If you are crunched on time and need a quick workout, supersets with opposing muscle groups seem to result in the optimal workout with less performance decline than compound sets with similar muscle groups. It should also be pointed out that compound sets with two similar muscle groups (incline and bench press) resulted in lower training volume. This was more likely due to the greater muscle fatigue caused by training two muscle groups with no rest between sets.



  • A superset workout is a time efficient 30 minute workout that can stimulate muscle growth.
  • Supersets (two back-to-back exercises using opposing muscle groups) can stimulate muscle growth in a shorter time because you can pack more tension on a muscle in a shorter time. However, they are not superior to traditional training when the volume is similar.


Many people would not believe a 23-minute workout would be enough to build muscle. Still, a new research study shows that supersets can efficiently train without significant impairments in training volume. Workout volume consists of sets x weights x reps, which is important for muscle growth.

There are many ways to perform supersets; a superset leg workout would be performing a leg extension followed immediately by an opposing muscle group, such as the leg curls.

Previous research has shown that lower-body exercises paired with upper-body exercises are a time-efficient way to train without a drop in workout volume.(1)


Researchers divided 19 trained men into two groups. A traditional exercise group and a Superset group with opposing muscle groups (i.e., lower body exercises followed immediately by an upper body exercise).

The researchers had both groups perform three sets of Smith squats and bench presses at 55-70% of their 1-RM. They stopped the exercise when the groups dropped below a 15% velocity loss in the bench press and a 20% velocity loss in the squat.

Velocity loss is a measure of fatigue. When you become tired during a workout, the speed at which you can perform the movement decreases, or velocity loss is reduced.

Moderate velocity loss (i.e., 15% vs. 20% for SQ and BP, respectively) was used because it represents a moderate degree of fatigue incurred in the set (i.e., less than half of the maximum number of repetitions that can be completed in a set to failure).

Measuring velocity loss has been a reliable measure of fatigue during exercise. (3) The Superset group performed squats immediately, followed by bench presses.

The traditional exercise group performed three sets of squats with three-minute rests between sets and three sets of bench presses with 3 minutes of rest between sets.

superset workout the mechanisms superset workouts what is a superset workout metabolic stress superset arm workout what builds mechanical tension superset chest workout superset leg workout back superset workout super set workout 3 factors of hypertrPeña García-Orea G, Rodríguez-Rosell D, Segarra-Carrillo D, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, Belando-Pedreño N. Acute Effect of Upper-Lower Body Super-Set vs. Traditional-Set Configurations on Bar Execution Velocity and Volume. Sports. 2022;10(7):110.At the end of the study, the traditional group performed more repetitions (i.e., not statistically significant) in the squat (30.3) than the supersets group (24.4). Still, a similar number of reps were performed in the bench press for both groups (traditional 26.4 vs. 26 for the superset group).The total reps completed and first repetition velocity loss were not significantly different between groups.


The superset group completed their workout in 23.3 minutes, whereas the traditional set group took 42.2 minutes.(4)  These results suggest that supersets with lower body exercises followed by an upper body exercise do not impair exercise performance and can be performed in a shorter time frame. The superset group did not impair total workout volume.

The superset group resulted in greater fatigue than the traditional workout group, so if performed over a longer duration, this could lead to a more fatigued state.

Supersets are probably not the best way to train year-round, but if you are crunched for time, supersets are a time-efficient way to train. If you have less than 30 minutes to train, Superset training may be a great way to get into the gym without suffering a drop in performance.

superset workout the mechanisms superset workouts what is a superset workout metabolic stress superset arm workout what builds mechanical tension superset chest workout superset leg workout back superset workout super set workout 3 factors of hypertr


Supersets with less than 1-minute rest periods are associated with reduced volume (i.e., sets x reps x load).

Researchers examined the optimal rest period between supersets by having subjects rest for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, or a self-selected rest period in which they started the next set when they felt ready. The subjects performed three sets of bench rows followed by the bench press, followed by seated lat pulldowns, and overhead press.


A push-pull workout in which opposing muscle groups are exercised. All exercises were performed to complete muscular failure, and the subjects used 75% of a 1RM.

A significant reduction in total reps was completed when the subjects rested for 1 minute (78.5 reps). Still, there was no statistical difference in the volume completed with 2 minutes (92.3 reps), 3 minutes (101.9 reps), and the self-selected routine who rested an average of 2.5 minutes (96.8 reps).

The 1-minute rest period completed ~20% fewer reps than the other groups. The total volume for the three groups was 4395 for the 1-minute rest period, 5196 for the 2-minute rest period, 5732 for the 3-minute rest period, and 5433 for the self-selected rest group.

2 minutes of rest and the self-selected rest group, which rested 2.5 minutes between sets, seems to be the “sweet spot” for optimal recovery between sets and allowed for the greatest amount of volume in a time-efficient manner.(5)


Supersets are a widespread technique in which you exercise two muscles (i.e., agonist and antagonist muscles) without rest between sets. The rationale is that, as one muscle fatigues, the opposite muscle can be exercised immediately after.

A superset involves alternating exercises with opposed muscle groups to increase training volume and reduce total session time.

Many lifters will use various techniques to increase exercise intensity and metabolic stress in a workout to increase muscle growth. Many of these techniques are popularized in fitness magazines such as SuperSets. These techniques combine increasing metabolic stress and reducing rest periods in a workout. These training principles involve using a greater “density of training” in a shorter time.

“Exercise Density has been shown to correlate with increased metabolic stress. It has been proposed to measure exercise density in two different ways: 1.) combining total work and time in seconds (total work/time) and, 2.) the volume load (volume load/time) [6]”

— Marston 2017



The mechanisms by which Supersets are advocated to build muscle are due to increased metabolic stress (i.e., higher lactate levels). Metabolic stress training is called pump-style training, in which you have short rest periods and move very quickly between exercises. HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training is an example of metabolic stress training).

