When working with beginning exercisers, sticking to basic strength-training principles is a good approach to help them begin adapting to a new stimulus. Getting comfortable in a workout routine and paying attention to technique and execution is key to these clients seeing and feeling gains in strength, endurance and body awareness.
But over time, the body requires more aggressive modes of training to continue seeing gains in strength and endurance. It’s not a matter of learning new exercises or even increasing the weight; rather, it’s a matter of boosting intensity to provide a new stimulus. The longer a client has trained, the more creative you’ll need to be to make his or her workouts more intense for continual results.
Strength-training workouts can be organized in many ways, including straight single sets and as a circuit. Opposing super sets is another great method to effectively strengthen the entire body. This training approach involves focusing on a pair of opposing muscles and alternating between two exercises for a specific number of sets with little-to-no rest in between the paired exercises. Examples of opposing muscle groups include: chest and back, biceps and triceps, abductors and adductors, and quadriceps and hamstrings.
Features of Opposing Super Set Workouts
- Opposite work and rest: When the first muscle contracts, the opposite muscle relaxes, which gives it time to rest before you switch to the second exercise. During the second exercise, the first muscle relaxes and the opposite muscle contracts.
- Time-efficient: Back-to-back sets reduce total workout time while still performing the same amount of work as single sets.
- Cardiovascular component: By minimizing rest periods between exercises, you’ll extend the amount of time spent lifting, which will keep the heart rate elevated for a longer period of time for increased calorie burn and overall conditioning.
Super Set Workout
This workout is comprised of five blocks of opposing super sets, and utilizes dumbbells, a resistance band and a stopwatch or timer. Perform each pair of exercises for two sets with little to no rest in-between each exercise; perform each exercise for 45 seconds. Take a one-minute break in between each block, using the time to rest, transition and set up for the next super set of exercises. Each block lasts four minutes, so this workout takes 20 minutes to complete, not including the warm-up and cool-down.
Super Set #1: Chest/Upper Back
DB Chest Fly:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie supine on a flat bench or floor. Extend the arms above, keeping a slight bend in the elbows while the palms facing each other.
- Lower the arms to the sides parallel to the bench or floor and then close the arms back up to the starting position.
Tubing Reverse Fly:
- Stand upright with, feet hip-width apart. Hold one end of a resistance band in each hand with arms in front of you at chest height. Choke up on the band so the band is taut prior to performing the exercise.
- Keeping the arms straight, pull the hands out to the sides to form a letter “T.” Squeeze the shoulder blades together and return to the starting position.
Super Set #2: Quads/Glutes
Squat + Front Karate Kick:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and the fists in front of your chest.
- Push the hips back, bend the knees and lower the body until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Push back up to standing. Raise the right knee and then kick the right leg out.
- Bring the right knee back in toward the chest. Place the right foot on the floor and move directly into another squat and front kick with the left leg.
Tubing Hip Bridge:
- Begin lying on the back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, directly under the knees. Place the resistance band across the hips. Grasp each end of the band and anchor the hands to the floor.
- Push into the feet, contract the glutes and lift the hips up toward the ceiling, creating one long line from the shoulders to the knees. Lower slowly back to the floor.
Super Set #3: Shoulders/Back
DB Shoulder Press:
- Stand upright with feet hip-width apart. Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend the elbows and raise the arms to shoulder height so the dumbbells are at ear level.
- Press the dumbbells upward until the arms are extended overhead; return the dumbbells back to ear level.
Tubing Lat Pulldown:
- Stand upright with feet hip-width apart. Hold one end of a resistance band in each hand with arms overhead and palms facing forward. Choke up on the band so the band is taut prior to performing the exercise.
- Bend the elbows and pull the arms down and out to the sides, bringing the band to the top of the chest. Return the arms back overhead.
Super Set #4: Hip Adductors/Hip Abductors
DB Plie Squat + Inner Leg Drag
- Stand with feet spaced wider than hip-width apart, with toes turned slightly outwards. Hold onto one end of a dumbbell with arms straight down in front of the body.
- Bend the knees and lower the body straight down, keeping the hips under the shoulders and the back upright.
- Push back up to standing and drag the right foot on the floor to meet the left so that the heels and inner legs are touching.
- Step the right foot back out to perform a plié squat and repeat the sequence, dragging the left foot to meet the right.
Tubing Squat + Side Leg Lifts
- Hold each end of a resistance band in each hand. Stand on the band with both feet, hip-width apart. Raise the hands to shoulder height to create enough tension on the band to perform the exercise.
- Push the hips back, bend the knees and lower the body until the thighs are parallel to the floor
- Push back up to standing and lift the right leg out to the side.
- Lower back down into the squat and repeat the sequence, lifting the left leg out to the side.
Super Set #5: Biceps /Triceps
DB Biceps Hammer Curl:
- Begin standing with feet hip-width apart, arms by the sides. Hold one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing inward.
- Bend the elbows and raise the dumbbells until the forearms are vertical and the thumbs reach the shoulders. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Tubing Overhead Extension:
- Hold each end of a resistance band in each hand. Press the left foot on the center of the band and step the right foot to the front. Press the arms overhead, hands together and palms facing inward. The band should be brought up from the back of the body.
- Bend the elbows so they are pointing to the ceiling and the hands are behind the head. Press the hands back up toward the ceiling, straightening both arms.