Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Competing vs. Non-Competing Supersets

A while back I discussed supersets - putting two exercises back-to-back. Here are two related terms: non-competing supersets and competing supersets.

A non-competing superset is two exercises paired together that do not work the same muscles. For example, a triceps pressdown and a biceps curl work the extensor muscles of the arm and the flexor muscles of the arm. A bench press works primarily the pushing muscles of the upper body, a barbell row works primarily the pulling muscles of the upper body. So even working heavy in one doesn't impact the other negatively. Or at least not enough to matter, if there is some small overlap. Unrelated exercises stuck in a superset - say, sqauts (a lower body exercise) and an overhead press (upper body) - are similarly non-competing. These supersets allow you to conserve overall time - the non-working muscles get some rest - but also keep your body working - your heart, lungs, and trunk never really rest.

A competing superset is two exercises that do overlap, usually very strongly, on the working muscles. Two different curls, or a bench press alternated with a dumbbell bench press or a dip, or step ups paired with lunges, say, are examples of competing supersets. This type of pairing allows you to really work a muscle hard, ensuring it gets a variety of stimulation.

Both types of supersets are useful, depending on how you train. Really need to work on a specific muscle or set of muscles? Competing supersets. Really need to cut down on the total time in a workout and keep your body working continuously? Non-competiting supersets. The uses are pretty much endless.
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