How to Do Superset for Maximum Time Efficiency and Muscle Growth

Not all supersets optimize your training performance and, thus, muscle growth. Here's how to do superset in a way that truly serves your goals.

How to Do Superset for Maximum Time Efficiency and Muscle Growth

Supersets are a godsend when you must complete a full-ass workout with 4 exercises within 25 minutes. You simply do 2 exercises back-to-back — potentially hacking off up to 18 minutes in rest time (assuming they're all compound exercises)[1].

18 minutes. That’s enough time for a pro athlete to cross the 5K race finish line.

But (yes, there’s always a but), while all supersets can help you save time, not all can help you meet your targeted training volume per training session. And, imaginably, that may hurt your strength and muscle gains in the long run.

How to do superset: there’s more than 1 way

Um, wait. Don’t all supersets involve stacking 2 exercises together? So, what’s with the implied talk about different types of supersets?

Here’s the thing.

Yes, do 2 exercises back-to-back, and that counts as a superset. But the exercises you choose matter. More specifically, if you combine 2 exercises that target:

  • The same muscle group = agonist superset. E.g., bench press (chest), followed by incline bench press (chest).
  • An antagonistic muscle pair = agonist-antagonist superset. E.g., leg extension (quads), followed by seated hamstring curl (hamstrings).
  • Upper/lower muscle groups = agonist-peripheral superset. E.g., bench press (upper body musculature), followed by barbell back squats (lower body musculature).

There’s only 1 that saves time and promotes optimal muscle growth

OK, if we’re being generous, maybe 2.

But let’s name and shame the 1 that has consistently been associated with poorer performance and hypertrophy outcomes drumroll … agonist supersets.

For example, look at this 2017 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The researchers randomly assigned the participants to 2 groups. They did the same exercises, with the only difference being 1 group did agonist supersets while the other did agonist-antagonist supersets.

After 5 days, the participants in the agonist supersets group reported significantly higher levels of muscle damage than those in the agonist-antagonist supersets group.

Theoretically speaking, this would translate to poorer recovery (sore muscles! and training volumes in the long term — hurting muscle growth. A 2019 study published in Sports supports that notion. Compared to 4 other training methods[2], the researchers found that agonist supersets caused the greatest plummet in volume load.

BRB, committing agonist supersets to the Burn Book.

What about agonist-antagonist and agonist-peripheral supersets?

Alright. Now that that's done let's see how agonist-antagonist and agonist-peripheral supersets fare.

Agonist-peripheral supersets

Let’s talk about agonist-peripheral supersets first. And for that, we’ll have to bring up this 2022 study published in Sports. The researchers randomly assigned the participants to 2 groups.

Both groups performed 3 sets of Smith squats and bench presses, with the only difference being:

  • One performed the exercises in a superset fashion (i.e., agonist-peripheral superset) while
  • The other performed traditional sets

And what did the researchers find?

Answer: the agonist-peripheral superset did not impair acute performance relative to traditional sets.

But before you take this as definitive evidence that agonist-peripheral supersets do just as well as traditional sets … it’s important to note that research findings have been far from conclusive.

There have been 2 previous studies (a 2014 study and a 2020 study, both published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research) suggesting that agonist-peripheral supersets may negatively affect performance and training volume in hard sets (e.g., sets you take close to failure).

Hmm. Shaky grounds, indeed.

Sidenote: should you always train to failure?

Agonist-antagonist supersets

Agonist-antagonist supersets, on the other hand, have a far better track record.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that agonist-antagonist supersets (bench press, followed by seated row) led to more reps per set on both the bench press and row than traditional straight sets.

And, at this point, you probably have a clear idea of what that means. Higher training volume — and, in turn, greater muscle growth.

Of course, not all studies have found agonist-antagonists to enhance training performance and volume. But most (e.g., this and this have found at least comparable volume performance to your traditional straight sets.

So, to summarize:

  • Agonist-peripheral agonist supersets: Worse, or at best, comparable training performance and volume to traditional straight sets
  • Antagonist-antagonist supersets: Comparable to or, optimistically speaking, potentially better training performance and volume than traditional straight sets

Which superset would you go for? (ahem Agonist-antagonist supersets ahem)

How to do an agonist-antagonist superset

Yep. Thought so.

