Strength training with supersets burns an extra 500 kcal

You’ve already read it in bodybuilding manuals: supersets are a way to achieve definition. And it’s true, sports scientists at Syracuse University in New York discovered. A superset strength training session burns 500 kcal more than an ordinary strength training session thanks to the EPOC phenomenon.

Supersets are sets combined in such a way that you train in sequence the muscle groups that you use in opposing movements. So first you do a set for your biceps, followed immediately by a set for your triceps. Only then do you rest. First you do a set for your quads, followed immediately by a set for your hamstrings – and only then do you rest. First you do a set for your pectorals and then for your lats – and only then… You’ve got it.

The researchers did a trial with 10 students, average age 21, all of whom had been doing weight training 2-4 times a week for at least six months. The test subjects had to do 2 training sessions. On one occasion the students did a traditional short full-body workout, and on the other occasion they did a superset workout. The figure below gives you an idea of the 2 different training sessions. A = supersets, B = traditional.

The subjects did 6 different exercises, and for each they did 4 sets of 10 reps. The load was 70 percent of the weight at which the subjects could just manage 1 rep – the 1RM. The rests lasted one minute.

During the superset training session the subjects burned more energy per minute. The figure below shows the number of kJ.

The superset training took 31 minutes and the traditional one 40 minutes. That’s why the subjects burned the same total amount of energy in both types of session – about 250 kcal.

But more interesting differences were noticed after the training session. The researchers measured the amount of energy the subjects burned in the first hour after the training session had ended, and saw that the subjects burned most energy per minute after the superset training. The figure shows kJs not kcals.

During the first hour after training the subjects burned 860 kcal after a traditional session. After a superset training they burned 470 kcal more: 1330 kcal. Believe it or not.

If the New Yorkers’ story is true [their article has appeared in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research], then strength athletes that don’t want to do cardio training will have an alternative in the form of supersets.

The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. tr... [J Strength Cond Res. 2010] - PubMed result