What is a superset & can it make you stronger?
As a trainer, I’m all about efficiency – getting maximum results in minimum time. That’s why superset workouts are one of my favorite ways to train.
Whether you’re burning fat with a HIIT session or building muscle by lifting weights, supersets can lead to big gains. To help you get more out of your workouts, I’ve brought together challenging superset exercises from myself and some of my fellow Centr trainers.
Supersets are a regular part of the training we do on Centr, including the 10-week muscle-building program I designed with Chris Hemsworth, Centr Power. To work out with the team and fast-track your results, you can start any time with a free trial at Centr.com.
Are you ready? In this session we’ll superset biceps, triceps, abs and squats. And because they’re all bodyweight or use dumbbells, you can smash this workout at home.
But first, if you’re wondering, “Luke, what is a superset?” let me explain…
What is a superset?
My definition is simple: it’s performing 2 exercises back to back with no rest in between. (Or the rest break is really short, e.g. 10 seconds.) A superset will usually target opposing muscle groups, like biceps into triceps, and it’s a great way to pump up the intensity of your training.
So if you want to achieve more without increasing your workout time, supersets are the way to go.
Yes, you can rock supersets in muscle-building workouts. Centr Power incorporates supersets to pump up your gains.
What are the benefits of supersets?
Regularly including supersets in your workouts can have huge benefits for your overall fitness. Because you’re sliding from one exercise straight into the next, you’re able to squeeze more out of the time you spend working out. By working opposing muscle groups, you can rest one group (e.g. biceps) while the other (e.g. triceps) is busting out the reps.
This also means supersets can increase the intensity of your workout and boost your performance – which means more strength gained and more fat burned. The challenge of working without a break will also build muscle endurance and cardio stamina.
Superset vs drop set
When you’re in the gym lifting weights, you might hear the term “drop set” being used alongside supersets. This is a strength training technique that involves performing an exercise until failure – when you can’t complete another rep – and is designed to maximize muscle gains.
Let’s say you’re doing bench presses. In a full drop set, you would press through a set (e.g. 8 reps) at the heaviest weight you can handle. You would then lower the weight by 10-30 percent, completing a higher number of reps (e.g. 10-12). Then you would drop the weight one more time by 10-30 percent, and press through an increased number of reps (e.g. 12-15.).
While drop sets can be effective, maintaining good form becomes even more important when your muscles are fatigued. I’d only recommend adding these sets to your routine if you’re an experienced lifter. If you’re a beginner, stick with the basics.
Superset vs compound set
There is another type of superset, known as a compound set. The idea is the same – performing 2 exercises back to back without rest – but instead of working opposing muscle groups, in a compound set both exercises work the same muscle group. This could be a push-up and a dumbbell bench press, or squats into lunges.
Compound sets can accelerate growth in a target area by bringing as many muscle fibers to failure as possible. This can be useful if you’ve got a specific muscle you want to grow, like your calves or biceps. However, since compound sets are hyper-focused on an individual muscle, you run the risk of overworking said muscle. For this reason, it’s a good idea to reduce your weight for the second exercise in a compound set. For example, you might perform a bicep curl with a 22lbs (10kg) dumbbell, immediately followed by a hammer curl with an 11lbs (5kg) dumbbell.
Now you know your supersets, let’s get down to it.
Superset for chest: Chest flys & Push-ups
Let’s pump those pecs with a chest superset. Do 12 reps of each exercise.
Dumbbell chest flys
You don’t have to lift super-heavy to get great results for your pecs with chest flys.
How to: From a seated position, curl the dumbbells up into rack position (at your shoulders), then slowly lay down onto your back, with knees bent and feet firmly on the floor. Push the dumbbells up to starting position above your chest. Slowly lower the weights at the same time toward the floor, keeping your arms straight. Lower them down to where you’re comfortable (this may be when your elbows lightly touch the floor), pause, then engage your chest muscles to bring the weights together above your chest again. This is one rep.
Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean it’s easy!
How to: Set up in a plank position, on your toes with your feet hip-width apart, and hands positioned under your shoulders. Brace your core, then push away from the floor until your arms are extended, and your body forms a diagonal line from your shoulders to ankles. Control the pace as you lower yourself back down, stopping just before your chest touches the floor. This is one rep.
Superset for shoulders: Alternating press + dumbbell raises
It’s time to grow your deltoids with a superset shoulder workout. Do 12 reps of each exercise back to back, repeat two times.
Dumbbell split stance alternating press
The split stance will challenge your balance, so keep that core locked tight.
How to: Set up in a lunge position, with your right leg extended behind you, and a slight bend in your front knee. You should have a dumbbell in each hand, held just above each shoulder. Bracing through your core for balance, press your right arm up until it is fully extended, then bring it back to your shoulder. Then press your left arm up, and down again. This is one rep. Continue at a steady pace.
Dumbbell front + lateral raise
This is a combination move, so aim for a smooth transition between raises.
