You know what makes a workout truly super? Maximizing your muscle pump while minimizing your time spent exercising. And that, in essence, is exactly what an opposing muscle superset workout does.
Let's break that down: "A superset is two exercises performed back-to-back with no rest between the two sets," explains Holly Perkins, CSCS, author of Lift to Get Lean. "Then, you rest after the superset and perform another set of the same two exercises."
As for the "opposing muscle" part, "all muscles have an opposing muscle that works the opposite of the movement," Perkins says. Think: biceps and triceps. Your biceps pulls your lower arm up toward your upper arm in front of you while your triceps extends it back down to your side (and behind you).
"By pairing these moves, you get a great-feeling workout that calls upon your own natural and inherent way of moving," Perkins says. Supersets are also super-efficient, because you're working one muscle group while the other is resting, then switching, she says. They save time and keep your heart rate up without overtaxing any individual muscle — and that's a win-win.
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Try This 30-Minute Opposing Muscle Superset Workout
First things first: Don't skip the warm-up. "It's always a good idea to perform some kind of preparatory segment so that your body is truly primed to get the most from your workout," Perkins says. "A pre-workout preparatory sequence helps you shift gears into workout metabolism, activate key muscles (like the glutes), open up mobility and shift your breathing patterns."
Then you're ready to dive into your supersets.
Do: 3 sets of each of the following pairs of exercises, resting 30 to 45 seconds between supersets
Superset 1: Glutes and Core
Move 1a: Banded Glute Kickback
- Stand tall with a resistance band looped around your legs just above the knees.
- Shift your weight into your right leg and lift your left leg behind you from the hip, keeping your hips squared to the front.
- Return the left leg to the start, tapping your toes on the ground, and repeat.
- Do all reps on one side before switching legs.
Reps: 15 on each leg
Move 1b: Single-Leg Reach
- Lie on your back with your legs extended out straight and your arms extended overhead.
- Using your abdominal muscles, lift your torso off the ground and lift your left leg so that it's perpendicular to the floor.
- Reach for your left foot, ankle or shin with both hands.
- Lower back down with control. Switch legs with each rep.
Reps: 15 on each leg
Superset 2: Push and Pull Legs
Move 2a: Band Squat
- Stand on the center of a long resistance band and hold a handle in each hand at your shoulders. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Hinge your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat.
- Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go while maintaining good form).
- Press through your feel to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Move 2b: Dumbbell Deadlift
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Hinge your hips back and keep a soft bend in your knees as you lower the dumbbells along the front of your body. Maintain a flat back the entire time.
- Reverse the movement to stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the top.
Superset 3: Hamstrings and Quadriceps
Move 3a: Single-Leg Deadlift
- Start standing with a dumbbell in your right hand, feet planted about hip-width apart.
- With your core engaged, begin to raise your left leg straight behind you, hip hinging on your right side and bending the right knee slightly.
- At the same time, lower the right dumbbell toward the ground, keeping the weight relatively close to your body and your back flat.
- Once your torso is parallel to the ground, push your hips forward and reverse the motion to return to standing.
- Once you perform all your reps here, switch sides.
Reps: 15 on each leg
Move 3b: Pistol Squat
- Stand facing away from a chair or exercise bench. With feet hip-width apart, slowly shift your weight to your right leg as you extend your left leg out in front of you.
- Raise your arms in front of you at chest level to help you balance.
- Engage your core and hinge from your hips to squat down, maintaining your balance on your right leg.
- Go as low as you can without touching the floor (or until your butt hits the chair or bench), then drive through your heel to stand back up.
Reps: 10 to 15 on each leg
Superset 4: Back and Chest
Move 4a: Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Rest your left hand lightly on your left thigh for support. Hinge your hips back and lean your torso forward, keeping your back flat.
- Row your right arm up, keeping your elbow at your side, to bring the weight up to your abdomen. Think about squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Lower the weight with control.
- Do all your reps on the right side, then switch to the left.
Reps: 15 on each arm
Move 4b: Dumbbell Chest Press
- Lie on a flat bench, facing up, or on the ground, with knees bent and feet flat. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your chest with your elbows bent out to the sides.
- Press the dumbbells straight up over your chest. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.
- Lower the weights back down toward your chest, elbows dipping slightly below the bench (or triceps touching the floor).
Superset 5: Triceps and Biceps
Move 5a: Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand or a single, heavier dumbbell in both hands over your head with a firm grip. This is the starting position.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell(s) behind your head, envisioning your arms bending over an invisible bar connecting your elbows.
- Straighten your elbows to press the weight(s) back up to the starting position.
Move 5b: Dumbbell Hammer Curl
- Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand, palms at your thighs and facing each other.
- Contract your biceps to lift the weights up toward your shoulders.
- Lower the weights back down with control.