Hi Dr. Bell, I need some advice. My workday just got longer which is cutting into my workouts. I need to cut my workouts shorter.  I’m considering performing supersets of similar muscle groups to save time. Would this still be effective? I don’t want to lose any gains I’ve made. I want to do more with less time if that’s possible?

Supersets are a highly effective way to perform a high volume of work, at a high intensity in a brief amount of time. This is if you perform “Classic Supersets.” Today Supersets means to pair virtually any two exercises together without resting between sets. This could be two sets, back-to-back for the same or any two muscle groups. This Program can cut your training time in half.

Classic Supersets are always one set for an Agonist muscle or muscle group, followed immediately by a second set for the Antagonist muscle group without any rest between the two Sets. For example, a Classic Superset would be a Biceps Curl, immediately followed by a Triceps Extension, or a Leg Extension immediately followed by a Leg Curl.

An Intermediate Strength Training Superset Program using Weight Lifting exercises, regardless of whether you use calisthenics, weight lifting with barbells and dumbbells or strength training machine or bands will pair all exercises according to the following Agonist-Antagonist muscles:

(1) Chest and Back

(2) Quadriceps and Hamstrings

(3) Biceps Brachii and Triceps Brachii

(3A) Shoulders are routinely paired with arms in a “Tri-Set” such as Shoulder Press-Biceps Curl-Triceps Extension-Rest

(3B) or a Giant Set: Biceps Curls-Shoulder Press-Shrugs-Triceps Extensions

(4) Calf with Tibialis Anterior (Dorsi Flexes the foot)

(5) Abdominals with Low Back (Quadratus Lumborum & Erector Spinae Group).

This Program Design can be performed 2 or 3 days/week.

An Advanced Weight Lifting Superset Program would increase the Volume of work so you would need to focus on different muscle groups on different days. The following is an example of pairing Agonist/Antagonist muscles according to the following days:

Day 1: Chest & Back

Day 2: Legs, Abdominals & Low Back

Day 3: Arms, Shoulders & Trapezius

Day 4: H.I.I.T Cardio, Abdominal & Low Back

Day 5: Rest which can be low intensity cardio and stretching.

Remember your basic IFPA Program Design Protocols:

Always Warm-Up

Always Cool-Down

Low intensity Cardio and some functional exercises can be used as part of your Warm-Up. Low intensity cardio, stretching and some light functional exercise can be used in your Cool-Down.

Warning: There is an essential safety reason for a Day between training Chest & Back and Arms & Shoulders in the Advanced Program. Many bodybuilders and other weight-lifters have given themselves Anterior Deltoid Compartment Syndrome and Rotator Cuff injuries, due to overuse and overtraining these muscles by not allowing sufficient rest, recovery and adaption between workout sessions.

For those who are training at very high intensity and/or Volume, you will need an additional rest day, or even two, between Chest & Back Day and Arm & Shoulder Day to avoid what could become a very serious injury. Even when you don’t feel immediate pain, a significant  amount of damage can occur below your pain threshold. If you start to feel a twinge in your Anterior Deltoid, Shoulder or Rotator Cuff, immediately employee PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and reevaluate your training program.

Your goal is to train effectively, but train smart and train safe.

Good Luck!

Dr. Jim Bell

CEO of the IFPA

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