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A training concept that’s actually worth something!

Fitness is a sea of concepts. I’d go as far saying there’s too many. Just as someone is familiarising themselves with one style, the novelty wanes and they read a article about drop sets and it’s game over. The cycle is reset.

“I need the dopamine rush of something new!”

Question is, what training concepts actually apply to you – and which ones are effective across the board?

One of my new favourite ways to design programs/workouts is incorporating ‘non-competing supersets’. Brownie points to you if you already know of them! I’m impressed.

Traditional supersets focus on fatigue overload by trashing one muscle group with two exercises performed back to back without rest. You might do a heavy set of back squats and follow it with leg extensions. Whereas with non-competing supersets, you would do a pull up or pull down followed by an overhead press variation. One set of muscles get fully rested while opposing muscles get taxed. Think of it as a form of active recovery.

Why are non competing supersets better than traditional supersets in your eyes?

Because they allow for more quality work to be performed overall. Just because you’re tired, doesn’t mean you’ve pulled off a ‘beastly workout’…….It’s like the blasphemous idea of doing a cardio exercise while you rest between your lifting sets; if that sounds smart to you, then you better get ready to reduce your weights by some serious poundages. How much work you do in a specific intensity range dictates just how ‘beastly’ your session is. And more importantly, how productive.

Remember what Jason Ferruggia said………….“I can get a pump from treading water, but it’s not doing shit for building muscle!”

( – Keep going bro, you’re killing it dude! 

They allow for necessary rest without boredom. Girls in particular should love them. We all know how much women HATE long rest periods and crave the burn, the drip of sweat and the feeling of breathlessness. Seriously. If you want to make a girl not enjoy training, then get her to continuously rest at least 3 minutes – and maybe more like 5.


But females recover faster than males and generally have far better aerobic capacity too. It’s a scientific fact, so it stands to reason. However, if we apply the use of non competing supersets, we keep the rest periods short, yet still get full recovery of each area. All of this means we get a denser workout and don’t have to spend all our waking hours in the gym.

Can you give me some practical examples please?

Here are some basic ones:

Exercise A – Bench Press (6-8 reps), 90 seconds rest

Exercise B – Bent Over Barbell Row (6-8 reps), 90 seconds rest

Repeat three times. Note how you’re getting OVER three minutes before you bench press again, same with the barbell row. But because you’re only spending 90 seconds truly resting, it will feel more taxing. And, following this style allows you to hit more muscle groups in each session and frequency is the key to growth.

(RELATED: Full body training vs split routines: Who wins?!)

We could get get more creative and suggest sticking three exercises together which are all non-competing. This is where another piece of fitness terminology enters the room; the tri-set.

We could do:

Exercise A – Ring Push up (8-10 reps), 60 seconds rest

Exercise B – Calf raise (MAX REPS), 60 seconds rest

Exercise C – Neutral Grip Chin up (5-8 reps), 60 seconds rest

As you can see, it will be quite some time once you’ve done the push ups before you’re doing them again, but you’re still on the road to accomplishment by dominating the other exercises in the meantime.

Do I have to do non-competing supersets then? What if I’m happy resting 5 minutes between sets?

That’s fine, I’m not going to ask for justification. Exploiting this concept though, will save a myriad of time and is perfect for those who just can’t socialise at the gym due to their hectic lifestyle. If you like using your 5 minute rest periods to go and chat to your ‘bros’, you’re free to do so – just watch someone don’t steal your bench!

I have an inkling that this style could be better for body composition than pure strength work?

Your instincts are often right, and this occasion is no exception. Doing more work in less time is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated forms of progression. Even old time greats such as the legendary Vince Gironda would promote reducing your rest periods gradually as the best form of cardio/conditioning you can do. As a matter of fact, that was the only form of cardio Vince remotely approved of.

( – Vince ‘The Iron Guru’ Gironda

It’s all to do with growth hormone production. Short rest and a high workload produce lactic acid which is a precursor to growth hormone. Programs like the ever popular ‘German Volume Training’ exploit these physiological laws too.

And of course, I have practical experience with non-competing supersets otherwise I wouldn’t have pressed a single key today. Anything can sound good in theory, but without giving it a thorough test drive, you really can’t provide truly valid feedback. It was Charles Poliquin who I once heard say:

“The problem with the world today is we have too many virgin sex therapists.” 

You will get a mild conditioning effect from this style of training, but please refrain from going full potato and trying to ram everything back to back without any rest; that’s circuit training, which is an entirely different concept.

Note: This concept is nothing new. Most concepts are far older than we realise and few people have the ‘rights’ to any training idea. Why? Because there’s really only so much that can work without crossing into the realm of gimmicks and entertainment. Please realise I’m not claiming this as my idea – I’m just sharing what I think is a great concept and one I’ve had positive experiences with.



JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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