by Charles Poliquin Iron Man Magazine
Q: All your workouts seem to rely on supersets for fat loss. Is there any scientific research to back up your protocols?
A: Yes, and in fact one peer-reviewed study was published in the September 2011 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. It investigated the effects of eight weeks of two types of heavy weight-training workouts, one involving supersets and another using traditional strength-training protocols.
The 33 participants were divided into three groups: a traditional-training group, a circuit-training group and a control group. They were all about 22 years of age, and all had been performing resistance training for at least 12 months before the experiment.
At the start of the program the workouts consisted of a total of three sets of three reps per exercise; an additional set was added every two weeks, so that by the end of the experiment all the subjects were performing six sets of six reps. The biggest differences between the way the two training groups worked out were the exercise order and the rest intervals.
The traditional-training group performed three exercises, with three minutes between sets. Then they rested five minutes and performed the remaining three exercises, again with three minutes’ rest between sets. The circuit-training group performed a combination of three exercises in a circuit (a.k.a. tri-sets) with 35 seconds’ rest between sets, followed by a five-minute break. Then they performed the remaining three exercises, again in circuit-training fashion with 35 seconds’ rest between sets.
The traditional-training group did the exercises in the following order: leg curl, bench press, standing calf raise, lat pulldown, half squat and preacher curl. The circuit-training group did the leg curl, bench press and standing calf raise in the first tri-set and the lat pulldown, half squat and preacher curl in the second. I would have had the participants do the half squat in the first circuit and not do pulldowns and preacher curls in the same tri-set, but the point is that both groups did the same exercises and in relatively the same sequence.
The results? Both training groups were just as effective in improving strength, power, muscle endurance and lean mass; however, only the group that performed circuit training had significant drops in bodyfat. Another key factor is that the circuit-training group completed their workouts faster.
When performing three sets per exercise, the circuit-training group only took 55 minutes to finish their workouts vs. 105 minutes for the traditional group. When performing six sets, the circuit-training group took just 78 minutes compared to 125 minutes for the traditional-training group. In other words, the circuit-training method enabled the subjects to achieve nearly identical results in approximately half the training time and with greater bodyfat losses.
This study supports the concept of the German Body Comp training protocols for losing weight, which suggests that the short rest intervals increase the production of growth hormone. In fact, the results of this study further validate the way I have been designing workout programs for the past three decades, which is usually to focus on supersets.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM