Muscular man doing a pull-up on a black metal bar.

If you’re new to the world of strength training and weight lifting, you might be asking yourself, what is a superset? Supersets are a way of grouping specific exercises together in sets of two or more to get the most out of each motion and create a rhythm between exertion and rest.

You might group your supersets by the type of equipment used in the exercises, the muscles that are being worked with each motion, or by difficulty. As with all exercises, there are variations and alternate equipment that you can use to get the same result in a way that best suits you, but for the purposes of this article, we are sticking to free weights.

Shoulder Supersets

The shoulder-specific supersets will help target all of the muscles in your shoulder from your biceps and pecs to your delts and all the way into your back. Strong shoulders help maintain good posture and increase your lifting ability, especially for things above your head.

If any of the sets are too difficult, feel free to reduce the reps in each set. For example, if the prescribed number of reps is 12, try to do 12 in the first set, then try for 10 in the second set, and then you only have to do 8 in the final set. The same goes for the weight you are using, if it’s too much, move down and get to a point where that is easy before moving back up. 

Add this superset shoulder workout into your fitness routine to build your strength, grow your muscles, and maybe even relieve some upper back and neck pain.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press & Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The overhead press is a simple and popular exercise to work the shoulders and upper back. Start with a weight you know you can handle and work your way up. Once you get into weights that are challenging, you will want to consider working with a spotter.

Since you’re raising weight over your head, posture is an incredibly important part of performing an overhead press safely. If you have a tendency to roll your shoulders forward or overreach your back, use the seatback of a bench to hold yourself up in the correct posture.

The same issue of leaning forward will cause problems with the lateral raise as well. You might be tempted to bend your torso forward, but this shift in position can actually have you doing another exercise that we’ll take a look at below.

Another thing to keep in mind when doing the lateral raise is to not bob your head. Keeping your back and neck straight will help you not only avoid injury but successfully target the specific muscle areas that the exercise is intended to work.

If you find that you are struggling to maintain proper posture or that your head is moving around a lot, you might be using weights that are too heavy. Go down a set or two and work through the motion in the correct posture, only moving up when you can keep that posture with the heavier weight.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 

Muscular woman in workout attire seated on a bench with her arms raised in an L shape with dumbbells in each hand held above her shoulders.

  1. Start in a seated position with a dumbbell in each hand raised up so that your elbow is at the same height as your shoulders with your forearm at a 90° angle. 
  2. Keep your chest up as you push your elbows up and your hands together over your head.
  3. Maintain control as you lower back to the starting position and be careful not to let your elbows fall below shoulder height. 
  4. Repeat for 12 reps
  5. Take 30 seconds of rest before moving on to the second exercise in the set.

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Muscular man in black shorts and running shoes with his arms stretched out to the sides and a dumbbell in each hand.

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and a light dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you raise your arms out to the sides and up to shoulder height.
  3. Hold for a brief pause at the top of the motion.
  4. Maintain control as you lower your arms back down.
  5. Repeat for 15 reps.
  6. Take 60 seconds of rest before repeating the set from the first exercise
  7. Repeat for 3 sets.

 

Kettlebell Front Raise & Reverse Dumbbell Fly

Front raises are an excellent exercise with a host of variations that allow you to perform the motion with nearly every kind of free weight. In addition to the kettlebell, you can also use a single dumbbell held by one end, a plate weight gripped at the sides like a steering wheel, a medicine ball, and the list goes on.

The most important thing with the kettlebell front raise is to maintain control through the motion to avoid swinging through either the top or the bottom of the motion. The weight should never pass fully between your legs nor so high that you risk swinging the weight back towards your face.

For the reverse dumbbell fly, you can perform the motion either lying face down on a bench or standing with your torso leveled almost horizontally as you bend at the hips. If you feel unstable or are moving around a lot trying to do the reverse fly from a standing position, try placing your forehead on the back of a bench or against a wall to stabilize yourself.

This is another exercise where too much weight can negatively impact your posture, so be sure to start light and work your way up gradually. 

