One of the hardest things for an individual to do, who has been weight training for a considerable time, is to think up new ways of continually keeping their body and their target muscles guessing. Training schedules should be varied approximately every 6-8 weeks to prevent any plateaus in your training and to keep motivational levels high.

So how can you bring about these changes? One way is to introduce new exercises. This is a viable option for novices, who have yet to experience all exercise options for each muscle group, but when you get to experienced lifters it becomes a case of been there, done that.

Your alternative option is to vary your exercise prescription. This can be as simple as altering the sets and repetitions you perform for any given exercise. Advanced examples of the latter include supersets and exhaustion sets.

Both supersets and exhaustion sets, also known as burnout sets, are utilised for hypertrophic purposes. Although they have the same end goal, they each vary in how they achieve this. This article will consider both variations and contemplate whether one is fundamentally better than the other.


This technique requires you to perform at least two sets of exercises back to back prior to any rest interval. An example of this during an arm workout might be; dumbbell bicep curls followed immediately by weighted triceps dips. Super-setting can be used to target one or more muscle groups in any given exercise coupling.

Exhaustion Sets

As the name suggests, the purpose of this exercise technique is to work you and your target muscles to exhaustion using an array of loads. An example of this technique can be demonstrated through the bench press. You initially select a load and perform as many as you can. When you can perform no more, you reduce the weight and go again and so on. The number of exhaustion drops you decide to perform to some extent is your decision.

So which exercise variable is better? Good question. As previously mentioned, both supersets and exhaustion sets bring about hypertrophic changes to the muscle. Supersets have been hypothesised to enhance more muscular definition and tone, whilst exhaustion sets have been linked more with pure muscular development and size due to its ability to create a lactic acid buildup in the target muscle. Lactic acid is ultimately responsible for testosterone and growth hormone stimulation and release, amongst others.

Final Word

In the end, your own personal training requirements and preference will steer you in the direction of one option over another, but even if this is the case, the other exercise alternative should not be omitted. Remember, your training career is likely to be long, so you need as much in terms of alternatives and variations as you can possibly get your hands on! Even if it’s utilised sparingly, either option has the ability to shock your muscles and keep them guessing from time to time.

Before signing off, it’s important to note that both supersets and exhaustion sets are advanced training techniques and shouldn’t be used by novices due for their potential to overload the target muscle and result in injury. Happy lifting.