Supersets or performing two exercises one after the other is possibly one of the oldest forms of strength training.

This increase in training density combined with short rest intervals is a perfect formula for boosting muscle hypertrophy, increasing training intensity and improving body composition.

In the case of supersets, overzealous gym goers often slap together arbitrary exercises in an attempt to make their workout more intense, thereby rendering the superset and the workout greatly ineffective. Let’s now look at how we can improve the technique.  

Performing the superset 

To perform a superset, choose two exercises and complete them both with little to no rest between. Importantly with superset training, you will need to have both pieces of equipment nearby and ready to go. Typical rep range for the superset is 8-15 reps per exercise, with a total of 16-30 reps for the complete set. There are 3 main variations of supersets.

Same Muscle Group Supersets (Compound Supersets)

A Superset that involves using two exercises that target the same muscle group is known as a Compound Superset. Compound Supersets are commonly used to completely exhaust a muscle group and break down the muscle fibres to promote new growth. Most common of the compound superset is to complete a compound movement first followed by a second isolation exercise. Some examples are;

Chest: Barbell Bench Press Superset with Dumbbell Flyes, or Incline Dumbbell Press Superset with Cable Crossovers

Back: Barbell Rows Superset with Pull-ups, or Wide Lat Pulldowns Superset with Cable Pullovers

Shoulders: Dumbbell Press Superset with Dumbbell Lateral Raises, or Barbell Upright Rows Superset with Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Biceps: Barbell Curls Superset with Cable Curls, or Incline Dumbbell Curls Superset with Preacher Curls

Triceps: Close Grip Bench Press Superset with Tricep Kickbacks, or Skull Crushers Superset with Rope Triceps Extensions

Quads: Barbell Squats Superset with Leg Extensions, or Leg Press Superset with Walking Lunges

Hamstrings: Stiff Leg Deadlifts Superset with Seated Hamstring Curls, or Barbell Hip Thrusts Superset with Nordic Leg Curls

Calves: Leg Press Calve Raises Superset with Standing Dumbbell Calve Raises, or Standing Machine Calve Raises Superset with Seated Calve Raises

Opposing Muscle Group Supersets (Opposing Supersets)

Supersets that pair opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups such as chest & back, or quads & hamstrings are known as Opposing Supersets. Here are some examples;

Chest/Back: Dumbbell Bench Press Superset with Bent Over Dumbbell Rows, or Cable Fly’s Superset with Lat Pulldowns

Quads/Hamstrings: Leg Extensions Superset with Hamstring Curls, or Barbell Squats Superset with Romanian Deadlifts

Biceps/Triceps: Barbell Curls Superset with Ez Curl Skull Crushers, or Biceps Cable Curls Superset with Triceps Pushdowns

Non-Opposing Muscle Group Supersets (Alternate Supersets)

A less popular variation is to perform Supersets using different muscle groups that are non-opposing, such as chest & biceps or shoulders & calves. These are known as Alternate Supersets. Some examples of Alternate Supersets are as follows:

Chest/Biceps: Incline Dumbbell Press Superset with Dumbbell Curls

Back/Triceps: Cable Rows Superset with Dumbbell Overhead Extensions

Shoulders/Calves: Dumbbell Lateral Raises Superset with Machine Calve Raises

Workout Programming

Supersets considerably increase the intensity and duration of exercises and therefore the potential for CNS burnout, keep in mind that this negatively impacts recovery. If you plan on using Supersets throughout an entire workout for 4-5 combined exercises, it is best to program these workouts sporadically. Using them as a shock tactic once every 4-6 weeks. If the majority of workouts for each muscle group use conventional straight sets and progress linearly. 1-2 Superset combinations at the end of a workout can be safely utilised for a 4-6-week hypertrophy blocks.


Superset training is a fantastic method of training if done correctly. Training multiple muscle groups in a back-to-back fashion allows the same amount of total work to be completed in a shorter period. The short rest periods and increased work time, particularly for Compound Supersets, are extremely effective at increasing lactic acid production. Which may help increase Growth Hormone (GH) levels resulting in increased muscle size and improved body composition.

