Arm Supersets

Karen Frazier

Having strong and toned arms can be achieved by exercising using arm supersets. Arm supersets involve performing two different strength training exercises in close succession with no rest periods in between. Using arm supersets can help you to take your arm strength to the next level.

Anatomy of the Arm

Having arm strength is important. By strengthening your arms, you will find it easier to manage daily upper body strength requirements like lifting, pushing and pulling. The muscles of your arms are involved in each of these motions. They are also a secondary muscle group used in a number of other motions that involve your chest, shoulders and upper back.

Posterior Arm Muscles

There are a number of muscles that are important for movement along the back of your arm. Posterior arm muscles are responsible for pulling, rotation, abduction (moving away from the body) and extension action of the arm and include:

  • Triceps - Muscle that runs along the back of your upper arm
  • Teres minor - A muscle along the edge of your shoulder blade that is responsible for lateral rotation of the upper arm
  • Deltoid - Shoulder muscle that rotates the arm at the shoulder
  • Supraspinatus - Muscle underneath your trapezius that helps to abduct your upper arm
  • Infraspinatus - Muscle that runs underneath the deltoid which helps to stabilize the arms at the scapula

Anterior Arm Muscles

There are a number of muscles of the upper arm that are important for movement along the front of the arm. Anterior arm muscles are responsible for pushing, rotation, flexion and adduction (moving towards the body) and include:

  • Biceps - Muscle that runs along the front of your arm and is responsible for flexion of the arm
  • Deltoid - Shoulder muscle, which is responsible for rotation and adduction
  • Pectoralis major - Chest muscle, which is responsible for pushing, shoulder flexion and rotation
  • Coracobrachialis - The muscle that connects the biceps to the scapula and is responsible for pushing, flexion and adduction
  • Subscapularis - The muscle that runs underneath the scapula and is responsible for rotation
  • Teres major - A back muscle that is responsible for medial rotation and extension
  • Lattissimus Dorsi - The large muscles that run along the side of your back from your arm pits and are responsible for rotation and extension

Muscles of the Forearm

Forearm muscles (the muscles on your lower arms) also come into play, and are responsible for wrist flexion, extension, rotation and abduction/adduction. The forearm muscles also play a minor helper role in pushing and pulling of the upper arms.

Arm Exercises

In weightlifting, arm exercises occur in two different ways.

  1. Exercises that are isolated to the biceps and triceps specifically.
  2. Exercises where arm muscles are helper muscles in larger exercises of the upper body for the chest, upper back and shoulders.

Isolated Biceps/Triceps Exercises

Biceps and triceps exercises that are isolated specifically to those two muscle groups are any exercises that involve the act of flexion and extension of the elbows. For biceps, isolated exercises include:

  • Biceps curls with dumbbells or barbells
  • Hammer curls
  • Alternating curls

For triceps, isolated exercises include:

  • Triceps extensions with barbells or dumbbells
  • Triceps kickbacks
  • Overhead triceps extensions

Exercises Biceps/Triceps as Helper Muscles

There are a number of exercises in which the biceps and triceps aren't the main muscles worked, however, they get a workout as helper muscles. These types of exercises include all exercises for the shoulders, upper back and chest including:

  • Bench press or dumbbell press (pectorals and triceps)
  • Seated chest press (pectorals and triceps)
  • Military press with dumbbells or barbell (deltoids and triceps)
  • Pull ups or pull downs (lats, trapezuis and biceps)
  • Seated rows (lats and biceps)

Performing Arm Supersets

Performing arm supersets is accomplished by combining two complementary exercises together without resting between sets. For instance, a biceps superset might include pull-ups followed immediately by a barbell biceps curl, and a triceps superset might include a bench press followed immediately by an overhead dumbbell triceps extension.

In supersets, you work one muscle group to exhaustion by quickly moving back and forth between the two sets of exercises targeted to that muscle group. There are two main types of arm supersets:

  • Back to back sets of isolated exercises for the biceps and triceps - such as hammer curls performed back to back with barbell biceps curls.
  • Back to back sets that include one exercise where the arm is the helper muscle immediately followed by one exercise where the arm muscle is isolated - such as a bench press followed by a triceps extension.

Rules for Arm Supersets

Regardless of which type of arm superset you choose to perform, the following rules should be followed:

  • Start with the exercise that works the most muscles (for instance, start with a bench press) and then follow it up with the more isolated exercise (for instance, follow the bench press with triceps extensions).
  • Do your first exercise to exhaustion.
  • Without resting, immediately position yourself and move into the second exercise. There should be as little rest as possible.
  • Perform your second exercise to exhaustion.
  • Move immediately back into your first exercise.
  • Repeat the cycle for two or three sets to exhaustion.
  • Always rest your arms for at least 48 hours between superset sessions.

Cautions

Always work with a training partner when you are performing supersets, and always make sure you are using good form to avoid injury. Supersets are an advanced technique and shouldn't be performed by beginners.

Benefits of Supersets

Supersets are great at triggering muscle growth. They can help to shake up your routine and help you to grow new muscle quickly. If you feel like your routine is stagnant, give this great weightlifting technique a try.

Arm Supersets