That said, you'd still want to be mindful of the exercise pairings you choose within an agonist-antagonist superset. Here's how to do an agonist-antagonist superset that'll maximize your resulting muscle growth and time savings:

  • Try to pair a compound and an isolation movement: Pairing barbell squats and deadlifts = feels like death 💀. Instead, go with a less torturous (read: more realistic) exercise pairing, such as barbell squats and seated hamstring curls. Or bench press, then lat pull down.

  • Don’t superset everything in your workout if you can help it: How much time have you got for your workout? If possible, keep your supersets to a minimum; this helps keep your fatigue and muscle damage low, increasing your chances of recovering well.

  • Plan for the flow of the exercises: What's the ultimate purpose of implementing supersets? It's to save time. So, don't pair exercises requiring walking from 1 end of the gym to the other (e.g., from the free weights area to the cable machine region).

Power your workouts with smart, science-based programming

At the beginning of this article, you might have looked at the title, "How to do superset …" and went Pssssssh, isn’t it just doing 2 exercises back-to-back? 🤷

Hopefully, you’ve realized just how wrong you were.

Randomly chaining 2 exercises together — without thinking about how they'd affect your training performance and volume on the other and other exercises in your workout — won't work.

And on that note, if you’d like someone (or, more accurately, something) else to help optimize your workout programming to suit your training preferences and goals, check out GymStreak.

This smart, AI-powered personal trainer app tailors your training plan to your needs (and it does so way better than ChatGPT can do, BTW, including your time constraints, and automatically builds in progressive overload so you continue progressing.

  1. Want to look at the math? Sure thing. Assuming you do 3 sets per exercise, take 45 seconds to complete a set, and 3 minutes to rest between each set, a traditional straight set workout would take 42 minutes, while a superset workout would take 24 minutes. ↩︎

  2. The 4 training methods are traditional straight sets, forced reps, pre-exhaust A, and pre-exhaust B. Feel free to check out the study here for more details. ↩︎

A quick preview:

Workout Programming + Nutrition Tracking, Off Your Hands

*sigh of relief* We'll guide you through it all — step-by-step. Just download the app, and you'll be making progress toward your dream body like never before.


Brentano, Michel A., et al. “Muscle Damage and Muscle Activity Induced by Strength Training Super-Sets in Physically Active Men.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 31, no. 7, July 2017, pp. 1847–58. PubMed,

Ciccone, Anthony B., et al. “Effects of Traditional vs. Alternating Whole-Body Strength Training on Squat Performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 28, no. 9, Sept. 2014, pp. 2569–77. PubMed,

Paz, Gabriel A., et al. “Volume Load and Neuromuscular Fatigue During an Acute Bout of Agonist-Antagonist Paired-Set vs. Traditional-Set Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 31, no. 10, Oct. 2017, pp. 2777–84. PubMed,

Peña García-Orea, Guillermo, et al. “Acute Effect of Upper-Lower Body Super-Set vs. Traditional-Set Configurations on Bar Execution Velocity and Volume.” Sports, vol. 10, no. 7, 7, July 2022, p. 110.,

Robbins, Daniel W., et al. “The Effect of an Upper-Body Agonist-Antagonist Resistance Training Protocol on Volume Load and Efficiency.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 24, no. 10, Oct. 2010, pp. 2632–40. PubMed,

Wallace, William, et al. “Repeated Bouts of Advanced Strength Training Techniques: Effects on Volume Load, Metabolic Responses, and Muscle Activation in Trained Individuals.” Sports (Basel, Switzerland), vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 2019, p. 14. PubMed,

Weakley, Jonathon J. S., et al. “The Effects of Superset Configuration on Kinetic, Kinematic, and Perceived Exertion in the Barbell Bench Press.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 34, no. 1, Jan. 2020, pp. 65–72. PubMed,

Zhao, Hanye, et al. “Effects of Rest Interval Array on Training Volume, Perceived Exertion, Neuromuscular Fatigue, and Metabolic Responses during Agonist-Antagonist Muscle Alternative Training.” The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, vol. 60, no. 4, Apr. 2020, pp. 536–43. PubMed,