Build Muscle With This Time-Efficient Superset/Dropset Variation

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier suggests combining supersets with dropsets and offers two workouts to help you avoid plateaus in your training.

Have those reps and sets become repetitious? Stuck at the same resistance? Your summer off-season conditioning program may have plateaued.

RELATED: The Dropset Workout That Builds Strength and Size

This high-intensity superset/dropset combo can help you revive stale workouts and avoid future weight training plateaus. The two workouts are short and challenging, and you won't need much in the way of equipment—just a pair of heavy and light dumbbells.

The superset/dropset system recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers. Using the heavier dumbbells enhances strength and size and engages slow-twitch fibers, while the lighter ones promote muscular endurance. All exercises are performed standing, for greater intensity.

A superset consists of successive exercises that work the same or opposite muscles performed without rest.

RELATED: Ask the Experts: How Do I Perform a Dropset?


  • Two moderately heavy dumbbells (80% RM)
  • Two lighter dumbbells (40% RM)
  • Water bottle
  • Timer (optional)


  • Start with a dynamic upper- and lower-body warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles & Lunges).
  • Finish with cool-down upper- and lower-body stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
  • Perform all exercises upright rather than seated or supine.
  • Perform each workout on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.

Workout 1

  • Sets/Reps: 1x6-10 @ 80%RM, immediately followed by a dropset of 1x15-20 @ 40%RM of one exercise targeting the same muscles (e.g., Squats).
  • Superset (no rest) with 1x6-10 @ 80% RM, rapidly followed by a dropset of 1x15-20 @ 40% RM of a different exercise (e.g., Forward Lunges) involving similar muscles. The lighter dumbbells should always be nearby so you can efficiently go from the heavier to the lighter ones.
  • Perform four sets—enough to thoroughly exhaust your targeted muscles in minimal time. Rest 60 seconds, then proceed to the next pair of exercises.

RELATED: Drop Sets: What They Are and How to Use Them in Your Workout

Workout 2

  • Sets/Reps: Same instructions as in Workout 1, except engage opposing muscle groups (e.g., triceps/biceps, back/chest) during the supersets. Example: 1x6-10 Press-Outs (chest) immediately followed with a dropset of 1x15-20 and superset with 1x6-10 Bent-Over Rows (back) and a dropset of 1x15-20.)
  • Rep tempo for both workouts: 3-1-1—take 3 seconds during the negative or eccentric movement, pause or hold for 1 second, and take 1 second for the positive or concentric (lifting) movement.

Workout 1 (Supersetting Exercises Targeting Similar Muscles)

  • Front Squats & Forward Lunges (legs/hips/core). Hold dumbbells at shoulder level with a supinated grip for both exercises.
  • Press-Outs & Flys. Press-Outs (chest/triceps); Flies (chest).
  • Overhead Presses & Lateral Shoulder Raises. Overhead Presses (shoulders/triceps); Lateral Raises (shoulders).
  • Bent-Over Rows & Bicep Curls. Bent-Over Rows (back/biceps; Curls (biceps).

Workout 2 (Supersetting Exercises Working Opposite Muscles)

  • Stiff-Legged Deadlifts & Front Squats (hamstrings/quadriceps).
  • Flies & Bent-Over Rows (chest/back).
  • Forward Shoulder Raises & Bent-Over Reverse Flies (anterior deltoid/posterior deltoid/upper back)
  • Bicep Curls & Tricep Extensions (biceps/triceps).

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