Are Supersets Killing Your Progress?

downloadBuilding mass is all about getting stronger.

A guy who benches 225×10 is obviously going to have a bigger chest than a guy who benches 135×10.

So if you know getting stronger is going to lead to getting bigger, your training should focus on improving your numbers in the big, compound movements.

In order to do this, you need to cut it out with the supersets. Doing cable flyes and incline presses right after each other with no break is going to give you a pump, but the flyes will inhibit how much poundage you can handle on the presses.

Let me remind you that getting stronger is the vehicle to getting bigger. I’m not saying that you should be working up to your max every day in the gym. That will beat you up and plateau you pretty fast. But if you can squat 225 for 5 today, and in a month you’ve worked that up to 225 for 8, then you got stronger.

People get alternating sets and supersets confused. Alternating sets of a compound lift with a core exercise, mobility drill, or non competing, lower load lifts can be beneficial. It might look like this:

1A. Bench Press 5×3

1B. Face Pulls 2-3×10-12

1C. Ab Wheel Rollouts

You still take some rest between exercises, but it’s a little shorter, then you do something that either doesn’t get in the way of the main lift, or helps it. You still end up with adequate rest time between heavy sets, and you filled in a gap with some upper back and core work.

Supersets are when you do 2 or more exercises back to back with little to no rest for the same muscle groups.

1A. Bench Press 5×3

1B. Cable Flyes 5×15

1C. Tricep Pressdowns 4×20

1D. images


Supersets are a quick way to put a ceiling on how much loading you can handle on the main lift because all of the other exercises are frying the same muscle groups, thus are not an optimal way to get bigger or stronger.

Take the necessary rest time to replenish both physically and mentally between sets of big compound movements. The 3-5 minutes that’s commonly suggested might be a little more than necessary, but 2-3 minutes is probably more like it. Use this time productively for some upper back work, some shoulder or hip mobility, maybe even some abs, instead of spending your rest time swiping left or right. You’ll be at the gym for 2 hour a pop training like that, without having a lot to show for it other than a lot of soreness.

Progressive overload is the driver toward getting stronger and building muscle. Add weight to the bar, or add reps to a set with the same weight. In time, you’ll be handling heavier loads for more reps. This is where the “magic” happens.

Get out of your own way so your efforts are worthwile. Work hard, but smart. After the heavy stuff is done, there might be a time for supersets, depending on your training age and a multitude of other factors, but keep the strength work for getting strong.

Keep nudging it along, for a long time. That’s how you get strong and build appreciable muscle mass. If it was easy, everyone would do it. That’s why you see a lot of geeks avoiding it, and then coming up with every excuse under the sun as to why they can’t seem to gain any muscle.

Focus on improving your strength numbers and the mass will follow. It’s no quick fix, but it’s the long term solution to an age old problem.

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