Combined Approaches

Combined approaches and super-sets are among the first quality methods in bodybuilding.

The combined approaches offer a consecutive execution of two exercises for the same muscle group, preferably under different angles.

The main idea behind this principle, is the gradual, multi-layered hypertrophy of the musculature.

We have a couple of options for this principle:

  1. For the first exercise, we use moderate intensity, and the second exercise is done until failure (off-season). The goal with this option is to prepare our musculature and the cardio-respiratory system with the first exercise, while the high intensity used during the second exercise, provides the required hypertrophy stimulus for our body.
  2. First exercise is intense, done until failure, and the second exercise has a limited intensity (cutting period). The goal of this combination is to achieve higher density while still having stimulating intensity.
  3. Both exercises are done with moderate intensity (Beginner phase/Transition period). The goal here is to achieve a successful transition to higher levels of intensity.

It is important to note that we can use various combinations with this principle. The best period of our preparation, in which we can use combined approaches is the cutting phase. This is simply because, through combined approaches, we achieve a relatively higher density of the workload.

Using this method, we also have the possibility to include various exercises for the same muscle group, under different angles. That allows us to activate every sector of the given muscle group.

The options listed above, have different requirements when it comes to rest times between sets. For example, if we do the second exercise right after completing the first, warm up exercise (Option number 1), the activated blood flow and optimally warmed up musculature, will allow a complete energetic exhaustion in anaerobic-alactate conditions.

In option number 2, where the aim is maximum blood flow (pump) to the musculature, it is recommended for the second exercise to start after a 30-40 second rest.

This is due to the fact, that 30 seconds after the set until failure, we observe a strong blood flow to the working muscle, therefore, using the second exercise, we will be able to realize it’s maximum pump potential as well, which will deliver the required amount of nutrients to the deepest part of the muscle fibers.

Using combined approaches in the long term, certainly leads to a stimulation of the mitochondrial tissue, as well as a better capillarization of the musculature.

Combined approaches and supersets, are two methods that can be successfully applied during every period of your yearly cycle, if we change the intensity appropriately.

Examples Of Combined Approaches
Body Part Exercise Sets
Chest Flat barbell bench press + dumbbell flys
Incline dumbbell bench press + pec deck
Back Cable rows + Seal rows
Dead-lifts + Narrow grip lat pull-downs
Shoulders Military press + Front dumbbell raises
Behind the neck shoulder press + Lateral dumbbell raises
Biceps EZ-Bar standing curls + Pulley cable curls
Seated barbell curls + Dumbbell preacher curls
Triceps Close grip bench press + Skull crushers
Parallel bar dips + Rope push-downs
Thighs Back squats + leg extensions
Leg press + Barbell lunges
Hamstrings Romanian dead-lift + hamstring curls
Calves Standing + Seated calf raises

The first (basic, compound) movement for each exercise is pointed at higher levels of intensity, while the second exercise is an isolated movement, for which we mostly use dumbbells or cable machines.

The other way around- First exercise being an isolated movement, while the second exercise is a compound movement, is the so-called principle of Pre-exhaustion, which, again proves the connection between all the bodybuilding principles and methods.


Practice shows that the combined approaches are usually used when we train our limbs, which imposes the combination between this principle and the principle of muscle isolation.

Two exercises done in consecutive order, inevitably lead to an unknown stress for the activated musculature, and from there, we can consider that a priority stimulation.

This method can be considered an introduction to the ‘quality’ training. Two consecutive exercises can be a great example for economy (Economy principle).

We already talked about the similarities and differences between the methods of combined approaches and super-sets. As one of the first quality methods, combined approaches are a natural start-off position to them, which shouldn’t be neglected when we start researching and applying other principles like the triple and giant sets.

Bodybuilders successfully combine this method with the principles of peak flexion, constant tension and methods that require higher intensity.

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