Today when I walk into the gym I don’t see anyone doing old school training such as supersets anymore. It is almost as if this training principle has completely vanished. For those that don’t know what supersets are it involves performing two exercises back to back without any rest and most often involves antagonistic muscle or muscle groups.
The reasons for implementing supersets is often misunderstood. For example, most people believe that supersets are primarily used to save time in the gym. Although this is true there is an underlying physiologic reason why supersets are so effective and why world class bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger trained primarily using this principle.
The major physiological reason an athlete can benefit from concerns increasing metabolic output. When training antagonistic muscles such as biceps and triceps or chest and back each muscle or muscle group has a chance to rest while the opposing muscles are being worked. When mussule failure is reached there is an elevation in metabolic waste products such as lactic acid in the blood stream which stimulates a physiological adaptation or more simply stated a training effect.
Training antagonist muscles consecutively generates a much greater spike in metabolic byproducts which in turn triggers a greater physiological response that couldn’t otherwise be obtained by training each muscle or muscle group individually. As a result metabolic output is greatly enhanced and the effectiveness of the workout and the body’s adaptation to this stimulus.
The principle of supersets is centered on physiological factors rather then saving time in the gym. In order to implement supersets properly into a fitness program it is vital to grasp this concept.
In fact, even if the exercises chosen are performed completely sub-maximal the metabolic output is far greater then training a single muscle group intensely to failure. For example, supersets performed with sub-maximal resistance can generate a training effect greater then a single muscle group performed to maximal exertion you will be performing them all the time.
The pump experienced from performing supersets is phenomenal. In fact, it is the increased metabolic output that causes blood rich in nutrients to engorge the muscles. As blood is continuously forced into the muscle it responds by developing increased capillary beds, increased volumes of glycogen stored in muscle cells, and etc. All physiological adaptations are enhanced with superset training beyond what can traditionally be achieved.
Understanding that there is a huge physiological benefit from performing supersets makes it clear why old school bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger employed this training principle so heavily.