Post Exhaustion Supersets | The Ultimate Guide!


Are you curious about post-exhaustion supersets?

Do you wonder how to use post-exhaustion supersets to build size and strength?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, I will show you how to use post-exhaustion supersets to take your training to the next level!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Bicep Routines
  • Part 2: Tricep Routines
  • Part 3: Chest Routines
  • Part 4: Shoulder Routines
  • Part 5: Upper Back Routines
  • Part 6: Quadricep Routines
  • Part 7: Hamstring Routines

Supersets are one of the most powerful training methods in the world. Many of the world’s best bodybuilders including Arnold Schwarzenegger use supersets in their own training programs.

But what are supersets, and why do they work so well for building muscle?

Supersets are an advanced training method where you perform 2 exercises in a row for the same body part. Post-exhaustion supersets are a special type of superset where you perform a compound exercise, immediately followed by an isolation movement!

Here is what a post-exhaustion superset would look like in practice:

  • Step #1: Perform a compound exercise, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #2: Perform an isolation exercise for the same body part, done!

For example, here is a video of Al Davis performing a post-exhaustion superset for the triceps:

In this video, the athlete performs a heavy set of weighted dips, immediately followed by a heavy set of overhead rope extensions. Talk about brutal!

The truth is, post-exhaustion supersets can be performed for virtually any body part. In this guide, I will show you some of the best post-exhaustion superset routines you can use for every muscle group.

Now let’s get to the action!

Part 1: Bicep Routines

Post-exhaustion supersets for the biceps are pretty straightforward. The basic idea is to perform a set of chin ups, rest 10 seconds and then immediately perform some type of curl.

Some good options for the curling exercise include preacher curls, incline curls, and spider curls.

Here is a biceps post-exhaustion superset performed by Dr. John Russin. Check it out:

Biceps Post-Exhaustion Superset

  • Exercise A1: Chin ups (supinated grip), 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: 30 degree incline spider DB curl (supinated grip), 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps, 10 seconds rest

Here is the training video:

This is a very straightforward way to train your biceps.

Chin ups are normally not the best biceps exercise. However, when performed as the first exercise in a biceps superset, they can be extremely effective.

If you are interested in targeting your brachialis muscle (rather than your biceps), then you can design a post-exhaustion superset to target that instead.

For example, here is a great brachialis post-exhaustion superset that you can try. Check it out:

Brachialis Post-Exhaustion Superset

  • Exercise A1: Pull ups (narrow / pronated grip), 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise A2: Seated DB Zottman curls, 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps

For reference, here is a video of Zottman curls:

This is a fantastic routine for anyone looking to bring up their brachialis size / strength.

The truth is, most people have an underdeveloped brachialis muscle, so this type of routine is ideal for correcting that issue.

If you are not familiar with the Zottman curl, it is a great way to eccentrically overload your brachialis muscle. You lift the weight with an underhand grip, and then lower the weight with a pronated grip.

You are stronger with a supinated grip, which means you can use a heavier-than-normal weight during the lowering portion of the lift.

How cool is that?

Part 2: Tricep Routines

The triceps are a very interesting muscle group.

Many people have built big, strong triceps using exclusively compound movements, or exclusively isolation movements. There are many great ways to train the triceps for size and strength.

Of course, using both types of movements in one post-exhaustion superset is also a great strategy!

In my experience, the best exercises to use at the start of a post-exhaustion superset include dips, and variations of the close grip bench press.

Here is a triceps routine using free weight dips that you can try. Check it out:

Triceps Post-Exhaustion Superset #1

  • Exercise A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/2/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Standing cable overhead extensions, 3-5 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Here is a perfect video demonstration of this routine:

This is an absolutely brutal way to train the triceps!

Research shows that dips are a superior exercise for hitting all three heads of the triceps, including the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.

The overhead rope extension primarily targets the long head of the triceps, but of course the other two heads are also recruited somewhat.

Another great way to design a post-exhaustion triceps routine is to start with a close grip bench press variation, and then move into some type of lying triceps extension. For example:

Triceps Post-Exhaustion Superset #2

  • Exercise A1: Floor press with bands, 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Exercise A2: Decline triceps extensions, 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps

Here is the training video:

This type of routine is especially good for targeting the lateral and medial heads of the triceps.

Of course, there are many other post-exhaustion superset routines you could use to build up your arms. However, these routines should be more than enough to get you started!

Part 5: Chest Routines

Who doesn’t want a big chest?

I think we have Arnold Schwarzenegger to thank for that. He may have competed in the 1970s, but he had arguably the best and most complete chest development of all time!

