If I had to pick a favorite programming tool or concept or not-so-weird trick it would be supersets.
A superset is two exercises performed back to back. Sometimes you rest between the two drills (it depends on the goal) though you always rest after the second exercise.
Supersets can be used to increase training density, improve mind muscle connection, bring up a weak point, enhance recovery, or just get more quality volume per session (which is probably the most important and scientifically valid reason of all).
Their versatility is due in part to the variety of supersets at your disposal. Here are the ones I use in client programs almost every day.
1. Antagonist Supersets – pairing two exercises for opposing (antagonist) muscles, such as:.
Chest and back
Biceps and triceps
Quadriceps and hamstrings
How long you rest between drills depends on the goal. A fat loss program might use abbreviated rest (45 secs) whereas for a strength program it might be 90 secs to 2 mins.
With the former, you can derive a more aerobic benefit from the workout (or at least burn more calories); with the latter you can actually shave time off the session via the nervous system/ reciprocal inhibition.
2. Pre Exhaust.Pairing two exercises for the same muscle group. The first is an isolation or single-joint movement, the second a compound or multi-joint movement. An example would be to perform a set of leg extensions and then immediately hit a set of squats.
The logic here is if you pre-fatigue the legs with an isolation movement you’ll feel (and overload) the quads much more in the squats. These supersets are better for targeting weak points neglected in a compound lift or establishing mind-muscle connection, not strength.
3. Post Exhaust. The opposite of pre-exhaust. Start with the compound movement and then perform the isolation exercise. So DB presses to DB flyes. This allows you to fully stimulate the target muscle without affecting training loads in the big exercise, making it perhaps a better choice when strength in the big lift is a concern.
4. Contrast Load Supersets. Not sure what else to call these. Basically it’s using very different loads for the two exercises in a superset. I like following a very heavy (2-6 rep) big movement with a 12-20 rep isolation lift.
I wouldn’t do the opposite (very light to heavy) but now as I sit here mulling it over I could see how I’d make it work. I love my job.
5. Recovery Supersets. This is performing a sub-max set of an exercise for the body part trained exhaustively the day before.
So someone who trains Back on Monday and Chest on Tuesday might do sets of light seated rows between work sets of heavy Bench Presses on Tuesday.
Of course there are other ways and you’re only limited by your creativity.
Just make sure you can connect the dots between your choices and the goal. With apologies to Crossfit, random only gets you so far.