Opposing Supersets are an incredible way to ensure opposing muscle groups are receiving similar workloads. This helps to create an aesthetic and flowing physique. An example of this technique follows –

Example Workout (Chest/Back Opposing Superset Workout)

Exercise 1: Barbell Flat Bench Press Superset with Lat Pulldowns

Sets 1-4: Working sets. Using a weight heavy enough to fail at 8-10 reps of Bench Press, go straight into Lat Pulldowns aiming for maximum reps to failure

Exercise 2: Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Superset with Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

Set 1-4: Working sets. Using a weight heavy enough to fail at 10-12 reps of Incline Dumbbell Press, go straight into Bent Over Dumbbell Rows aiming for 10-12 reps

Exercise 3: Cable Crossovers Superset with Supinated Grip Lat Pulldowns

Set 1-4: Working sets. Using a weight heavy enough to fail at 12-15 reps of Cable Crossovers, go straight into Supinated Grip Lat Pulldown aiming for 12-15 reps



Drop Sets are a workout intensifying technique where an exercise is completed for as many reps as possible, or until muscle failure occurs. It’s at this point the resistance (weight) is immediately decreased, before performing as many reps as possible once again. As we will learn below this can be done numerous times.

How to Perform

To perform a Drop Set simply choose an exercise and a weight before performing reps until muscle failure. Once muscle failure is achieved, immediately reduce the weight and continue performing reps until failure occurs using the reduced weight.  Drop Set training protocol can be performed more than once within a single set, using two or three consecutive decreases in weight.

There are many ways the reduction in weight can be applied during a Drop Set to create a specialized training effect. Some examples are listed below.

Percentage Based Drop Sets

Varying the reduction in weight as a percentage will directly influence the rep ranges used and change the type of muscle fibre recruitment experienced across the Drop Set. Tight Drop Sets involve using small reductions in weight (for example 10%-20% per drop) and mainly target low to medium rep ranges on following sets. For example, loading 100kg on a Barbell Row for 6 reps then dropping to 90kg (Drop Set) and then 80kg (Double Drop Set) for an additional 2-4 reps per drop will primarily target strength based, fast twitch muscle fibres. Alternately a Half Drop Set (50%) or Wide Drop Set (for example a reduction in weight of 40%-60% per drop) will target a higher and broader rep range at each drop. One example being, loading 100kg on a Bench Press for 6 reps then immediately stripping 50% of the weight to 50kg and getting 10-12 reps will primarily target hypertrophy, while stimulating fast, medium and slow twitch muscle fibres.


Descending Drop Sets use small decreases in weight, forcing a reduction in reps (15-10-6) at each drop. For example, performing 20kg Dumbbell Curls for 15 reps, then dropping the weight to 18kg for 8-10 reps, and finally dropping again to 15kg for 6-8 reps. This is in comparison to Ascending Drop Set. These use larger decreases in weight and thus invite an increase in reps (8-15-20) at each drop. For example, performing 100kg Incline Barbell Press for 8 reps, then dropping the weight to 50kg for 15 reps, and finally dropping again to 25kg for 20 reps.

Run the Rack/Strip Sets

Run the Rack Sets are Tight Drop Sets that use dumbbells from the dumbbell rack in decreasing sequential order. They begin with a heavy set of dumbbells for a chosen rep range and progressively decrease in weight down the rack until the lightest dumbbells available are used. Strip Sets are Drop Sets that utilise barbells or plate loaded equipment. For Strip Sets that involve multiple drops it is critical to load barbells and machines with smaller weight increments and to remove the weight as quickly as possible to avoid too long a rest period. Having a training partner with this technique is ideal.

Constant Tension

Constant Tension Drop Sets are Drop Sets where the muscles being worked are not relaxed while the reduction in weight occurs. For example, during a Leg Press Drop Set, the weight would not be racked while the plates are being removed; instead statically hold the Leg Press platform in place while the spotter reduces the weight. Constant Tension Drop Sets should only be performed when training with a training partner, and only on plate loaded machines where weight can be evenly removed from the machine, to not overload one side of the body while the drop is occurring.

Workout Programming

Drop Sets are ideally performed using dumbbells, fixed bars, and pin loaded machines for those who train alone, those with training partners strip sets are a great technique that can be taken advantage of.

Drop Sets are an extremely effective workout technique, it is important though to use them with fatigue and recovery in mind. When training it is wise to utilize Drop Sets only on the last 1-2 sets of an exercise following straight sets. The accumulated training workload (volume) of each drop during each Drop Set will heavily dictate its frequency of use across a single workout. Using drop sets to a specific type of training will yield best results. For E.g. if hypertrophy is your goal the drop set is best performed using 6-12reps.   

Within an overall training program, it is recommended to use Drop Sets for a maximum of 4 weeks and only use them for 1-2 muscle groups during a 4-week block. The number (volume) of Drop Sets performed for a muscle group can fluctuate on a weekly basis to manage recovery. For example, over a 4-week block, weeks 1 & 3 may use a higher volume of 10 total Drop Sets per muscle group, whereas weeks 2 & 4 may use a lower volume of only 4 total Drop Sets per muscle group.

Keeping in mind that certain exercises and body parts respond differently depending on the stimulus. For E.g. it would be unwise to perform a drop set for deadlifts as the ongoing fatigue would deteriorate your form resulting in a higher potential of injury.

Whereas a drop set for Lat Pulldowns would be ideal as your back responds best to high volume and the risk of injury is reduced due to the mechanics of the movement.


Drop Sets allow a lot of work (training volume) to be completed in a short period. They are a great workout intensifying technique for those short on time who still want increases in muscular hypertrophy via higher volume training.

From a hypertrophy perspective, Drop Sets are invaluable technique to increase the volume of training within a single working set, by increasing the total time under tension whilst also enhancing the build-up of lactate and metabolic stress.

The short rest periods used in Drop Sets are associated with greater metabolic build up than conventional straight sets, which has the potential to spike anabolic hormonal concentrations following exercise to support increased muscle growth.


Drop sets are a diverse training technique that can have the potential (if done correctly) to increase size and strength in any gym goer. When applied correctly to a program and managed correctly with recovery, drop sets will take your training to a new level.



The pre-exhaustion technique in training is a great way to create a fatigue in a large muscle group by first using an isolation exercise followed by the larger compound movement. Why do this? During a standard compound exercise the smaller muscle groups involved in that movement are the first to fatigue thus resulting in the larger muscle group not receiving an ample over-load. A common example being the triceps fatiguing before the chest in a flat bench press. By overloading the triceps first, we can then expect to place a much greater stress on the chest at the start of the exercise. In turn creating the perfect environment for new strength and muscle growth.

How to Perform

To perform a Pre-Exhaust set choose an isolation or single joint exercise like the hamstring curl; perform the movement until complete failure/fatigue of the Legs. Next move to a multi-joint compound exercise like the Barbell squat; this compound lift will engage other muscle groups to perform the movement whilst simultaneously fatiguing the legs further to ensure maximum muscle overload.

Workout Programming

The purpose of Pre-Exhaust training is to overload a single muscle group by means of maximal fatigue; because of this pre-exhaust training is not ideally used for every exercise in a workout.

When using Pre-Exhaust training, it is best to use this technique at the beginning of the workout. As a quick tactic to ensure the desired muscle group is primed to reach complete failure and maximum overload. Pre-exhaust training can be used every workout when using a sensible body part split. Pre exhaustion training can be used in a 4 week block safely when used correctly.


There are many advantages to using Pre-Exhaust training in a properly planned training program. Pre-Exhaust training ensures workout intensity is kept high by forcing the target muscle to a point of muscular failure and then pushing that group through even more training volume using a compound movement.

Pre-Exhaust training is fantastic for developing the mind-muscle connection for lagging muscle groups; using an isolation exercise at the beginning aids you in focusing on the particular muscle and then overloading it on a compound exercise.

Pre exhaustion training is a fantastic tool for those who are able or find it uncomfortable to train with heavier weights at the same intensity. Additionally using an isolation exercise before a compound movement will significantly decrease the amount of weight that can be used which can assist in keeping joints healthy.

Example Workout (Chest Workout)

Exercise 1: Incline Cable Fly’s

Sets 1: Warm up set with light weight for 25 reps

Set 2: First working set. Use a weight that allows you to hit failure at 20 reps.

Set 3: Second working set. Pick a weight that you would usually fail on after 12 – 15 reps of your first set. Now use this weight and get 20 reps. (Rest-pause as needed)

Set 4-11: Working sets. Repeat Set 3 another 8 times, using the same weight, for 20 reps each set. You will fail earlier and earlier each set as your chest fatigues – this is fine, just get your spotter to help you get out those forced reps to make up the 20.

Exercise 2: Incline barbell Press

Sets 1: Warm up set with light weight for 15 reps

Set 2: First working set. Use a weight that allows you to hit failure between 10-12 reps.

Set 3: Second working set. Increase weight to cause failure between 8-10 reps.

Set 4: Third working set. Increase weight to cause failure between 6-8 reps.