If your chest is flatter than a picnic table then these post exhaustion chest routines is just what you need!

Chest Post-Exhaustion Routine #1

  • Exercise A1: 15 degree incline DB press, 3-5 x 10-12, 3/2/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Machine pec-dec, 3-5 x 15-20, 2/0/1/1, 180 seconds rest

Here are some video demonstrations:

A1: 15 degree incline DB press

For example:

A2: Machine pec-dec

For example:

I imagine some of you are raising your eyebrows at me for recommending a 15 degree incline for the dumbbell press.

What the heck is an angle that small supposed to do, right?

Wrong!

One of the keys to making long-term progress is to constantly look for new exercises and training methods that you can use to challenge yourself.

There are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest reasons is to ensure optimal structural balance.

The shoulder joint is very easy to injure. You want to make sure you are strong at all pressing angles, even the 15 degree incline!

Many of my mentors including Charles Poliquin and f would agree with me on this one.

Actually, John Meadows is a big fan of these very slight inclines and declines for chest training.

Chest Post-Exhaustion Routine #2

  • Exercise A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 3-5 x 5-7, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: 30 degree incline Poliquin fly, 3-5 x 8-10, 3/1/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the videos:

A1: 30 degree incline bench press

For example:

A2: 30 degree incline Poliquin fly

For example:

This chest superset routine is particularly effective for maximizing muscular damage to the clavicular head of the pectoralis major.

The incline fly is probably the one exercise most of you will have questions on.

I am not necessarily a huge fan of the way most bodybuilders do flies. The range of motion is just too short to maximally stretch the pecs!

Instead, I recommend you do them the way Charles Poliquin taught:

With your arms almost all the way straight, bringing your hands in line with your ears in the bottom position, and rotating your palms out in the bottom position before coming back up.

You will have to reduce the weight on this exercise by quite a bit but the results are well worth it!

Part 6: Shoulder Routines

The shoulders are definitely one of the trickier muscle groups to train.

This is in part due to the fact that there are actually 7 separate heads of the deltoid muscle and the muscle fiber composition of the deltoids varies so much, even within individuals!

Simply put, you need to train the delts with a large variety of exercises and with a huge array of rep ranges for maximal hypertrophy.

Fortunately supersets fit the bill perfectly!

Shoulders Post-Exhaustion Routine #1

  • Exercise A1: Seated DB overhead press, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Seated DB partial lateral raise, 3-5 x 25-30, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

Here are the videos:

A1: Seated DB overhead press

For example:

A2: Seated DB partial lateral raise

For example:

This is a pretty straight-forward routine designed to beef up your side delts.

On the seated DB partial lateral raises I want you to select a weight that is HEAVIER than what you normally use.

I want you to go up about halfway, then come back down under control. Don’t worry, the higher rep range for this exercise will more than make up for the reduced range of motion.

Shoulders Post-Exhaustion Routine #2:

  • Exercise A1: Reeves Row, 3-5 x 10-12, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Rear delt pec-dec, 3-5 x 15-20, 2/0/1/2, 180 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos:

A1: Reeves Row

For example:

A2: Rear delt pec-dec

For example:

This routine is designed to target your rear delts.

I am willing to bet that most of you have not heard of the “Reeves Row.”

This exercise is named after Steve Reeves, the legendary bodybuilder from the golden era of bodybuilding.

The key is that you grab the 45 pound plates by the handle areas and then row the weight. This exercise will blow up your rear delts unlike anything you have ever done before!

Part 7: Upper Back Routines

The upper back is a little bit harder to train using a pure post-exhaustion training protocol. However, it is still possible if you are creative enough!

Upper Back Post-Exhaustion Routine #1

  • Exercise A1: Wide overhand grip pull ups, 3-5 x 5-7, 2/0/X/1, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Pullover machine, 3-5 x 12-15, 2/0/1/1, 180 seconds rest

Here are some videos to make sure you have the form down right.

A1: Wide overhand grip pull ups

For example:

A2: Pullover machine

For example:

If you are not strong enough to do several wide-grip pull ups then you can replace this exercise with wide-grip lat pulldowns (and perhaps increase the rep range slightly).

However, if this is the case, then you should seriously consider focusing on improving your foundation of strength before focusing on any fancy hypertrophy routines!

I think the pullover machine is one of the most under-rated machines for bodybuilders. It certainly worked for Dorian Yates to help him build one of the greatest backs of all time!

