediately moving to a compound movement. An example would be a dumbbell pullover superset with a pull up or pull down. The pullover isolates the lats and pre-exhausts them before you move to the compound pull up or pull down which engages assisting muscles (biceps). This can be done for all large muscle groups. More examples: leg extensions superset with squats…dumbbell flys superset with bench press…side laterals superset with overhead press. The pump from a pre-exhaust superset is intense.
2. Antagonist Superset. This is when you take two exercises that work opposite muscles and you do them one after another without any rest. An example would be a chest and back superset, a bicep and tricep superset or a quad and hamstring superset. When a muscle contracts, its antagonist (a muscle that does the opposite action) relaxes in a unique way. This phenomena is called “reciprocal inhibition.” This “relax” then ACTIVATE signal sends a different muscle building message to the body and the feeling is amazing. In fact, I almost always superset my bicep exercises with my tricep exercises.
3. Heavy/Light Superset. For this variety you pick a big heavy compound movement and do a low rep set. Then you follow up immediately with a light isolation movement. An example would be a heavy deadlift set for 2-3 reps followed up by cable straight arm pulldowns. Another example would be a heavy bench press set of 1-4 reps followed up by some cable crossovers.
One thing to consider is that supersets should not be utilized too frequently. They tend to be really intense and cause more muscle damage than regular sets. I use them for 1-2 weeks at a time and then switch back. I strategically include supersets in Phase III of my comprehensive muscle building program, MAPS Anabolic. Try these techniques out and let me know how you like them!