Supersets, Compound Sets, & Advanced Weight Training Techniques

October 30, 2021

If you have been in the gym for even a few days, chances are you have heard or seen someone doing a superset. Two exercises in a row with no break for that pump. We all love the feeling. But did you know, there are different types of “supersets”? 

Supersets are when you do two exercises back-to-back for opposing muscle groups without rest. Let’s say you do a set of barbell bicep curls and follow it up right away with a set of rope cable press downs, that is one superset. Any muscles or muscle groups that are opposing work as a superset. Biceps and triceps, chest and back, and hamstrings and quads are all popular opposites muscle (groups) for supersets. While doing the superset, the opposing muscle(s) get to rest while the other one(s) work.

Compound Sets are exercises performed without rest with the same muscles or non-opposing muscle groups. People tend to call any exercise that is two exercises a “superset”, however, this term is important to know. Unlike a superset, a compound set does not let one muscle (group) rest while the other one trains. An example would be training chest and then doing bench press, followed by a dumbbell fly. The chest muscles would be working with both exercises. These sets tend to be harder than supersets, so remember the difference when programming workouts. 

Pre-exhaust Super Sets are like supersets but follow a simple rule. Pre-exhausting means that there would be an isolated exercise immediately before a compound exercise for the same muscle group. An example of this would be doing a dumbbell fly and then performing a bench press. The dumbbell fly is an isolated exercise for mainly the chest muscles and the bench press is a compound exercise for the chest and triceps. This can challenge local muscular endurance.

Giant Sets are performing three (Tri-set) or more exercise sets in succession with nearly no rest. Depending on the exercise selection, this also could be somewhat related to a  circuit training method.

Rest-Pause was popular with old-school bodybuilding. This would be performing as many reps as possible in an exercise, resting for several seconds, then performing additional repetition(s). 

Cluster Sets are sets with built-in, intraset rest periods allowing for more weight, reps, and total volume lifted. Let’s say you are doing4 sets of 6 repetitions, you would perform 4 sets of 2+2+2 repetitions with 30-second intraset rest. The interset is a rest in the middle of a set.

Drop Sets are another popular gym favor. This technique uses progressively decreasing weight after no more repetitions can be performed. The person lifting can only rest as needed (while keeping safe) and while the weight is being changed. For example, say you are doing a chest machine press with a heavyweight. You would perform as many reputations as you could. From there you would decrease the weight and then repeat. The goal is to keep going for as many desired drop sets as you programmed or there is weight. 

Stripping is a form of drop set with a loaded barbell with two spotters, that are needed. After performing as many reps as possible, the two spotters remove weight simultaneously from each side of the barbell, while it is still unracked. The lifter then performs additional reps.

Down the Rack (or clear the rack) is an old-school favorite. This is another drop set technique that used fixed dumbbells or barbells. You would perform as many repetitions as possible with good form and then immediately place the weight back (reracking it), grab the lighter weight from the rack, and then start performing the exercise again. Each drop-in weight allows for additional reps to be performed. 

There are many other forms of advanced weight training techniques, this was a good starter set to get your workouts some new thrills. All of them can be at different levels of intensity to your workout, enhance the pump to the entire area being trained, and can be used as a great time saver. They will also add an extra level of intensity, focus, and pace to your training. A little cardio conditioning will be needed for the effect, as you fight your way through the multiple sets with no breaks. Give them a try if you want to spice up your workouts. Remember to always warm up well and use weights you can handle safely. Utilize good form and keep that pump going!

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