Friday, August 30, 2019

Supersets: Burn Fat, Build Muscle, and Get Stronger

Have you recently reached a plateau in your weight loss? Are you a hard gainer who wants a proven way to build muscle and gain size? Maybe you’re just bored with your current workout and you want a way to make things more intense. Superset training is a scientifically proven way to smash through plateaus, save time, and achieve your fitness goals.

Let’s take a look at what constitutes superset training, benefits of supersets, and how to start doing supersets in your next workout. I’ll even throw in a few superset workouts to get you started.

How to Perform Superset Training

In short, superset training is when you perform two exercises back to back with no rest in between. But there are a few ways that you can utilize superset training, and changing it up can increase the intensity and difficulty.

Same Muscle Group

As the name suggests, this is when you perform two exercises back to back targeting the same muscle group. For example, if it is leg day and you’re currently performing barbell back squats, you could immediately follow this up with jump squats or lunge. 

Here’s an example of a superset written in your workout:

·      A1: Barbell Back Squats: 3 sets of 10 repetitions
·      A2: Jump Squats: 3 x 10

Opposing Muscle Groups

Using supersets with opposing muscle groups involves pairing muscles that are either directly opposite of one another or in the upper vs. lower half of the body. For example, muscle groups that are directly opposite of one another would include the following:

·      Back vs. chest
·      Quadriceps vs. hamstrings
·      Biceps vs. triceps
·      Front deltoids vs. rear deltoids
·      Abdominals vs. lower back
·      Upper vs. lower abdominals

The other way to pair opposing muscle groups is to perform an upper body exercise followed by a lower body exercise. Even this can be broken down into same side or opposing side upper and lower splits, depending on your experience, preference, and fatigue level. 

For example, a same side upper and lower split could involve the back and hamstrings or quadriceps and chest. Opposing side upper and lower splits could be a chest exercise followed by a hamstring exercise, or a quadricep exercise followed by a back exercise.

Same Side Upper-Lower Splits
·      Chest and quadriceps
·      Chest and triceps
·      Chest and abdominals
·      Back and hamstrings
·      Back and glutes
·      Back and calves
·      Back and traps

Opposing Side Upper-Lower Splits
·      Chest and hamstrings
·      Chest and biceps
·      Chest and lower back
·      Back and quadriceps
·      Back and abdominals
·      Back and obliques
·      Back and front deltoids

Entire Workout is Supersets

Once you figure out how you’ll perform a superset, there is going to be a question of how prevalent should this training methodology be in your workout. 

The first choice is to base the entire workout on supersets. Each exercise will be appropriately paired with another based on whether or not you’re choosing a full body, upper vs. lower split, or push vs. pull workout. From here, your workout will be written as follows:

·      A1: Exercise 1
·      A2: Exercise 2

·      B1: Exercise 3
·      B2: Exercise 4

·      C1: Exercise 5
·      C2: Exercise 6

·      D1: Exercise 7
·      D2: Exercise 8

The idea is to perform the first exercise in the set (e.g., A1, B1, C1, D1), immediately follow it up with the second exercise in the set (e.g., A2, B2, C2, D2), then take a break of 90 to 120 seconds.

If you’re happy with your current workout, but you want to bring the muscle to total exhaustion, superset training can help. You can superset your final set of exercise for the targeted muscle group, ensuring that you bring it to failure.

After you’re finished with your normal workout, pair two exercises for the same muscle group – the primary one you’re focusing on that day – and make that superset your final one for the workout.

It’s important to note before you begin a superset-based workout that additional recovery time will be needed. Studies show that the intensity and overall volume of superset training usually requires a higher degree of resting time and nutrition. More on recovery tips for superset training below.

Benefits of Supersets

Supersets are a proven way to accomplish the following fitness goals:

Fat Burning:Studiesshow that the increased intensity from a superset-based workout triggers a higher degree of caloric expenditure, promoting fat burning and overall weight loss.

Muscle Building:By supersetting your exercises, it’s easier to achieve that level of damage that is needed to cause hypertrophic growth in the muscle tissue. Studiesshow

Hormone Health:Studiessuggest that using supersets can promote a rise in testosterone levels, making it very useful for anyone who is suffering from low levels of testosterone.

