Performing upper-body exercises in a ‘superset’ fashion where you go back and forth between both exercises with little to no rest is hardly a new strategy.
In fact, this strategy dates back to the Joe Weider days so you likely won’t be surprised by this concept.
But what you may be surprised by is the exercise variations I’ve chosen for my top picks as well as the nature in which some of these supersets are performed.
Before we get to the good stuff, let’s talk a little bit about what supersets are and how they can be performed.
In most cases, a superset involves training opposing muscle-groups eg. the biceps and triceps groups.
With this example of using the biceps & triceps lets imagine performing a biceps curl followed by a triceps extension.
The agonist (prime mover) of each exercise opposes each other in this case – in essence allowing for non-working muscle groups to rest while their counterpart is working.
I use the word ‘rest’ lightly as the opposing muscle group still has a role of acting isometrically (providing joint stability).
Now, this is only ONE form of a superset and the opposite can be done performing a compound superset where you’re working the same muscle group with back to back exercises eg. a biceps curl followed by a hammer curl.
This itself can be used as a ‘shock method’ to spark new growth for a lagging bodypart from to time time or to simply change up your programming.
This article will talk about the former though, using antagonist style supersets (the above example of biceps curl/triceps extension represents a pull/push style.)
Moreover, supersets allow for increased levels of mechanical work in shorter periods of time. This improves the efficiency of your training session as well facilitates spikes in anabolic hormones via high levels of metabolic stress & lactate production.
New Upper Antagonist Supersets You Haven’t Tried
Listed below are 10 of my favorite variations – I’ve provided programming options that can be used in a number of settings depending on your goal. These are supersets similar to what I prescribe in CxC on ME & DE upper training days.
You’ll notice some scenarios include more of a CrossFit style setting which will add new challenges to otherwise basic movements working against a running clock (even if you’re not a CrossFitter you may find novelty in this style of programming.)
Additionally, the rest intervals can be aligned with your level of work capacity, but you’ll see recommendations that align with the difficulty of the movement pattern ie. a pull-up will require more intra-set rest than a row.
#10 Landmine Elbow-out Row + Band Resisted Push-ups
1a) Elbow Out Landmine Row: 3-4 x 8-10 each. No rest.
1b) Band Resisted Push-ups in a rack: 3-4 x 15+. Rest 60s.
#9 Bar Dip & Fat Grip Pull-up EMOM
EMOM as long as possible:
10 Bar Dips + 5 Fat Grip Pull-ups
*If you achieve 10 rounds, stop and give yourself a pat on the back
*Goal: For most normal people 4-6 rounds is a good goal.
#8 Supinated Grip Inverted Rows & Decline Rollback Triceps Extensions
1a) Inverted Rows: 4 x 10-12. Rest 30s.
1b) Rollback Triceps: 4 x 10-12. Rest 30s.
#7 Chest Supported Cable Rows & Double KB Push Press
1a) Chest Supported Cable Rows: 3 x 12-15. No rest.
1b) KB Push Press: 3 x 6-8. Rest 60s.
#6 Single Arm Landmine Push Press & Supported 1-Arm Rows
1a) Landmine Push Press: 4 x 5-7 each. Rest 45s.
1b) Supported 1-Arm Rows: 4 x 8-10 each. Rest 45s.
#5 DB Floor Press & TRX Rows
1a) DB Floor Press: 4 x 6-8. Rest 30s.
1b) TRX Rows: 4 x 12-15. Rest 30s.
#4 Weighted Chin-up & Close Close Grip Bench Press
1a) Weighted Chin-up: Build to a heavy 3-5 in 4 sets. Rest 60s.
1b) Close Close Grip Bench Press: Build to a heavy 6-8 in 4 sets. Rest 60s.
#3 Incline DB Bench Press & Single Arm Chest Supported Rows
1a) SA Incline DB Bench Press: 3-4 x 10-12 each. No rest.
1b) SA Chest Supported Rows: 3-4 x 10-12 each. Rest 60s.
#2 Rope Inverted Rows & Rope Triceps Extensions
As fast as possible reps of:
Inverted Rope Rows
*Goal: Complete this work in less than 6:00
#1 DBall Floor Press & Sled Facepulls
Dball Floor Press x 25
Sledpull Facepulls x 180 ft. – heavy
*Goal: 4 rounds
Supersets have value for just about any goal. On top of that, the massive pump you’ll experience is always an added benefit. Hormonally we are afforded the advantage of increased GH production and for the 30+ trainee this is always good!
Does this mean all of your training should consist of ‘supersets?’ Definitely not. Supersets are just one strategy of many to avoid hitting plateaus both physically and mentally.
There are certainly cases when I would NOT recommend the inclusion of supersets. Truth be told I rarely prescribe using supersets on lower-body training days.
I’m not saying it couldn’t be done efficiently as I know many coaches that do use supersets on lower training days such as pairing an RDL with a squat, I’ve just found more benefit to using longer rest intervals on lower-body training days and focusing on one pattern at a time.