When most folks engage in strength training, they organize their workouts into either straight sets or circuits. Straight sets comprise of doing all your sets of one exercise (with rest in between) before moving to the next exercise in the workout. Meanwhile, circuits involve doing one set each of all of your exercises, then resting and repeating the circuit.
Both straight sets and circuits have their merits, but there’s actually a third option that represents the best of both worlds. The third option is called “supersets.”
A “superset” is a pair exercises performed back to back – essentially a circuit of just two exercises. You do a set of one exercise, immediately move to the next exercise, and then rest before repeating the superset.
Supersets allow us to do more work in less time. They spread out fatigue between different regions of the body. The second exercise in the superset serves as active rest from the first exercise and vice versa – so you're not just sitting around between sets.
For example, the superset depicted here comes from Phase 1 of our ACL CARE Pro training program. In this superset, the athlete performs a set of single-leg bridges on each leg then immediately transitions into the isometric bear crawl.
The bridges target the muscles of the posterior chain (especially the glutes), while the bear crawl hold targets the quadriceps (on the fronts of the thighs) and the core.
By targeting opposing muscle groups with each exercise of the superset, performance on one exercise minimally interferes/competes with performance on the other. The athlete gets the most out of each exercise in less time than it would take to do straight sets of each exercise individually.
This was the thought process we used to design all four phases of ACL Care Pro, our 14-week training program and smartphone app. ACL Care Pro bridges the gap between physical therapy and sports performance for athletes recovering from ACL injuries.