Time-Efficient: In the same vein as high-intensity interval training, supersets can help you save time by pairing exercises together without a break.

Superset Workouts

Below, you’ll find a superset workout where the entire program is based on pairing two exercises together. For each workout, be sure to warm up and foam roll to prepare your body for the intense workout that is going to follow.

A1: Swiss Ball Ab Move: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions

A2: Forward Walking Dumbbell Lunges: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions


B1: Outward Chops w/Band: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions


B2: Kneeling Overhead Band Chops: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions


Complete the four exercises above three times each before moving on to the next set below.

C1: Standing Reverse Lateral Raises With Bands: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions


C2: Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions


D1: Imaginary Chair High Row With Bands: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions

D2: Inverted Squat: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions



     Band Finisher

·       Perform the side shuffle for 10 seconds, then immediately move into squat for another 10 seconds, and finish with jumping jacks for 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise pattern for a total of three minutes.

Inertia Wave for 3 minutes

Want to Try Superset Training?

Ready to get started with superset training, but you’re not sure how to begin, reach out to me and let me help you achieve your weight loss and muscle building fitness goals. Have your own superset workout ideas? Share them below and I’ll be happy to give you feedback.

Tips for Post-Workout Recovery

Before I provide you with a series of superset workouts, I want to make sure you understand that this type of training is going to demand focus on recovery. Here are some basic recovery tips that can provide the highest level of muscle repair and help you achieve your goal faster.

Sleep: This one is non-negotiable: Sleep is required for proper cellular and muscle tissue repair. Experts currently recommend getting no less than seven hours of sleep each night. The more active you are, the more sleep you should plan to get.

Nutrition: Nutrition provides the building blocks for recovery. If you’re eating a terrible diet, you’re only hurting your gains and results. Focus on whole food choices that are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. I highly recommend figuring out your daily recommended caloric intake and tracking it with a meal-tracking app on your phone or tablet.

Supplements: While the bulk of your diet should be made up of whole food choices, supplements can provide an extra boost in performance and recovery. I highly recommend recovery-focused nutrients such as zinc and magnesium.

Massage: Want to break up those knots, boost blood flow, and get back in the gym faster? Massage has been shown to be an effective measure to alleviate muscle soreness while maximizing muscle recovery.

Epsom Salt Baths: If you find that you’re extra sore following a superset workout, an Epsom salt bath can help to mitigate the worst of your soreness. Prepare a hot bath, add Epsom salt, and let yourself soak for at least 15 minutes.

For more tips and tricks to maximize recovery, check out my article on the art and science of recovery.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Best Body Weight Exercises for Lean Muscle and Performance

Are you looking for a way to build lean muscle tissue without getting bulky? Want to lose body fat and get lean? Do you prefer avoiding the gym and exercising in the comfort of your own home? Calisthenics workouts may be your answer. Often called body weight exercise, calisthenics is the foundation for modern day exercise. Let’s take a look at what calisthenics workouts are, their benefits, and how you can apply them to your own workout program.

What are Calisthenics?

Calisthenics are the basics of muscle and strength building. You use your own body weight as the resistance instead of the barbells and dumbbells you’d find in a traditional weight lifting workout. An example of a calisthenics or body weight exercise is a push-up. During a push-up, there are no weights involved. You are pushing your own bodyweight from the floor to a raised position.

Benefits of Calisthenics

Despite the absence of weight plates, body weight exercises are extremely effective at promoting a number of incredible benefits including fat burning and lean muscle building.

