Superset Workouts Can Increase Your Stamina and Endurance

Sport & Activity

Perform a superset—or two exercises one after the other, without a break—and you can increase your stamina and endurance. Here's how it works.

Last updated: 30 June 2022
7 min read
How to Increase Your Stamina With a Superset Workout

There are a lot of different ways to work out, each with its own sets of pluses and minuses. One way to increase your stamina and endurance is with a superset workout.

What Is a Superset?

A superset is when two exercises are performed immediately after the other, without a break. They can help you increase your stamina and endurance by keeping your heart rate higher for longer during a workout.

What Is Set Variation?

In resistance training, there are different training styles suitable for a variation of goals, capabilities and preferences. One of the easiest adjustments you can make in your workout training is set variation. It's not all about the exercises you perform, it's also about how you perform them. This comes down to the types of sets you're doing.

Supersets as a Set Variation

Supersets are the most common set variation because they're straightforward and effective. By performing two exercises in succession, you are pushing your body to keep working during a workout. The types of exercises you perform consecutively comes down to the type of superset you'll be performing.

What Are the Types of Supersets?

Antagonist Supersets

An antagonist superset is when you do two exercises that work an opposing muscle group. For an example, an antagonist superset might work two opposing muscles—biceps and triceps. An antagonist superset of these muscles could include bicep curls immediately followed by tricep dips.

These supersets are effective because antagonistic muscles always work in synergy. When the agonist muscle contracts, the antagonist (opposing) muscle relaxes or lengthens, stabilising the movement.

This synergistic relationship is what makes antagonist supersets so effective. You'll be training the opposing muscles equally to create better flexibility and stability of the joint. This will result in performance improvements. For example, performing a bicep and tricep antagonist superset may improve your pull-up.

As outlined in a 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, antagonist supersets:

  • Decrease the total training time
  • Develop strength and power
  • Enhance training efficiency

Compound and Isolation Supersets

A compound exercise is an exercise that uses more than one muscle group at a time. For example, squats, deadlifts and bench press are all compound exercises. These exercises involve different muscle groups, working together to complete the movement.

An isolation exercise isolates one muscle group or joint during an exercise. For example, during a bicep curl, only the biceps are working.

A compound and isolation superset is when one compound exercise is performed, immediately followed by an isolation exercise. This will focus on the same muscle group. For example, barbell squats (compound) followed by leg extension (isolation).

The benefit of a compound isolation superset is to create metabolic stress and burn out a specific muscle group. In the example given above, the muscle that will get the most burn from the superset would be the quads.

Loaded vs. Unloaded Superset

You can perform a compound and isolation superset as a loaded and unloaded superset as part of your workout. Following on from the above example, the barbell squat is loaded. You could follow it up with an unloaded, bodyweight leg extension exercise.

This will still garner the same benefits and it is a great option for beginners as it gives flexibility in terms of exhaustion. If you are tapping out after the compound exercise, an unloaded superset has enough respite to allow you to keep pushing.

Drop Sets

Drop sets involve performing the same exercise for two sets in succession. The only difference in this workout technique is that you'll be dropping the weight. You may be familiar with the phrase "as many reps as possible" (AMRAP) or training to failure—this is a similar take.

As you fatigue through the duration of the first set, you drop the weight, allowing you to push further for longer. This is a powerful way to increase stamina.

When you think of supersets in bodybuilding, drop sets are arguably the most utilised. They are said to have been first mentioned in a bodybuilding magazine in the 1940s called Body Culture.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2018 examined the efficacy of drop sets for muscle growth. Participants were split into two groups, either performing tricep drop sets or conventional sets.

After six weeks, both groups increased tricep size and strength. Those in the drop set group had slightly better results but they weren't statistically significant. However, the benefit is significant when you take into consideration that drop set workouts take much less workout time.

How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

Typically, after performing one set of an exercise in a workout, you'll take a brief break to catch your breath and allow your muscles to recover. Depending on your exercise goal and the intensity of the exercise, you may take a break lasting up to five minutes.

How Long to Rest for Based on Your Training Goal

Goal: Strength

Reps x Sets:

3 x 6

Rest Time:

2–5 minutes

Goal: Power

Reps x Sets:

5 x 5

Rest Time:

2–5 minutes

Goal: Hypertrophy

Reps x Sets:

8 x 4

Rest Time:

30 seconds–1 minute

Goal: Endurance

Reps x Sets:

15 x 3

Rest Time:

< 30 seconds

Your training goal and intensity dictates the rest periods you should be taking between sets. Based on the above table, if your goal is to build strength or power, supersets won't have a central role in your routine. This is because the development of strength and power comes from working near (85 percent or higher) your one rep max. This type of workout, then, can aid in strength training.

It's hard to work at this intensity, so you need to take longer breaks to allow your muscles to recover between sets. Otherwise, you won't have the stamina to produce enough force for another set.

Taking a three-to-five-minute break between sets of a higher training load to allow for greater repetitions over multiple sets was supported in a study published by the Sports Medicine journal in 2009. The method led to a greater increase in absolute strength, allowing participants to sustain a higher intensity and volume of training.

You may still incorporate certain supersets, like antagonist supersets into your workout plan. But these will be few and far between as your energy will be better spent trying to hit PRs (personal records).

So, when should you use a superset? If your goal is hypertrophy (building muscle) or muscular endurance, supersets can be a valuable component of your workout routine. There is some science behind these conclusions.

Why are Superset Workouts Effective?

Supersets create intramuscular metabolic stress. This is when there is a build-up of metabolites in the muscle cells, such as lactate, inorganic phosphate and ions of hydrogen, as well as blood and oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) in the muscle.

This accumulation of metabolites is responsible for the muscular "pump" caused by cell swelling. Metabolic stress increases the release of anabolic hormones and is linked to advantageous muscular and metabolic adaptations. One such adaptation is increasing the testosterone peak more so than conventional training. This is because it forces your cardiovascular system to work harder and as a result, you get fitter, stronger and have better stamina through this type of workout.

Should You Superset Every Workout?

The benefits of adding supersets to your workout are appealing. But you should still use them sparingly. Creating metabolic stress, burning out your muscles to the point of failure and removing the rest periods in training requires long periods of muscle recovery.

Optimally, you'll have one superset workout per week or incorporate one or two supersets into your regular workout routine.

How to Increase Your Stamina With a Superset Workout

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