I love my time at the gym and I try to workout most days. It’s a great break from the office, keeps me fired up, and fit and healthy through the year. I’m not particularly focused on specific fitness goals, aside from keeping a healthy weight, keeping toned and maintaining overall strength and flexibility. So I guess you’d call me a gym generalist – if you’re looking for a specialist I can definitely point you in the right direction.

However, even as a generalist I’ve learned a thing or two, and since I like to try and pack as much into my workouts as possible (don’t worry, I will stop and chat if you see me down there) I make good use of supersetting.

What is supersetting, is it good for you and does it build muscle quicker?

What is supersetting?

A superset is basically two exercises performed in a row without stopping. There are no rules about what two exercises you do but generally people go for the same or similar muscles – chest and back, biceps and triceps – to increase the intensity of the workout.

Supersetting is not to be confused with just rushing your exercises. It’s a high intensity approach to your workout that focuses on working your muscles to fatigue. Yes, it can save you time at the gym but that’s not the only reason.

It differs from straight sets where you do the same exercise repeatedly with rests in between sets.

Is supersetting good for you?

With the higher intensity of supersetting they’re definitely effective at burning fat. It saves time too. You can multitask your muscles; for example, working your chest and back in one superset and legs and shoulders in another. Lifting heavy weights in a short time period increases the rate at which your body breaks down and rebuilds protein. This metabolism boost lasts for hours after you’ve finished lifting.

How do I superset?

Generally a superset will pair compound exercises, moves that work multiple muscles across multiple joints. Personally, I find it better to pair non-competing muscles, since it saves even more time – one muscle is recovering while the other is being worked.

For example, I’ll pair bench press with bar curls. I find doing a bench press before bar curls actually gives me more energy than just doing curls on their own. I get the same boost when I pair something like cable crossovers with chin-ups – one is contracting the other expanding – and muscles are getting stretched in the process.

Supersetting does sometimes mean you might monopolise several pieces of equipment at one time so just be mindful of others. I normally hit the gym when it’s quiet so it’s not an issue.

You might also find the quicker pace of your workout takes a bit of getting used to, but your body will adapt (and your fitness will improve too!).

Do supersets build muscle?

Because you’re increasing the pace of your workout (and your metabolism) you might find supersetting is more about burning fat than adding bulk. Which makes it perfect for gym goers who are focused on all-over toning and fitness, as opposed to adding muscle size.

That’s not to say you can’t build muscle; you just need to make sure you’re pushing yourself, chasing the numbers (progressively lifting heavier weights) and monitoring your progress (taking regular measurements). A high protein diet can also help.

For me, I’m happy with not building a lot of extra muscle – I’d rather maintain, while boosting fitness and trimming fat (the analogy I use is spending vs. saving money – they’re both important to achieving the same goal of financial independence).

I’ve even ditched the protein shakes which I used to take after every workout – after monitoring over several months I found they weren’t making a lot of difference to actual muscle mass (even if they taste great :).

Supersizing your workout

Regardless of whether supersetting is right for you or not, the key thing is to mix up your workout, try something new, go large and see how far you can push yourself – because like the big sign down at the gym says: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

See ya down there!

Does supersetting build muscle quicker?
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