Lean Muscle Growth
·      The most obvious benefit of body weight exercises is lean muscle mass. No, you won’t bulk up like Mr. Olympia but you can build some serious lean and sculpted muscle with calisthenics. Studies show that strength training in the form of body weight exercises can vastly improve lean tissue mass. (1)

Fat Loss
·      Strength training in general promotes fat loss but body weight exercises offer a unique opportunity to vary intensity. Higher intensity calisthenics such as high intensity interval training workouts have been shown to dramatically increase fat burning during and for hours after the workout finishes. (2)

Cardiovascular Health
·      One of the most preventable diseases in the United States is cardiovascular disease. Caused primarily due to poor exercise and nutritional choices, cardiovascular disease is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control. Body weight exercises are an excellent way to fight back against the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Studies show that engaging in a consistent body weight exercise program can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular issues. (3)

Mood Booster
·      If you’re feeling blue, calisthenics workouts are a natural anti-depressant. When you perform body weight exercises, your body naturally releases several feed good hormones including serotonin. Studies show that regular exercise is a crucial part of treatment plans for those suffering from mood disorders. (4)

Sleep Better
·      If you’re having trouble sleeping, try body weight exercises. Studies show that when you regularly work out, you support healthy sleeping patterns. This promotes a healthy cycle of more sleep and better hormone health. Do some push-ups to get better shut-eye! (5)

Ideal for Special Populations
·      Body weight exercises are safe and ideal for those populations of people that may be at a higher risk for injury. The elderly and those going through rehabilitation will benefit greatly from taking it slow with calisthenics workouts. Teens interested in getting started with exercise will be able to form a solid fitness foundation with calisthenics workouts.

·      Lastly, body weight exercises are extremely convenient. You don’t need to buy a gym membership or special equipment. You only need access to a local park or a small space at home. No need to worry about traffic, bad weather, or rude people. Put on some good music at home and get started exercising.

Calisthenics vs. Weight Training

One of the most popular questions that I receive from my clients is whether calisthenics workouts are better than weight training. The answer isn’t a yes or no response. Both body weight exercises and weight training exercises play an important role in helping you achieve optimal health along with any specific fitness goals you may have.

Both forms of training share the same benefits but let’s take a look at the pros and cons of calisthenics and weight training so you can see how the two naturally complement one another.

Calisthenics Pros

·      No cost
·      Convenient
·      Safe
·      Ideal for beginners

Calisthenics Cons

·      May be limited to exercises based on space and lack of equipment at home
·      Not ideal for size gains
·      Can get boring if you don’t have a pull-up bar or a bench

Weight Training Pros

·      Ideal for building large muscle mass
·      Weights provide hundreds of options

Weight Training Cons

·      Not cost effective
·      Weights may present a danger for injury
·      Weight exercises are not always easy to master and can result in improper form and strain

Despite the disadvantages of both body weight exercises and weight training, the two are necessary in a complete and effective fitness program. I’ll talk more about the progression of calisthenics workouts below but first, let’s provide you with the best body weight exercises workout.

Best Calisthenics Workout

Below is a circuit workout that will target all major muscle groups. Perform four sets of the following exercises and repetitions:

·      16 Push-ups
·      7-9 Dips

·      25 Squats

·      7-9 Pull-ups

Do not rest until you’ve completed all repetitions of all exercises. Once you finish the first set, rest for 2 to 3 minutes then begin again. Remember you have to complete this list four times!

Progressions for Calisthenics Workouts

If you’re just starting out or trying to get back into serious weight lifting, calisthenics workouts should be step one. As I mentioned above, they are safe and allow you to strengthen all major muscle groups before applying external force from dumbbells and barbells.

If you jump into a weight training program with a poor working relationship between major muscle groups, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk for over compensation and injury.

I recommend starting with body weight exercise workouts then after two or three months, moving your way into basic and foundational weight training workouts.


Do you use body weight exercises? What is your favorite? What benefits have you noticed since you began using calisthenics workouts? Tell me in the comments below!


1. Yamauchi J, Nakayama S, Ishii N. Effects of bodyweight-based exercise training on muscle functions of leg multi-joint movement in elderly individuals. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2009 Sep;9(3):262-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0594.2009.00530.x.

2. Boutcher SH. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity. 2011;2011:868305. doi:10.1155/2011/868305.

3. Wong PC, Chia MY, Tsou IY, Wansaicheong GK, Tan B, Wang JC, Tan J, Kim CG, Boh G, Lim D. Effects of a 12-week exercise training programme on aerobic fitness, body composition, blood lipids and C-reactive protein in adolescents with obesity. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2008 Apr;37(4):286-93.

4. Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111.

5. Kline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. American journal of lifestyle medicine. 2014;8(6):375-379. doi:10.1177/1559827614544437.