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Supersets vs. Burnout Sets

author image Solomon Branch
Solomon Branch specializes in nutrition, health, acupuncture, herbal medicine and integrative medicine. He has a B.A. in English from George Mason University, as well as a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine.
Supersets vs. Burnout Sets
Dumbell Workout Photo Credit: IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Bodybuilders practice a variety of weightlifting techniques, each with its own specific purpose. Both supersets and burnout sets are meant to help build muscle, as opposed to focusing on building strength, but they differ slightly in how they accomplish that goal. Understanding how each type of exercise works can help you determine how to incorporate them into your workout regimen.

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Supersets require performing at least two sets of exercises in a row without resting, albeit not necessarily the same exercise. You can perform the exercises for one muscle group or for two different muscle groups. For example, to work just your chest, you could perform two sets of chest presses in a row or perform one set of chest presses immediately followed by a set of pushups. As an alternative, if you wanted to work complementary muscles, you could perform one set of chest presses followed by one set of bicep curls. A typical set consists of eight to 12 repetitions of an exercise.

Burnout Sets

Burnout sets can take several forms, but the basic idea is to perform an exercise until exhaustion. As they pertain to weights, burnout sets start with weight that is 75 percent of the amount of weight you can lift once performing that same exercise, according to "Physical Fitness and Wellness: Changing the Way You Look, Feel, and Perform." Once you perform an exercise to the point of burnout using 75 percent of your maximum weight, you reduce the weight by 10 pounds and perform another set until exhaustion, which will most likely consist of considerably fewer repetitions.


Both supersets and burnout sets are meant to infuse the muscle with growth, which is referred to as hypertrophy. Supersets can increase muscle mass, but they are more effective for creating muscle definition and shape. Burnout sets produce more muscle growth due to the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle when pushed to the point of exhaustion. The lactic acid stimulates both fat loss and muscle growth due to its effects on other hormones, including testosterone and growth hormone.


Supersets and burnout sets are considered advanced training techniques, so if you are a beginner, it's best to consult with a certified strength trainer or coach before attempting the exercises. A trainer can help you come up with a program that suits your body type and muscle-building needs. If you do decide to perform the exercises, make sure you have a spotter if you are working with free weights, particularly during burnout sets.

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