Have you ever stopped to think about how much time you spend resting during your workouts? Take it from me; it’s more than you realize! For example, if you do 20 sets and rest 90 seconds between each one, that adds up to a whopping thirty minutes of downtime! Do more sets or rest longer, and that 30 minutes can quickly turn into an hour or more. After all, many workouts contain 30-plus sets, especially those high-volume training plans that are so popular right now. When I first realized how much of my workout was spent not training, I started looking for ways to save time and make my training programs more efficient. After all, life is too short to spend it sitting on a bench watching the clock. I learned that cutting out junk sets and overlapping exercises could slash my workouts in half, and focusing almost exclusively on compound movements saved even more time. Workouts that used to take two hours were over and done in under 60 minutes. Less time in the gym meant more time for rest and recovery, which really helped maximize my progress. With workouts taking less time, I had fewer excuses not to go to the gym and missed fewer training sessions. However, another strategy proved to be an even bigger time-saver – supersets. Supersets involve doing two exercises back-to-back, e.g., push-ups and pull-ups. Doing supersets halves the amount of time you spend resting, making workouts as time efficient as possible. I now build all my workouts around supersets, so I’m either in and out of the gym in minutes instead of hours or cramming more training volume into less time. I rarely do regular sets, and when I do, I usually get impatient during the rest periods.
In this article, we share our latest chest and back superset workout designed to pack on mass and build strength in less time.
Chest and Back Anatomy Basics
Chest and back anatomy actually covers a lot of muscle acreage. After all, your chest and back are basically your entire torso! As such, your chest and back superset workout involves quite a few important muscles:
Pectoralis major Known as your pecs for short, this is your most significant chest muscle. The pecs are made up of three sets of fibers, commonly referred to as heads: clavicular (upper), sternal (middle), and costal/abdominal (lower). A good chest workout hits all three pec heads reasonably equally. The functions of the pecs are adduction, horizontal extension, and medial rotation of the shoulder joint.
Pectoralis minor Pec minor lies beneath the upper part of the pectoralis major. While it doesn’t contribute much to your chest size, it is nonetheless an important muscle. The functions of the pec minor are stabilization, depression, abduction, protraction, internal rotation, and downward rotation of the scapula.
Deltoids The deltoids are your most prominent shoulder muscles. Like the pecs, there are three groups of fibers called heads: anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear). The anterior deltoid works with the pecs, while the posterior deltoid works with the back muscles. All three are involved in every upper body exercise you do, either as synergists (helper muscles) or stabilizers to prevent unwanted movement.
Serratus anterior This muscle is so-called because it looks like the edge of a serrated blade. Located toward the outside of your chest, the serratus anterior helps keep your scapulae flat against your rib cage. While you’ll need to be pretty lean to see this muscle, it looks pretty cool when you can. It’s heavily involved in most pushing and pulling exercises.
Rotator cuff The rotator cuff is the collective name for the four small muscles that control and stabilize your shoulder joint. The rotator cuff muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. While you can’t see your rotator cuff, they are critical for the safe and effective performance of all chest and back exercises.
Triceps brachii The triceps brachii, or triceps for short, are located on the back of your upper arms. The triceps extend your elbows and also help extend your shoulders. There are three triceps heads: long, medial, and lateral. All three are involved in most chest/pushing exercises, while the long head works in several back/pulling exercises, albeit quite weakly.
Latissimus dorsi Located on either side of your torso, your latissimus dorsi or lats are your most prominent back muscles. When well-developed, the lats look like broad, muscular wings. The functions of the lats are extension, adduction, and medial rotation of the shoulder joints.
Trapezius Known as the traps for short, this large-diamond-shaped muscle covers much of your upper back. It comprises three sets of fibers – upper, middle, and lower. While the fibers of the traps are interconnected, they have individual functions. The upper traps are responsible for the elevation of your shoulder girdle, while the middle fibers are responsible for retraction. The lower fibers are mainly responsible for shoulder girdle depression.
Rhomboids The rhomboids work with your mid-traps to pull your shoulder blades back and together, which is a movement called retraction. While the rhomboids are relatively small, they still contribute to the thickness of your upper back.
Biceps brachii Almost all back exercises involve pulling, and that means your biceps also get a workout. Located on the front of your upper arm, the biceps are responsible for flexion of the elbow, supination of the forearm, and also play a minor role in shoulder flexion.
Forearms As most back exercises involve pulling, you cannot avoid using your forearms, which create the grip you need to stay attached to the bar or handle you are using. Weak forearms could bring your back workout to a premature end, so many exercisers use lifting straps to enhance their grip. However, some direct grip training may be better than relying on external crutches.
The Lowdown on Supersets
Before we launch into our chest and back superset workout, it’s worth reviewing what supersets are and the types of exercises you can use in them.
Supersets are a training technique where you perform two exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. There are several types of supersets, including:
Antagonist supersets: This involves working two opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps or chest and back.
Agonist supersets: This involves working two exercises that target the same muscle group, such as bench press and push-ups for the chest.
Pre-exhaustion supersets: This involves working a single muscle group with an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise. For example, doing dumbbell flyes followed by bench press for the chest.
Post-exhaustion supersets: This involves working a single muscle group with a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise. For example, doing bench press followed by dumbbell flyes for the chest.
Compound supersets: This involves working two compound exercises that target different muscle groups. For example, doing squats followed by pull-ups.
Isolation supersets: This involves working two isolation exercises that target the same muscle group. For example, doing bicep curls followed by hammer curls for the biceps.
Circuit supersets: This involves performing multiple exercises in a circuit fashion with little to no rest in between.
In this chest and back superset workout, we will be focusing on antagonist supersets, specifically targeting the chest and back muscles. This type of superset is great for maximizing training efficiency and time management. By working opposing muscle groups, you can minimize rest time and keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout.
Here is the chest and back superset workout:
Exercise 1: Barbell Bench Press
– Lie flat on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
– Grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
– Lower the barbell to your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in.
– Push the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
Exercise 2: Bent-Over Rows
– Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
– Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
– Bend forward at the hips, keeping your back straight and chest up.
– Pull the barbell up towards your lower chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
– Lower the barbell back down to the starting position.
Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise, with no rest in between exercises. Rest for 60 seconds between supersets.
Exercise 1: Dumbbell Flyes <br