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The Best Superset Exercises

author image Mike Samuels
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.
The Best Superset Exercises
A man is doing a squat with a kettlebell. Photo Credit: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Supersetting is an effective way to increase the amount of work you do in a specific timeframe. This boosts your metabolism and calorie burn, meaning you lose fat faster without having to spend more time in the gym, according to New Jersey-based trainer Jim Ryno, owner of Lift. A superset involves performing two exercises back-to-back, though there are many different ways you can use supersets. No one way is absolutely the best, but there are four key types of supersetting exercises, which all suit different scenarios.

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The Antagonist's Advantage

Antagonistic muscles is another way of saying opposite muscles. When one muscle is contracting, the antagonistic is relaxing. This is demonstrated when performing a dumbbell curl -- the agonist muscle -- the bicep -- is contracting, while the antagonist -- the tricep -- is relaxing. By pairing two opposing exercises, one muscle group gets a complete rest while the other works, so by the time you've finished the second exercise, you're ready to go back to the first. Additionally, antagonistic supersets can increase nervous system activation and make you stronger, claims coach Nick Nilsson on the Critical Bench website.

Pre-Exhaust for the Pump

Pre-exhausting is a good way of making your workouts harder while using less weight. Typically, it's advised you perform multi-joint compound moves before single-joint isolation ones, but the pre-exhaust supersets turn this theory on its head. You start with an isolation exercise to fatigue your target muscle, then move on to a compound exercise.This ensures whatever muscle you're targeting is completely fatigued come the end of your supersets. Challenging pre-exhaust combos include leg extensions before squats, dumbbell flyes before bench presses and straight-arm pull-downs with barbell rows.

First Past the Post-Exhaust

Post-exhaust supersets are simply the opposite of the pre-exhaust method. You perform your compound first, then your isolation. This way of doing things can be effective for improving weaker body parts, notes coach Kelly Gonzalez. Try deadlifts followed by lying or seated leg curls, dips before triceps push-downs or follow your seated dumbbell presses with a set of lateral raises to failure.

The Strength-Cardio Concept

Supersetting isn't limited to just weights exercises. If fat loss is your goal, traditional supersets work better than resting between every set, but you can take it a step further by adding calorie-burning cardio into the equation. You may usually rest two to three minutes after every set of compound moves and around 60 to 90 seconds after isolations. Instead of taking it easy between sets though, try adding in cardio. Follow up squats or deadlifts with two minutes on the elliptical or bike, or throw in a set of kettlebell swings between pushups or some treadmill sprints between pull-ups.

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