Supersets and Exercise Pairings

I went to visit a client at their gym on the weekend. She was training her bench press, and was really pushing her limits with a 5×5 protocol, so although her first set wasn’t an all out effort, by the last few sets, she was definitely seeing stars as she was grinding them out!

I’m there with her, spotting her, and coaching her through her workout, and a guy walks over and introduces himself as a “certified” trainer and proceeds to suggest that her workout would be more efficient if she were to superset a set of bent-over rows in between each set of bench press.
The funniest thing… is that I saw this guy coming from the other side of the gym, and I knew exactly what was going to happen… and I was right.
So first, before I say whether he had a good suggestion, I seriously doubt he could bench press 5x5x125 which is what my client was doing. This guy barely had any facial hair let alone any muscle on his frame.
That said, I can’t be upset with him, as I used to do that all the time. Yep.. I was the annoying kid who had to teach everyone everything I learned the moment I learned it.
It all comes down to perspective. When you’re young, when you learn something, you think the world should know it, and that they probably don’t already know it.
So did he have a good suggestion?
It really depends on the goals of the training session. If “Jill” was doing 5x5x125 and her 1RM was 155, making her 5x5x125 at 80% 1RM, as was the case, then I would say no. But if Jill’s 1RM was 175, then she’s training at around 70%, which means her 5x5x125 would not be too taxing.
In other words, if the weights you’re going to be lifting are going to be close to your limits for a given repetition range, you don’t want to superset other exercises in as it will interfere with your ability to give 100% effort to the exercise you’re trying to focus on.
High CNS involvement multi-joint-compound movements take way more out of you than other less demanding exercises, so pairing them up isn’t always a good idea.
The main key is to decide what your main purpose is for the exercise. If you want your bench to go up.. then you don’t want to be supersetting it with another exercise. But if your goal is just general strength and overall conditioning, and getting more weight on that bar Goddamnit.. is NOT the end all be all for you, then you can superset with another exercise.
Good Exercise Pairings
Vertical Push + Vertical Pull
ex: Military Press + Wide Grip Pull-ups
Horizontal Push + Horizontal Pull
ex: Bench Press + Inverted Rows
Vertical Push + Horizontal Pull
ex: 1-DB Push Press + Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows
Horizontal Push + Vertical Pull
ex: Dips + Chin-Ups
For lower body work, since both squats and deadlifts work both quads and hamstrings it would rarely be advised to superset quad/ham. Instead, and only if maximum strength is not your goal, you could superset another non-competing exercise.
Quad Dominant + (Biceps, shoulders)
Squat + DB Curls or dumbbell shoulder press
Hip Dominant + (Chest, shoulders, triceps)
Deadlifts + Pushups, Military Press, DB Tricep Extensions
There are many options, but these are just some.
Always bear in mind your goals, and construct your program with pairings that are suitable if any.
If you have any questions or comments about this post, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.
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Posted in How to Build Muscle, Training Center by admin | 990 Comments

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