A superset is a training method in which two exercises are performed back to back with no rest between exercises. Supersets can be performed either for antagonistic muscle groups or within the confines of the same muscle group. One superset cycle is completed when both exercises have been performed after which rest is then usually permitted, “usually” being the operative word here.
Compound Vs Isolation
There are generally two types of exercises: compound exercises, in which multiple joints work in conjunction with one another, or isolation exercises, where only a single joint is involved in the movement. Supersets performed for a single body part can either be an isolation exercise immediately followed by a compound exercise or a compound exercises immediately followed by an isolation exercise.
Kane Sumabat Posing
A pre-exhaust superset is a cycle in which the isolation exercise is performed first. An example would be the leg extension (isolation) immediately followed by squats (compound). By following the leg extensions with squats, despite the state of fatigue of the quads from performing the leg extension, other muscles (the hips, glutes and hamstrings) are recruited that will assist the quads in performing the squats allowing further stimulation to the quads.
In addition to being able to save time, an advantage of this type of superset is that less weight is needed for the compound exercise. This advantage can also be a drawback in that pre-exhaust supersets are usually not ideal for eliciting strength gains.
On the other hand, a superset where the compound exercise is now performed first to be immediately followed by the isolation exercise is known either as a post-exhaust superset or a potentiation superset. One of the principles behind this is that the highly intense effort in performing the first (compound) exercise ‘wakes up’ the nervous system to allow greater recruitment of muscle fibers when performing the second (isolation) exercise. An example would be overhead barbell presses performed immediately followed by laterals. Supposedly, this type of superset would now allow greater weight to be used for the laterals rather than if one where to perform the laterals alone in a straight set.
What we are concerned with here, though, is the antagonist/agonist superset in which exercises for different bodyparts are paired. Again, two exercises are performed back to back with no rest before finally resting between the cycles.
Serge Nubret – Physique Specialist
Back in 2006, IFBB pro and legendary bodybuilder Serge Nubret revealed his training techniques on internet forums, sharing, his high volume program. Since his physique had been my inspiration from when I first watched him compete against Arnold for the Mr. Olympia in “Pumping Iron.” It was here that I was introduced to his unique method of training arms. As is the protocol for regular antagonistic supersets, Serge recommended performing pressdowns for the triceps to be immediately followed by barbell curls for the biceps. He would perform 16 superset cycles of this, for a total of 32 sets for his arms.
Even more astounding than the volume he was recommending was that he also permitted no rest between the superset cycles. From the first set of pressdowns until the last set of curls, you would simply alternate back and forth between the two exercises for 32 total sets.
During the whole arm workout, the only rest the muscle group was given was the time under tension it took to finish the work set of the opposite muscle group. As daunting as this arm program already had been as presented, I unfortunately had initially misunderstood it and believed that 32 cycles was being recommended instead for a total of 64 sets. Being troopers or perhaps simply masochists, my training partner and I set out to follow this program and we managed to perform 30 cycles for 60 total sets. To do so, we chose a weight for each exercise less than 50% of what we would normally use for the same reps. Perhaps even closer to only 1/3rd of the weight, in fact. We followed this program for weeks. As a final surprise, our arms actually responded to this super high volume with further growth.
For the first time ever, my right arm was able to finally stretch the measuring tape to 18? cold. Even after I was corrected as to the total volume recommended, my training partner and I decided to still occasionally return to our 30 cycles and 60 total sets. We also referred to this no rest type of supersets as Nubret supersets.
Written By: Kane Sumabat