The Real Supersets are Easier Than You Think! -
Written by Tim Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT and Brought to you by PVL Supplements
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Time for a little Weight Training 101 – with a powerful training principle just waiting to deliver you some of the biggest gains ever. It’s come to our attention that the terms “supersets” and “compound sets” have been used interchangeably for a long time throughout gyms, based on the premise that additional volume with a little variety (an additional exercise, performed back-to-back with a leadoff exercise) will promote advanced gains. This thinking is in principle good and accurate, but the terminology is often incorrect.

“Supersets” are not just two exercises performed in a row. They are in fact those sets which combine the involvement of “agonist” muscle groups for the leadoff exercise, and “antagonist” muscle groups for the second. In basic terms, this means the overall involvement of opposing muscle groups – not just the same muscle group being worked with a second exercise. “Compound sets” is in fact the real term for what this latter training approach involves (and a term which more people should learn to use). This involves identifying target muscle groups, then performing back-to-back exercises which stimulate these target muscle groups.

Here are some examples of each:


If you’re pressed for time and need to have a very efficient, but still effective workout, you can train major opposing muscle groups nicely with supersets. For example, you can begin with your back, which involves a pulling action, and perform the lat pulldown or chin-ups. Instead of performing 3 or 4 sets with the usual 60-second rest in between them, you will perform one set and then immediately head over to the chest press machine which involves a pressing action. Here, you’ll perform 8 to 12 reps in order to complete the superset. At this point, you can rest for 60 seconds and then repeat the order of exercises for each superset; you may complete as many supersets as you wish, although we suggest you cap it at 3 to avoid overtraining.

Compound Sets

Say it’s chest day and you wish to just nuke your pecs into oblivion. You can begin by heading over to either the flat bench press or the incline bench press to lead off the compound set. From there, you would immediately follow up your benching with an additional chest-targeting exercise like the cable crossover or pec-dec flye. You might also wish to grab a pair of dumbbells and perform lying presses. You do have the choice of resting briefly between exercises or not, but to enhance the stimulation on your target muscle group, you’re better served to just keep going and rest only after you’ve completed the compound set.

To make it easy for you to remember these training terms accurately, all it takes is a little glance at the definition of the word “compound”, to ensure you don’t mess it up – essentially, this means you’re building, in the same way, on top of something similar, by performing exercises which share the same target muscle group.

Supersets, on the other hand, are given the “super” label because they look at the big picture and target muscles which don’t just perform in one direction, but also the other (opposite) direction as well. After all, there’s something super about covering all bases, when it comes to training your body – especially in a time-efficient manner.

Need proof of the effectiveness of supersets? By all means – this is not difficult to discover. But first, simply visualize the actions involved with supersets, and think how the first movement “primes” your opposing muscles and stretches them out (kind of like an eccentric warm-up) before you have at them from the other side. Not taking a rest between the opposing exercises is essential, for this is how the stimulation is optimized.

Here’s just one example of the proof of supersets: a scientific study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated that the metabolic effect of “reciprocal supersets” can lay the groundwork for increased fiber stimulation and ultimate muscle hypertrophy.

For maximum muscle-building results, as soon as you’ve completed your supersets workout, make sure to initiate great recovery with PVL’s industry-leading ISOGOLD 100% whey protein. Consume 1-2 shakes per day, even on your off days. Also be sure to regularly consume EAA + BCAA COMPLETE from PVL each day.

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