Get Stronger in Half the Time

Use these three bodyweight supersets to build strength in less time. Credit: Getty Images

Build more muscle in less time with a time-tested technique called supersets. This pairs non-competitive exercises back-to-back — like pushing with your chest and then pulling with your back — with little or no rest in between. While the muscle group for one move engages, the other is recovering. Another non-competitive example stacks a hip hinge (squats) after a vertical pulling exercise (pull-ups).

While there are many fancy ways to combine exercises, not all supersets are created equally. And just because a superset is exhausting doesn't mean it's effective, or safe. For example, avoid pairing heavy barbell squats and barbell deadlifts as they both compress your spine and are metabolically demanding (grueling). This superset may cause a lower-back injury due to your fatigued state.

These bodyweight supersets are designed to minimize injury risk, but work the three fundamental strength movements: push, pull, and hip hinge. Plus there's no gym required (just a pull-up bar), so you can fast-track your workout while burning calories and sparking new muscle growth anyplace, anytime.

To see results, do this superset program three times per week, on nonconsecutive days, for four weeks. Perform each pair of exercises — for example, 1A and 1B, or 2A and 2B — as a superset. That is, do 15 reps of the first move followed immediately by 15 reps of the second move. Rest 45 seconds. That's one superset. Perform three supersets of each paired exercise before moving on to the next.

Superset 1: Speed Squat + Chin-Up (Hip Hinge and Vertical Pull)

1A. Speed Squat: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides. As fast as possible, push your hips back until your thighs are parallel to the floor and move your arms straight out in front of you. Stand quickly and throw your arms down slightly behind your hips to build momentum. Without pausing, repeat the movement.

1B. Chin-Up: Grab a chin-up bar with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing you. Hang at arm's length and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Bend your elbows and pull the bar into your chest. Pause, squeeze your upper-back muscles, and lower yourself until your arms are straight. Pause and stop your momentum at the bottom. That's one rep. Repeat.

Superset 2: Floor Lat Row + Hindu Push-Up (Horizontal Pull and Horizontal Push)

2A. Floor Lat Row: Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tense your abdomen as if you are bracing for a gut punch. Raise your legs off the floor so your hips and knees are bent 90 degrees. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive your elbows into the floor to lift your upper torso off the ground. Pause, then return to the start. To make it easier, keep your legs straight and on the floor.

2B. Hindu Push-Up: Get down on the floor, on all fours, and place your hands a bit wider than shoulder width. Set your feet close together. Move your feet forward and raise your hips so your body forms an A (like a Downward Dog pose). Keep your hips elevated as you bend your elbows to lower your body until your nose nearly touches the floor. Now lower your hips until they almost touch the floor and, at the same time, raise your entire chest toward the ceiling. Pause, reverse the movement, and return to the start position. That's one rep.

Superset 3: Pike Shoulder Press + Eccentric Lat Pull-Up (Vertical Push and Pull)

3A. Pike Shoulder Press: Start in a regular push-up position, with straight arms and hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Now walk your feet forward and drive your hips to the ceiling so that your torso is almost perpendicular to the floor. From this position, bend your elbows until your head nearly touches the floor. Pause, and then press the floor away from you until your elbows are nearly locked. That's one rep.

3B. Eccentric Lat Pull-Up: Stand on a box or sturdy object placed under a pull-up bar. Grab the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you). The box should be tall enough that your elbows are bent to 90 degrees and eyes are above the bar. Pull your shoulder blades back and down, then take three seconds to slowly lower yourself until your arms are completely extended. Step up to the starting position and repeat.