Just in case you haven't heard, there's no magic pill for building killer legs overnight. But if there's a secret ingredient to Dymatize-sponsored athlete Erin Stern's leg workouts, it's supersets.
"I love doing supersets, especially when trying to lean down," explains Stern. "You keep your heart rate up and train opposing muscle groups. It's like getting weight training and cardio in one!"
As Stern explains in her 4-week Elite Body Fitness Trainer, supersets also help you train more efficiently and maximize growth by pushing massive amounts of blood into the working muscles. Here she shares her four favorite supersets, as well as how she uses them in her program.
Superset 1: Dynamic Step-Up and Straight-Legged Romanian Deadlift
Dynamic step-ups are exactly what they sound like: a plyometric version of their step-up, step-down cousin.
"I love beginning a workout with something athletic," says Stern. "This combination trains every muscle in the legs, and it raises your heart rate."
If you're new to dynamic step-ups, or if you have an injury that prevents you from jumping, try stepping up and down from a box or bench instead.
Following up immediately with Romanian deadlifts allows for a bit of active recovery after the step-ups. Keep your legs straight but not locked out as you lift. Focus on using your glutes.
Rest just long enough between supersets to recover for the next set, about 45 seconds. "This will keep your heart rate up," explains Stern, "so you'll get the benefits of weight training and cardio.
- Dynamic step-up: 3-4 sets of 20 total reps, 10 per leg
- Straight-legged Romanian deadlift: 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Superset 2: Zercher Squat and Hip Thrust
"I love this superset because it targets the quads first, then the glutes," explains Stern. She prefers to use the Smith machine for her Zercher squats for added stability. "Depending on the angle, Zerchers will hit the quads," Stern explains, "while the hip thrusts hit glutes and hamstrings."
Training opposing muscle groups in a superset allows each group to recover while the other works, and two compound movements in a row will get your heart racing. Stern has one more pro tip for those extra-crowded gym days. "If the gym is crowded, you can just do the hip thrusts on the Smith machine as well," she says.
- Zercher squat: 4 sets of 8 reps
- Hip thrust: 4 sets of 8 reps
Superset 3: Landmine Squat and Landmine Deadlift
Though this leans more toward being a compound set, the landmine offers major appeal as a total-body training tool using just one piece of equipment.
"The landmine is great for its simplicity, added stability, for taking pressure off the lower back, and for encouraging proper form," explains Stern.
If you have knee or back problems or have struggled to find the right squat form, the landmine is a great solution, since it takes the load off the spine.
It is very easy to transition between these two different movements simply by changing your grip, which is why the landmine is also an ideal tool for supersets. And with the results she's seen from using this variation, Stern is happy to recommend it to anyone looking to build their legs.
"The landmine squat builds the legs as well as traditional squats—without the stress—and it encourages proper form," she explains. "This makes it perfect for all skill levels."
- Landmine squat: 5 sets of 8 reps
- Landmine deadlift: 5 sets of 8 reps
Superset 4: Good Morning and Inverted Row
Train that posterior chain with this unconventional superset. "I love combining muscle groups that don't normally get trained together," explains Stern. "This prevents getting stuck on a plateau and can even help you get leaner!"
This is another perfect superset for when the gym is crowded. You just need the squat rack and a few minutes to get your entire workout in.
"I often chose supersets that only use one piece of equipment," says Stern. "I love training like this when the gym is busy!"
By hitting the entire posterior chain—from the glutes and hamstrings to the upper back—this killer superset burns a ton of calories and builds total-body strength.
- Good morning: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Inverted row: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps