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Get Supersized with Supersets

By Eric Broser

There is little doubt that for most of us building new muscle year after year becomes an increasingly more difficult endeavor. The human body does not “consider” the creation of a herculean physique a high priority in its hierarchy of needs, and thus will fight our efforts every step of the way. I have a little quote that I tell all of my clients when it comes to building muscle – “If you really want to grow you cannot whisper at your muscles -- you must SCREAM!” One of the best techniques I have found in my many years as a coach and pro natural bodybuilder to force the muscles to respond, adapt and grow is “#supersets.”


A superset, if you are not familiar, is basically two exercises for the same body part, performed back to back with as little rest in between as possible. Your rest period occurs after the completion of each exercise, preferably with both taken to momentary muscular failure. In my training there are two basic types of supersets I like to utilize most often…“Pre-Exhaustion” and “Post Activation.” A pre-exhaustion superset is when one performs an isolation exercise followed immediately by a compound movement. An example would be Leg Extensions and Squats. The advantage of this type of superset is that you can isolate the target muscle with the first movement and push it to its limits -- but then push it even further with a multi-joint exercise that allows other muscle groups to assist as you continue to rep out.

A “post-exhaustion” superset is when one performs a high-load (3-5 reps) compound movement followed immediately by a single-joint isolation exercise. An example would be weighted dips and cable crossovers. The cool thing about this type of superset is that research shows that low rep compound exercises create enhanced CNS activation, which means the second movement will effectively fire off more muscle fibers than it normally would, increasing its anabolic effect. So, are you ready for some hypertrophy-igniting supersets? Here are some of my favorites for each major muscle group!


CHEST (Focus on Upper Pecs)

Pre-exhaustion: Cable incline flye/Smith bench press to upper chest

Post-activation: BB incline press/Incline DB flye


BACK (Focus on Width)

Pre-exhaustion: DB pullover/Close underhand grip BB bent row

Post-activation: Weighted CG pull-up/Stiff Arm pull-down


DELTS (Focus on Lateral Head)

Pre-exhaustion: Standing DB side lateral raise/WG Smith press behind neck

Post-activation: Shoulder wide grip BB upright row/Seated machine side lateral raise


BICEPS (Focus on “Peak”)

Pre-exhaustion: 90 degree BB preacher curl/Close underhand grip pull-down

Post-activation: CG Weighted pull-up/Alternating hammer curls


TRICEPS (Focus on Long Head)

Pre-exhaustion: Bent overhead cable rope extension/Elbows out CG Push Up

Post-activation: Elbows out Smith CG Bench Press/Incline two arms overhead single DB extension


THIGHS (Focus on Vastus Lateralis for pre-exhaust SS. Focus on adductors/inner region for post-activation SS)

Pre-exhaustion: Leg extension (pointing toes inward at top)/Narrow stance Smith squat

Post-activation: Wide stance Hack squat/Adduction machine


HAMSTRINGS (Focus on overall mass)

Pre-exhaustion:Seated leg curl/Straight leg BB good morning

Post-activation: Stiff leg deadlift/Lying leg curl


*Note: I recommend about 7-9 reps for compound exercises during pre-exhaustion SS and 3-5 reps during post-activation SS. For all isolation movements I recommend a range of between 12 and 15 reps.