Kettlebell Front Raise

Muscular man in black shorts holding a weight out in front of him with arms extended.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell in front of your legs with both hands.
  2. Keep your back straight and your chest up as you lift the kettlebell up in front of you with your arms extended
  3. Pause at the top of the motion.
  4. Maintain control as you lower your arms back down and be careful not to drop your shoulders and swing through the bottom of the motion. 
  5. Repeat for 12 reps.
  6. Take 30 seconds of rest before moving on to the second exercise in the set.

Reverse Dumbbell Fly

Muscular man in black shorts and white running shoes bent over with arms extended up and out at shoulder height holding a dumbbell in each hand.

  1. Either lie face-down on an incline bench or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend at your hips to hold your chest at a horizontal incline with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows as you drive them up and back to lift the weights to shoulder height. 
  3. Hold for a brief pause at the top of the motion.
  4. Maintain control as you lower your arms back down.
  5. Repeat for 12 reps.
  6. Take 60 seconds of rest before repeating the set from the first exercise
  7. Repeat for 3 sets.

 

Barbell Military Press & Barbell Upright Row

The military press is another type of overhead press that is traditionally done with a barbell. This adds stability and is also easier to move past your face and over your head with the close grip used than dumbbells.

As with all overhead presses, start with a lower weight and slowly work your way up. Don’t hesitate to work with a spotter if you are unsure or are training with heavier loads in general.

The upright barbell row pairs nicely for this set as you can continue to use the same barbell for each, though you may want to reduce the weight for the row. Like the other front-raising exercises, it’s important to keep your back straight and your head in place to avoid jutting your chin out to meet the bar.  

Barbell Military Press 

Muscular man holding a weighted barbell under his chin.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the barbell at shoulder level with your palms facing forward in a fairly close grip. 
  2. Drive through your heels as you push upwards and extend your arms to bring the barbell over your head. 
  3. Pause for a brief hold at the top of the motion
  4. Maintain control as you lower the barbell back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10 reps
  6. Take 30 seconds of rest before moving on to the second exercise in the set.

Barbell Upright Row

Woman in workout attire holding a barbell at chest level with and overhand grip and her elbows pointing up and out.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a barbell in front of you with your palms facing you. 
  2. Keep your back straight and your head up as you lift your elbows up and to the side to pull the barbell towards your chin.
  3. Hold for a moment at the top of the motion.
  4. Maintain control as you lower your arms back to the start position.
  5. Repeat for 10 reps.
  6. Take 60 seconds of rest before repeating the set from the first exercise.
  7. Repeat for 3 sets.

 

Dumbbell L Raise & Dumbbell Shrugs

L raises are very similar to standard lateral raises except that you will tuck your elbows in with your forearms at a 90° angle and maintain this positioning as you bring your elbows up to level your arms with your shoulders. You should be able to feel how this slight adjustment targets totally different parts of the shoulder.

Also in line with the lateral raise, if you attempt the L raise with too heavy a weight you will likely disrupt your posture which can put you at risk for injury. You might be tempted to use momentum to lift through the motion but this is not only dangerous but also defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Dumbbell L Raise 

Muscular man in a teal muscle shirt with his arms raised in an L shape to shoulder height with dumbbells in each hand.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand held in front of you with your elbows tucked in at your sides and your forearms at a 90° angle.
  2. Keep the angle of the elbow the same as you pull your elbows and forearms up to the sides until they are level with your shoulders. 
  3. Hold for a brief pause at the top of the motion.
  4. Maintain control as you lower your arms so that your elbows are tucked back at your sides.
  5. Repeat for 12 reps.
  6. Take 30 seconds of rest before moving on to the second exercise in the set.

Dumbbell Shrugs

A pair of images of the same man in a black Tshirt and shorts holding dumbbells in each hand with relaxed shoulders in the first image and shrugged shoulders in the second.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand held in a natural position down at your sides with your palms facing towards you.
  2. Keep your head up and your back straight as you lift your shoulders up towards your ears while keeping your arms relaxed at your sides.
  3. Squeeze your shoulders together as you pause at the top of the motion.
  4. Relax your shoulders back down to return to the start position.
  5. Repeat for 12 reps.
  6. Take 60 seconds of rest before repeating the set from the first exercise.
  7. Repeat for 3 sets

 

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