Mixing the Loading Strategies with Supersets

By By Diane Vives, M.S., C.S.C.S., C.P.T. – July 1, 2014
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

Loading the body causes it to adapt to demands. That load, however, must always fall within the boundaries of an individual’s limitations of mobility, motor control, and strength. Once there is a strong foundation, we can then creatively add load to movements.

A strong foundation is established through a spectrum of movements performed at body weight. Then, intensity is built through small, incremental steps of progression. This is definitely the precursor to the challenging movements seen incorporated into training programs and used by professionals who have gained versatility in movement and loads through training tools and toys found in gyms. If movements are taken out of context or done without that important foundational training, the risk versus reward equation may definitely skew more heavily toward risk. The movements here showcase some creative tools and combinations to be utilized once a strong foundation has been established. If you question whether you are ready, any of the many certified trainers in Austin can assist in building your exercise menu and progressions toward the correct entry point for success. There are many ways to “go big” and still be smart about taking care of your body at the same time. 

Supersets like these incorporate total body movement for increased intensity of the single exercise as well as build to a higher intensity circuit. The first strategy combines two exercises that work different planes of motion; the second strategy involves two movements that change from a bilateral load to a unilateral load. The nature of movement training is to build a full spectrum of movement ability and then transfer these increased capabilities to activities that we love.  This is where the true reward in training is experienced and brings on the smiles.

Superset 1: Sagittal and Frontal Plane Movement

Forward Lunge with Vertical Pullover

Purpose: This is a combination movement in a plane of motion—the sagittal plane (forward and backward)—that dominates everyday activity. The lightweight steel mace used provides an asymmetrical load through an extended lever arm away from the body’s center. The starting position of the movement also gives great vertical core work, with the upper body position creating an increased posterior load.


  1. Start by standing tall and establishing a strong vertical plank. Reach with the mace over and behind the head while maintaining the vertical plank position. 
  2. Load and engage the lats, aligning the upper arm with the torso.
  3. Lunge forward while maintaining a hip-width stance with the feet; at the same time, perform a vertical pullover until the arms are extended forward from the shoulders.
  4. Make sure to create a stable base in the lunge position and keep the torso vertical.
  5. Push off the front heel to return to the start position with a smooth, controlled motion. 

Lateral Lunge and Rotation with Uneven Load

Purpose: Strong lateral movements are often overlooked in training but are a major component of decelerating and reaccelerating in agility moves that benefit everyday life activity and sport. The lunge involves the frontal plane of motion and the mace provides an asymmetrical load outside the base of support to increase the movement’s intensity. 


  1. Stand tall and hold the mace with both hands in a prone grip. The weighted side of the mace should be on the side you are lunging toward.
  2. Perform a side lunge with toes pointing forward at all times. The weighted side of the mace should be held on the same side as the direction of movement.
  3. At the same time, move the weighted part of the mace by rotating the body. The mace will then be outside the base of support, causing an overload of frontal plane at the end range of motion. 
  4. Only rotate the upper body to the range of motion that can be reached while maintaining a static and stable lower body and base of support.
  5. Movements should be very smooth and controlled.
  6. Push off the heel of the lunging foot to extend the leg while rotating the upper body back to the start position. 

Superset 2: Bilateral and Unilateral Movement

Rollout on Ball

Purpose: The pulling motion here is performed bilaterally (two-armed, symmetrical position), emphasizing the lat pull, while the prone plank on ball uses an unstable base of support that challenges the core and upper body. The intensity is further challenged by loading the movement by flexing the shoulder and reaching the upper arm forward to extend the lever arm.


  1. Start in a plank position by placing the elbows on the ball, directly under the shoulders, and with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Flex the shoulders and reach forward with the elbows until the upper arms are aligned with torso to perform the rollout, all while maintaining the plank position. 
  3. Perform a lat pull by bringing the elbows back to the start position and continuing to maintain the plank.
  4. If holding the plank position is too difficult, start with a shorter range of motion on the rollout and only go as far as possible while maintaining correct form. 

Suspended Single-Arm Row with Rotation

Purpose: This single-armed unilateral load using straps creates high core demand while performing a pulling motion in a suspended position. The rotational movement added to the beginning and end adds a challenge to maintaining a plank.


  1. Leaning backward from the anchor straps, start in a side plank position with ankle, knee, hips and shoulders aligned; hold the handles with a single extended arm.
  2. Pull up and rotate toward the strap’s anchor by performing a single arm row and reaching up the straps with your free arm extended.
  3. In a very slow and controlled movement, return to the start position.
  4. Always maintain plank alignment; don’t let the hips collapse by sagging or over-compensate by arching the back.
  5. If you lose position, stop and discontinue the set. Never push or pull through a collapsed plank position; simply stop and lower the knees to end the movement.


During the learning phase, these supersets can be broken into single exercises to ensure form and technique; later, they can be put together to increase the intensity of the set while challenging a wide spectrum of movement. When the supersets are combined, they create a circuit that truly challenges total body movement and strength endurance. Remember to always use light to moderate loads with challenging new movements that incorporate combinations dependent on complex coordination. 

Have fun and move.



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