Are you trying to find balance in your life? Statistics say you are. STOP. It doesn’t exist. Over the last 24 years, use of the term “work-life balance” in news and magazine articles has increased 4,500%.1 Balance is an illusion. The Art of Supersetting can be applied outside the gym to turn your fantasy of “balance” into a life of purpose.
Supersetyourlife.com is the official home to the Skullbellz™ product line, coaching services and resources centered around a single vision:
To develop a healthy, purpose-filled lifestyle,
focusing on the most tangible application: fitness.
What is a “superset” and how does it apply to you? Read below to find out what it means in terms of weight training, and how, once learned, it spills over into more important areas than sculpting a physique.
A superset is defined as two exercises performed consecutively without rest. The word SuperSet means much more to us. It means using one challenge to become better at the next.
Supersets have been popularized over the years to increase workout efficiency. For example, if you are going to perform ten sets of bench press and ten sets of chin-ups, why not cut your workout time in half by performing all of your chin-up sets in between sets of bench press? These two exercises were Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite superset2. Supersets were a regular part of his training, and then have become common practice in my workouts as well.
Recent studies have shown some shocking additional benefits to superset training. While it is reasonable to assume the performance for each exercise would decrease as the workout progressed, researchers have found that total volume load (weight x repetitions) per set increases when exercises are performed as supersets3. In other words, this method of training allows for a more productive workout in half the time.
“Everything in life is reps, reps, reps.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger
The art of supersetting is not limited to the gym; that’s just where this principle begins, in its most tangible form. You have a life outside the gym. You probably have a career, a spouse, children, a faith, and a passion; maybe even a combination of everything. All of these require your full commitment. But how is that possible? Wouldn’t time in the gym, meal prepping, working with a coach, and self-improvement take away from time invested into the things that matter most?
As our researchers found in the article referenced below, strategically alternating between two areas of focus can increase your return-on-investment in both. We work out and eat well because of how it affects us psychologically and emotionally. The physique is the inevitable byproduct.
Supersetting requires full engagement and focus to the muscle being worked. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in The Power of Full Engagement define full engagement as being:
- Physically energized
- Emotionally connected
- Mentally focused
- Spiritually aligned4
Anything less than full engagement results poor quality of work. Those who are close to you deserve the very best version of you, and that requires your full engagement.
Once the chest is exhausted from a set of ten reps on the bench press, assuming proper form and a strong mind-muscle connection were used, the lats are now ready to be used to execute a set of chin-ups. While performing reps on the chin-up bar, full engagement of the lats is required to effectively damage the right muscle fibers to signal the body to grow. Upon finishing the last rep, it is time to break just long enough for your heart rate and central nervous system to settle down a little, and get ready to work the chest again.
“If your body is working at peak levels, your brain will work more effectively as well.” –Anthony Robbins
Moshe Feldenkrais discovered that the isolated act of exercising improved the mental state, self-image, and brain function, summarizing that the quality of movement is the precursor to quality of life5. I have never woken up feeling like doing deadlifts, but I know that once I get warmed up, get my glutes and hamstrings activated, and pull my first working set, there is a divine feeling of power greater than all of the positive affirmations in the world or reading any book about “self-love.”
When one muscle is worked to fatigue, it is futile to continue to work that muscle (except for when you are using the advanced technique of training past failure). Anything more will be overkill, but it is a prime time to work an opposing muscle. When Arnold moved to Los Angeles, he was training for five hours a day to build muscle6. When he was in the gym he was so engaged he would not even take a phone call for an acting offer. At night, he devoted his time to learning how to speak English. That was one big SuperSet!
A life full of multi-tasking and so-called “balance” is unrealistic and unachievable. Progress only occurs when full engagement is applied. Quality time with your loved ones is only possible if all distractions are eliminated. When I squat, my mind is inside my quadriceps and not on anything else, otherwise they do not respond the way they should. When Taylor and I are on a date, my mind is 100% on her, otherwise our marriage is not what it should be.
When Jerry Seinfeld writes his material, he eliminates distractions to the point to where nothing exists in the world except the pen and the paper7. When a quality trainer is with a client, his attention is on how she feels, how she’s breathing, what her energy level is like, what her sleep quality is like, and what she had to eat earlier. All of these factors are important information for a trainer when considering what exercises to recommend, how much effort to exert, and how to recover.
Being present in the moment when your toddler is saying a new word is only possible if you put down your phone and help him repeat it and understand how to use it. Offering comfort and support to a friend who has suffered a loss can only be done if you put yourself in their shoes to understand what they’re dealing with. While full engagement for any of these situations requires active engagement, this is only sustainable if the other essential areas of life receive the attention they need by means of active disengagement from these very things.
If you believe in a higher power, that relationship you have is probably more important than any relationship on earth. When Taylor and I partake in Holy Communion at our church, we aren’t thinking about our children. We aren’t even thinking about each other. We are fully immersed in the presence of our God.
“Our bodies are our gardens…. Our wills are gardeners.” –William Shakespeare
When the COVID-19 pandemic sent the world into a panic, Taylor and I wanted to get this message across not only to our clients but also to as many people as could relate to it. We took inventory of what value we felt we could give and created supersetyourlife.com as a platform to attempt to live this way of life by example the best that any two imperfect humans could.
Just like more and more studies are beginning to prove, Supersetting the priorities in your life will yield similar rewards to benching and pulling. If a client leaves our training sessions having only moved closer to their goal, feels encouraged, and learned some new techniques, I would consider myself a failure. Each training session is an opportunity to teach the SuperSet philosophy to be applied into all areas of life—all of which are more important than lifting pieces of cast iron.
We pray that with or without our community that you will make the decision to SuperSet your life, fulfilling the purposes in which you are called, whether it’s in an office, in your own home, or within the confines of a global disaster, because no matter what challenges may be encountered, this is what you have control over.
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
- The One Thing, by Gary Keller, John Murray Publishers Lt, 2014, p. 75.
- The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Dobbins, Simon & Schuster USA, 2014, p. 193.
- DG;, Robbins DW;Young WB;Behm. “The Effect of an Upper-Body Agonist-Antagonist Resistance Training Protocol on Volume Load and Efficiency.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20847705/.
- Loehr, J. E., and T. Schwartz. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Free Press, p. 197.
- Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, by Tony Robbins. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015, p. 159.
- The New Comedy Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Writing & Performing Stand-up Comedy, by Judy Carter. Indie Books International, 2020, p. 17.
- Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2012, p. 137-139.