We wrote an earlier article saying that you should take 3 to 5 minutes rest between sets when lifting weights to maximize your strength gains. The problem with that is your spending most of your time just sitting around, which can feel like you’re wasting a lot of time. Are there any options to speed up your time in the gym without sacrificing results?
Traditionally, when doing multiple sets of different exercises you do them in order. So you would do set 1 of exercise 1, set 2 of exercise 1, set 3 of exercise 1, set 1 of exercise 2, set 2 of exercise 2, and set 3 of exercise 2. One study tested to see what happens when you alternate the sets of two exercises (called superset workouts). Participants performed 3 sets of bench press and then 3 sets of bench pull, with 4 minutes of rest between sets. Later, they alternated the 3 sets of bench pull and 3 sets of bench press with 2 minutes rest between exercises (still roughly 4 minutes between the same exercises). The researchers found that the volume of weight lifted and fatigue was the same for both conditions, even though the superset workout condition was performed in approximately half the time.
In terms of overall efficiency, another study had participants do 4 sets of 6 exercises. They supersetted the exercises one week and then performing them in order the next week. The researchers found that total energy expenditure was the same for both protocols. However, when compared per minute of exercise, the superset workout training was 32% more efficient. This study also found that supersetting increased resting energy expenditure after exercise, showing that supersetting can burn more calories. Other studies have found supersetting can also increase muscle power.
The major benefit of superset workouts is that it allows you to finish your workout in roughly half the time without compromising your results. So if you’re pressed for type give it a try!
Kelleher, Andrew R., et al. “The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. traditional resistance exercise in young recreationally active adults.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.4 (2010): 1043-1051.
Ratamess, Nicholas A., et al. “The effect of rest interval length on metabolic responses to the bench press exercise.”European journal of applied physiology100.1 (2007): 1-17.
Robbins, Daniel W., et al. “Agonist-antagonist paired set resistance training: a brief review.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.10 (2010): 2873-2882.
Robbins, Daniel W., et al. “Physical performance and electromyographic responses to an acute bout of paired set strength training versus traditional strength training.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.5 (2010): 1237-1245.
Robinson, Joseph M., et al. “Effects of Different Weight Training Exercise/Rest Intervals on Strength, Power, and High Intensity Exercise Endurance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 9.4 (1995): 216-221.