Overload Technique # 1- Super sets

Recently, I was asked a question from one of my clients. She wanted to know "Some good combos to do at the gym - Generally paired exercises."

This got me thinking about certain overload techniques and how useful they could be in your gym training.

Following the same training program will get you results, until it doesn't. 

After a period of gym training (This could be 4/8/12 weeks - the time-period is NOT fixed), your results will stall, but not if you carefully integrate some techniques which I will outline here.

There are 2 periods in the lifespan of a trainee which will see you make tremendous progress and big gains. They are;

  1. When you first start training (Brand new to the gym)
  2. When you change or alter your current training program

The first reason for this is due to the fact that when you are new to the gym, your body has never experienced this specific type of physical demand and stress - therefore it will adapt and quickly respond to get used to this new workload.

The second scenario enables new progress to be made when you change your current training program, to something unfamiliar which your body isn't yet used to.

There is an old quote - which you may have heard before.

"If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got."

- Henry Ford

When you start a training program which is different to what your body is used to, it has to now try to keep pace and adapt to what is being asked of it. This is called 'adaptation'.

There are however, some ways which you can force adaptation and new progress from your body, without being a new trainee, or having to change your training program.

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You can achieve this by incorporating specific 'overload techniques'.

These are strategies used within your current training to place additional stress to your body and muscles to push them past their current capabilities.

Today will be the start of an ongoing series of overload techniques which you can implement into your training to fight through plateaus and continue making progress towards your given goal(s).

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  • What's it called? Super-set
  • How does it work? You pair a primary exercise with a secondary exercise, with no rest until both have completed in succession
  • When should you use them? When you are either time-poor, or want to overload a specific muscle group(s)
  • Why are they beneficial? These provide your body with little-to-no rest and will either compound metabolic stress to your body (burn more calories due to elevated heart-rate), or further fatigue a targeted muscle group, which is great for muscle building.

There are 3 situations where you can look to integrate super-sets into your routine. I'll outline each of them below:

Generally, I aim to use a strength exercise first (Exercise A) and then pair it with any of the following options as the secondary (Exercise B) to create the super-set.

1. Same muscle group

This style of super-setting is best utilised for increasing lean muscle mass and building tone to specific parts of your body. The aim of targeting the same muscle group is to compound and amplify the muscular stress to a given area.

Rather than doing one set and resting, you are essentially putting 2 sets into one, but in a manner which allows you to maintain form and not get sloppy.

Some examples of same muscle group pairings are;

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One word of advice for this style.

If you are incorporating bodyweight exercises into the super-set, either use them first - as you cannot alter your bodyweight - or until you reach 'technical failure'.

This means as many good reps as possible - don't let for your technique turn to crap!

2. Opposing muscle group

Using this format is great to develop strength - because you get to target a different part of the body at a time.

Each body-part has a different function and therefore you have the ability to be selective when working a specific area/function at a given time. 


  • Your biceps flex the arm (bend), while your triceps extend your arm (straighten). They have the opposite role.

  • Your quads straighten your leg, while your hamstrings bend your leg. Opposing functions here, too.

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If you work your chest, your back is resting, so to speak, and vice versa.

Some examples of opposing muscle groups are;

3. Heart-rate or core-specific exercise

The last style of using super-sets has a little bit more freedom and will allow you to get a bit creative.

You can start to pair exercises which are a combination of strength, cardio and core-based.

Battling ropes are another great method to get your heart racing!

Battling ropes are another great method to get your heart racing!

Ultimately, the aim is the same, regardless of what order you select.

You want to get your heart-rate as high as possible, to create an oxygen debt and essentially, turn this into a mini-interval.

Work hard for a short time, then recover and repeat.

Some examples of heart-rate and core-specific exercises are;

There you have it! 3 ways of incorporating super-sets into your training routine, so that you can continue to make progress without having to change your whole training plan or become a 'program hopper'.

This overload technique isn't complicated. Just pick the format which best suits your current goals, select two exercises which fit the style and then get to work.

You'll be pleasantly surprised by just how effective pairing a few exercises together can be.

Until next time,

Practice your super-sets.