Get in Shape: Exercises That Help You Build Muscle Faster

Some of the fittest men at the gym reached their enviable physiques thanks to hard work, dedication, and setting aside four hours for pumping iron every day. For most people, that isn’t practical. But, if you start incorporating supersets into your routine, your workout can be effective and efficient.

Supersets are essentially a combination of two sets of two different exercises completed back-to-back, without rest in between. Give these five combinations a chance, and you’ll be a supersetter for life.

1. Squats and calf raises

calf raises

Calf raises combined with squats will give your legs a serious workout. | iStock.com

Start out with squats: With a barbell across your upper back, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your upper body erect, then push back up to the starting position. Bodybuilding.com offers a great tutorial on squats, which demonstrates the proper technique. Repeat the move until you complete the set, then immediately move to the calf raise machine. Stand with the balls of your feet on the step, and lower your heels as far as you can. Push up through your toes as high as possible. After completing one superset, take a quick breather before going at it again.

2. Push-ups and inverted row

Build muscle by doing push-ups and inverted rows

Build muscle by doing push-ups and inverted rows. | iStock.com

Start in the push-up position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until you’re just a few inches above the ground, keeping your core tight, and push back into the starting position. As soon as you’ve completed a set of push-ups, move over to the inverted row equipment. With the bar set at hip height, allow yourself to hang with feet extended in front of you, and your body in a straight line. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, then lower yourself back to the beginning position. Muscle & Fitness demonstrates the proper technique for those who need a little more guidance.

3. Bicycle crunches and ab planks

twisted crunch, bicycle crunches, sit up

Bicycle crunches are even more effective when you do them in a superset. | iStock.com

Begin by lying on the floor, with your legs extended straight in front of you. Bend your elbows and lightly cup your hands behind your ears. Moving your legs in a bicycling motion, bring your right knee toward your head, and twist your upper body to touch it to your left elbow. Straighten out as your leg extends, then continue to the other side. For photos on the best form, check out Abs Experiment. Perform the motion for one minute before moving into the plank position. Hold the plank for one minute to complete the superset.

4. Hammer curls and overhead extensions

Hammer Curls, weights, exercise, gym

Hammer curls are just half of the story. | iStock.com

Hammer curls are the same as a regular bicep curl, except your palms are facing in. For a better idea of the move, check out the photos and video on Bodybuilding.com. AskMen suggests completing eight to 10 reps for one set before moving to the overhead extensions. Carefully lift a dumbbell above your head, and grasp it with both hands. Slowly lower the weight down your back by bending your elbows. Keeping your elbows pointed straight up, raise the weight back to the starting position. Repeat to complete one superset, then rest for about 90 seconds before beginning again.

5. Decline dumbbell pullover and standing low-cable row

Man performing cable row

This is a great option for wrapping up your session at the gym. | iStock.com

Begin with the pullover by setting a decline bench at a moderate angle, nothing too crazy, and position yourself on top of the seat. Lie back and grip a dumbbell with both hands, arms extended straight above your chest. In a controlled motion, arc the weight until it’s behind your head. Your arms should still be fully extended. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. After you complete the set, move right into the rows. Stand with your legs a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, and bend at the waist while gripping the handles with fully extended arms. Keeping your back slightly arched, pull the handles toward your torso and squeeze your lats. You’ll want to aim for 17 to 18 repetitions for the second move.