One drawback of metabolic stress training is you can’t use the same weight with short rest periods, and mechanical tension hypertrophy (i.e., less weight being used) goes down. Despite less weight being used in a superset workout, studies have found that supersets can result in similar growth to a traditional workout with longer rest periods.


For example, Supersetting arms involve exercising the biceps, followed immediately by the triceps. The advantage of Supersets is that it allows the antagonistic muscle to be exercised (e.g., triceps), allowing the agonist muscle group (e.g., biceps) to rest. This allows for almost complete rest of an opposing muscle group, unlike a protocol integrating similar muscles. An example would be a set of biceps curls immediately performing a triceps extension.

Another example would be performing leg extensions, immediately followed by leg curls. Supersets allow you to perform more volume than traditional training in a shorter time frame.[7] If you compare the volume of a 45-minute Superset workout to a 45-minute workout with 2-minute rest periods, the shorter rest periods will allow for more repetitions and, thus, more density in a shorter time frame.


Traditional resistance training protocols with 2-3 minute periods will allow for more volume if you have no time constraints. Supersetting the bench press immediately followed by lat-pulldown and then resting for 180 seconds before the next superset resulted in 10% more weight lifted than traditional training, with 90 seconds of rest between each set.[8]

Supersets are most often seen with arm exercises.  One group of subjects did three sets of supersets (bicep curls followed immediately by triceps extensions). In contrast, the other group did traditional arms curls and triceps extensions—subjects trained to complete muscular failure on each set.


At the end of the study, it was found that there were no differences in arm size between the groups, but the traditional group tended to have greater muscle growth (9). The superset group finished their workout faster than the traditional training group.

When sets are taken to failure with a sufficiently heavy weight, muscle growth is virtually identical when comparing different techniques. Of all the advanced training techniques, supersets are the only lifting technique that can increase performance and volume.

Supersets are highly fatiguing but are a great choice if you need to get a workout done in 30 minutes. For example, subjects completed three resistance training protocols: traditional exercise, supersets, and trisets. Each protocol consisted of six exercises for 3 sets of 10 repetitions at 65% of a 3RM.

In the traditional training protocol, all sets of one exercise were completed before moving on to the next exercise. In contrast, the supersets (i.e., two consecutive exercises) and trisets (three consecutive exercises) protocols were completed consecutively in one set before rest. The average session duration was greatest for the traditional training (42.3 minutes), compared to the supersets (24.0 minutes) and trisets training (17.7 minutes).


Exertion levels were lower after the traditional training than after the supersets and trisets training. Session efficiency was much greater for trisets training than for supersets and traditional training. However, traditional training restored explosive muscle power 24 hours post-training, yet this same measure was still reduced following supersets and trisets training.

In conclusion, supersets or trisets training methods may allow for a sufficient amount of work to be completed quickly. However, greater recuperation time is needed following both supersets and trisets training to minimize the effects of fatigue.(10)


  • Superset Leg Workout: Leg Extension followed by Leg Curls
  • Superset Arm Workout: Bicep Curls followed by Triceps Extensions
  • Superset chest workout/Superset back workout: Bench Press followed by Bent Over Rows



  1. Robbins DW, Young WB, Behm DG, Payne WR. Effects of agonist–antagonist complex resistance training on upper body strength and power development. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2009;27(14):1617-25.
  2. González-Badillo JJ, Yañez-García JM, Mora-Custodio R, Rodríguez-Rosell D. Velocity Loss as a Variable for Monitoring Resistance Exercise. Int J Sports Med. 2017;38(3):217-25.
  3. Rodríguez-Rosell D, Yáñez-García JM, Mora-Custodio R, Pareja-Blanco F, Ravelo-García AG, Ribas-Serna J, et al. Velocity-based resistance training: impact of velocity loss in the set on neuromuscular performance and hormonal response. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2020;45(8):817-28.
  4. Peña García-Orea G, Rodríguez-Rosell D, Segarra-Carrillo D, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, Belando-Pedreño N. Acute Effect of Upper-Lower Body Super-Set vs. Traditional-Set Configurations on Bar Execution Velocity and Volume. Sports. 2022;10(7):110.
  5. Behenck, C., Sant’Ana, H., Pinto de Castro, J. B., Willardson, J. M., & Miranda, H. (2022). The Effect of Different Rest Intervals Between Agonist-Antagonist Paired Sets on Training Performance and Efficiency. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 36(3), 781–786.
  6. Marston, K.J., Peiffer, J.J., Newton, M.J. et al. A comparison of traditional and novel metrics to quantify resistance training. Sci Rep 7, 5606 (2017).
  7. Gabriel A. Paz et al., “Volume Load and Neuromuscular Fatigue During an Acute Bout of Agonist-Antagonist Paired-Set vs. Traditional-Set Training,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 31, no. 10 (October 2017): 2777–84.
  8. Daniel W. Robbins, Warren B. Young, and David G. Behm, “The Effect of an Upper-Body Agonist-Antagonist Resistance Training Protocol on Volume Load and Efficiency,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24, no. 10 (October 2010): 2632–40.
  9. Julius Fink et al., “Physiological Responses to Agonist–Antagonist Superset Resistance Training,” Journal of Science in Sport and Exercise, October 18, 2020.
  10. Jonathon J. S. Weakley et al., “The Effects of Traditional, Superset, and Tri-Set Resistance Training Structures on Perceived Intensity and Physiological Responses,” European Journal of Applied Physiology 117, no. 9 (2017): 1877–89.

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