Do you know the difference between straight sets and super sets when hitting the weights? I often take for granted what I know about fitness and nutrition, then talk about them like it’s a normal conversation about the weather. I realize that’s silly! So I am here to educate you! Let me tell you how this topic came about for me…
Here at HellaBella Athletics, we are running a 21 Day Total Transformation Challenge! This Challenge is all about changing the SHAPE of the body through fitness programming and meal plans that confuse your body to target fat stores and burn those first. Now, I know I am writing straight from a personal trainers perspective but I promise, I will make sense of it all. So hang in there! While HellaBella is a nutrition coaching business, I LOVE LOVE LOVE programming fitness and we get to revisit this passion with Challenges that we often run. And I have to say, Amy and I are badass programmers. I should hope so with 20 years of fitness experience between the two of us!
Interested in doing a Challenge with us? Check us out on Vimify! https://www.vimify.com/app/more/profile67478
So yesterday and today, I’m writing the Fit Plans for the Challenges and we are using progressive training to take our clients from baby steps to monster steps. We like to educate people so they know WHY we are programming the way we are. We are nerds, what do you expect? Anyway, the first week we focus on Straight Sets! The second week, we get to focus on Super Sets. Yes, I say “get to” because I prefer super sets, although that doesn’t mean they are superior! Let’s talk about it…
Straight Sets are amazing when you are trying to get stronger and build some serious muscle. You lift to failure and take adequate rest so you can do it again!
These should be performed to muscle exhaustion and obviously with great form! It freaking KILLS me when I watch individuals throwing weights around with focusing on form and tempo. Yeah, cool guys, I can curl 35 pounds too if I just yanked my body around and used momentum like circus acrobats. You know my little Fitness Fairies in the audience would be gasping as they watched through their fluttery little wings! Don’t be those people!
SOAPBOX WARNING: When performing any type of strength movement, you should ALWAYS focus on proper form and tempo. Proper form keeps the contraction in the muscle you are working. When you start to get sloppy and drop form, other parts of your body get involved and start taking over the work. Perfect example…a bicep curl. If the weight is too heavy and you start to swing your body in order to bring the weight to your shoulders, you are no longer performing a bicep curl. You are performing a bicep dumbbell swing. And who really know what the hell that is, except and injury waiting to happen. Your body starts to take over and you no longer have the benefit of your bicep doing the work for you. But hey! You look pretty cool doing it, right? Wrong! You look like someone who needs a workout date with a certified personal trainer who knows what they are talking about. I cannot tell you how many times I want to walk up to a massive dude at the gym performing a “bicep swing” and grab his elbow, hold it at his side and say, “glue your elbow here and don’t move the rest of your body as you try to get that weight up to your shoulder counting two seconds up and three seconds down.” Guaranteed every time, it wouldn’t happen. Now who feels sheepish?
Anyway, straight sets! Straight sets are when you do one exercise, for one set until muscle failure, then rest. Repeat until you are done with all of your sets. You do not move on to another exercise until you have completed all sets. Because you complete these sets to muscle failure (meaning you cannot do any more reps than you did in that last set), you will need enough rest between sets before moving gone to the next set.
Straight sets are extremely effective for strength training and muscle building. The only issue I have with it….I get bored. That’s it! I just get bored while I rest and recover between sets. That’s a stupid reason, huh? Yeah, I know I know. My Fitness Fairies roll their eyes at me all the time (if you haven’t met the Fitness Fairies, go back to where they originated…
Now I know it’s a silly reason to not prefer straight sets, but I can’t help it. I still DO them because I know they are awesome! I just don’t prefer them! Coincidentally, the reason I prefer super sets is because I don’t get bored! HA! I’ll explain (obviously).
Super sets are when you perform more than ONE exercise in ONE set! So let’s say you are working glutes specifically….You decide to perform a wide leg press with walking lunges. If you are working super sets, you perform all of your reps on the leg press then immediately follow with your walking lunges. Only after you have performed both of these exercises with no rest in between, will you have completed one set! Super sets kill my boredom issue for two reasons…
- I get to do more than one exercise in each set
- With no rest between, I get to keep moving and elevate my heart rate for more focus on metabolic training.
Now don’t get me wrong, you still get rest when performing super sets! You just get the rest after you perform one round of each exercise within that super set.
So back to the question….Which is superior? Straight Sets or Super Sets? Well, the answer is really all about what you are trying to do for your fitness training and goals. My personal opinion? You should do both so you have a vast array of training techniques. This will keep you well rounded within your fitness goals. I mean, unless you are trying to be a bodybuilder, then I may have something different to say…Otherwise, try both and have fun doing them!