How to: Start standing tall, with your core engaged, holding the dumbbells in each hand at the top of your thighs, palms facing the ground. Lift your straight arms up in front of your body to around eye level, then slowly lower back down. Next, lift your arms out to the side to around shoulder height, then slowly lower back down. This is one rep. Continue, alternating front then lateral (side) raises.
Superset for biceps and triceps: Hammer curl + Overhead dumbbell extension
Let our resident bodybuilder Torre Washington guide you through this superset for your biceps and triceps. Do 12 reps of each exercise back to back to feel a shoulder burn.
By engaging more muscles than a regular bicep curl, the hammer curl can pump up your arm gains.
How to: Stand tall, with your core engaged, holding the dumbbells in each hand at your sides, palms facing the ground. Squeeze through your biceps to curl the weights up to around chest level, pause, then slowly lower back down to your thighs. This is one rep. Continue, controlling the pace and making sure your body is not swaying back and forth as you curl.
Overhead dumbbell extension
Extensions are a great move to isolate and grow your triceps.
How to: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and, holding a dumbbell in one hand, raise it above your hand, bringing your other hand up so you’re gripping the dumbbell in both hands (just below the weight on one end). Keeping your core engaged, raise the weight until your arms are fully extended, then lower it back down (as far as your elbows will bend). This is one rep.
Superset for legs: Switches + Stationary hostages
Centr’s functional training expert Da Rulk has a bodyweight superset to get your legs burning. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, back to back. Do 3 sets for a simple but effective leg workout.
This dynamic exercise is designed to build rotational power through your hips for legs that can really move.
How to: Squat with your feet shoulder-width apart. Think of yourself as a loaded spring: as you rise up, lead with your right foot to twist your lower body to the right as your left foot moves backward – from front on, it will look as if your feet are criss-crossing – then vice versa in the other direction. Both feet should land with toes pointing sideways as your upper body remains squared straight ahead. Keeping your arms around chest height and rotating with your legs will help you to maintain balance.
Hostages will get your quads burning and build endurance.
How to: Start with your feet in line with your shoulders and toes pointing out at a 30-degree angle. Place your hands behind your head (or in front of your chest if this makes balancing easier) and drop into a squat. Staying in the squat position, gently pulse up and down at a steady pace.
Full-body superset: Burpee + Sit thrus
You’re back with me for some bodyweight exercises you can superset to deliver a full-body workout. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, back to back. Do 3 sets for a simple but effective session.
You can’t go past burpees to get your total body pumping.
How to: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, bring your hands down to the ground then jump both feet back – so your body is in a push-up or plank position. Jump your feet back in toward your hands, and stand up out of the squat position. This is one rep. The movement should be as quick or explosive as you can make it and your core should remain engaged when jumping your feet back.
Lock down your form before picking up the pace with this iconic move to increase flexibility, mobility and strength.
How to: Set up in a tight crawl position, hips in line with your knees. Keeping your hands on the floor and your shoulders square, drive your left knee towards your right wrist, then your right knee towards your left wrist, your little toe sliding across the floor.
Superset for squats: Dumbbell goblet squat + Squat pulse
Want to rock your squats? Try this superset. Do 12 reps of each back to back.
Dumbbell goblet squat
Holding the dumbbell up makes your core and upper back work as hard as your legs and glutes.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding one dumbbell in both hands at chest level. Now hinge at the hips to push your butt out, put your weight into your heels, and lower your body down into a squat. Rise back up, pushing away from the floor with your feet, and squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. This is one rep. Your back should remain straight, and your core should be engaged throughout.
Pulses raise the intensity by keeping constant tension on your glutes and quads.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width, chest up and core engaged. With your weight in your heels, sit back and down into a squat. Before you push back up to standing, add an extra pulse a few inches up and back down from the squat position. When you rise back up, that’s one rep complete. Continue with a rhythm of squat-pulse-stand.
Superset for abs: Russian twist + Reverse crunch
Follow Ashley Joi for this ab superset. Do each exercise for 30 seconds, back to back, then repeat 3 times.
The twist ensures you’re working muscles that are missed by straight crunches or sit-ups.
How to: Sitting on the floor, lean back until you’re forming a V-shape with your torso and thighs. Lift your feet up so that your shins are facing the sky. Holding your hands above your abs, use your core muscles to rotate from side to side at a steady pace, lightly touching your fingers to the floor on each side. Follow your hands with your eyes to help keep your back and neck straight.
This is one of the best moves to strengthen and tone for six-pack abs.
How to: Lie down with your back on the ground and your knees above your hips, then tighten your core muscles to raise your hips and butt off the floor, pushing your knees toward your chest. Keep the motion controlled as you lower back down and repeat.
HIIT HIRT • STRENGTH • MUSCLE-BUILDING
Chris Hemsworth may wield the hammer, but it’s his personal trainer Luke Zocchi who cracks the whip. A certified personal trainer, Luke is renowned for his fast and efficient training methods, using weights and bodyweight to get maximum results in minimum time. He’ll also show you how to fuel your training with quick, easy and healthy recipes.
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