Upper Back Post-Exhaustion Routine #2:

  • Exercise A1: Seated cable rows, 3-5 x 8-10, 3/0/X/2, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Lying DB pullovers, 3-5 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the videos:

A1: Seated cable rows

For example:

A2: Lying DB pullovers

For example:

This is another excellent post-exhaustion superset that you can use to beef up your lats.

Part 8: Quadricep Routines

In order to do a proper post-exhaustion superset for the quadriceps you pretty much have to incorporate leg extensions.

This is because there really aren’t any other viable quadricep isolation exercises!

These two routines will still produce excellent results, but with my bodybuilding clients I tend to avoid leg extensions in favor of things like leg presses and hack squat machines.

Quadriceps Post-Exhaustion Routine #1:

  • Exercise A1: Back squat, 3-5 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Leg extension, 3-5 x 15-20, 3/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Dmitry Klokov and Dorian Yates will show us the way:

A1: Back squat

For example:

A2: leg extension

For example:

This is a great post-exhaustion superset that will do wonders for adding some serious size to your wheels.

I really recommend you keep the reps on the leg extension in the 15-20 range as this will make the exercise a little friendlier towards your knees.

Quadriceps Post-Exhaustion Routine #2

  • Exercise A1: Front squat, 3-5 x 4-6, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Leg extension, 3-5 x 15-20, 1/0/1/2, 180 seconds rest

Again Klokov and Yates show us the way:

A1: Front squat

For example:

A2: Leg extension

For example:

Front squats tend to stimulate the quadriceps a little bit better than back squats.

Therefore, routine will likely be even more effective than the first one for adding some serious size to your legs in record time.

Part 9: Hamstring Routines

Back in the introduction I teased that there was one major muscle group that does not respond well to post-exhaustion protocols.

I wasn’t lying – that muscle group is the hamstrings!

Actually, instead of using post-exhaustion routines for this muscle group, I recommend pre-exhaustion routines.

“What? I thought you told me post-exhaustion sets were better than pre-exhaustion sets! What gives Dr. Mike Jansen??”

Calm down, everything I said earlier still holds true. But the hamstrings are the exception to the rule.

The hamstrings have two major functions: knee flexion (leg curls) and hip extension (deadlifts, good mornings etc.).

During leg curls the hamstrings behave as extremely fast-twitch muscles and respond best to low reps with relatively heavy weight.

However, the opposite is true during hip extension movements: they start to behave like slow-twitch muscles on these exercises!

We want to train using lower reps on the first exercise in our superset and higher reps in the second exercise in our supersets.

When it comes to the hamstrings, that means super setting low-rep leg curls with high-rep hip extension movements.

In other worlds, we have to use pre-exhaustion supersets with the hamstrings for optimal results!

The good news is that designing highly effective pre-exhaustion supersets for the hamstrings is relatively easy.

Hamstrings Post-Exhaustion Routine #1

  • Exercise A1: Lying hamstring curl (feet plantarflexed / neutral), 3-5 x 4-6, 3/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Stiff-legged deadlift, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

Let’s take a look at some videos:

A1: Lying hamstring curl

For example:

A2: Stiff-legged deadlift

For example:

One of the keys on leg curls is to keep the rest of your body as still as possible and really concentrate on isolating your hamstrings muscles to the best of your ability.

The more you can force just your hamstrings to move the load the more effective the exercise will be!

For more tips on leg curls you can check out this article: The 21 Greatest Leg Curl Tips Ever!

Hamstrings Post-Exhaustion Routine #2

  • Exercise A1: Seated hamstring curl (feet plantarflexed / pointed in), 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0,  10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: 45 degree back extension w/ bands, 3-5 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2, 180 seconds rest

Here are the videos:

A1: Seated hamstring curl

For example:

A2: 45 degree back extension w/ bands

For example:

The banded 45 degree back extensions may seem a little strange, and I agree with elite powerlifters such as Matt Wenning and Chad Wesley Smith that you can get a little too carried away with bands if you aren’t careful.

However, this is one exercise where I feel the bands really shine. I would go so far as to say that using band tension like this is my favourite way of loading up the 45 degree back extension!

If you don’t have access to bands then you can just hold a DB at your chest to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Conclusion | Post-Exhaustion Supersets

Post-exhaustion supersets are a time-honored way to train for muscular hypertrophy.

These supersets cause a tremendous amount of micro-trauma in the muscles and are guaranteed to deliver some of the best pumps and some of the worse delayed onset muscle soreness of your life!

Break free from your boring “straight sets” routine and give post-exhaustion supersets a try. You can thank me later for the newfound muscle gains!

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!

 

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

Recent Posts