Create Better Supersets Using Drivers

If you’ve trained clients, athletes, or even yourself for any extended period of time, chances are you’ve used supersets in your programming.

Supersets are a great tool to have in the toolbox. The most common way to use supersets is within a fat loss or more general training program, where you’ll alternate exercises for non-competing muscle groups.

An example would be an exercise like a squat, which focuses on the lower body, paired with a bench press, which focuses on the upper body.

Something that I’ve always used to some degree is what I call a “driver” to get a better postural adaption with my clients and athletes.

A driver is a very focused or specific superset where the goal is to drive or facilitate a specific change or adaptation within the body.

A driver is NOT a “filler” exercise. I’m not throwing random crap into my workouts (especially in between sets) just to keep moving and feeling like I’m “doing something.”

Every aspect of your program should have a rationale behind it. If you can’t explain why it’s in there, you’re probably better off taking it out!

Below are three types of drivers that I’ve used with my clients and athletes. Chances are, you can immediately take something away from this and use with someone you know!

#1 – The Activation Driver

Janda's Lower Crossed Syndrome

This may be the most common type of driver you see. I’m not even sure when I started using these, but I’m pretty sure it had to have been in 2003 or 2004 when I really dug into Janda’s work.

The goal with an activation driver is to lengthen or inhibit a specific muscle group (or groups), and then activate the muscles on the opposite side of the joint.

If we’re being even more specific, we could say we’re trying to reduce stiffness on one side of the joint, while increasing stiffness on the opposite side (although that’s true in almost all of these cases!).

Here are a couple of examples:

  • An ankle mobility drill paired with an activation drill for the dorsiflexors.
  • A hip flexor stretch paired with a glute bridge.
  • A pec stretch paired with a shoulder circuit (such as the I, T, Y series).
  • Foam rolling or mobilizing the hip adductors/internal rotators, then pairing this with a facilitation drill for the hip abductors/external rotators.

The key here is that these are low-load exercises. You’re simply trying to turn something off, and then teach someone how to turn the opposing muscle group on. The emphasis here is not on load, so much as it is motor control.

This driver is best used pre-workout.

#2 – The Limitation Driver

A limitation driver still starts with a mobility or flexibility exercise, but it’s then paired with a strength exercise.

The goal here is simple: We often have one major issue that holds us back from executing a lift with proper technique. Why not address that limitation in-between work sets?

Not only will this give us more reps of our corrective work, but it’s also going to allow us to cement a more effective motor pattern (or at least one that’s closer to ideal).

Remember – practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

The goal here is to get more and more reps that are close to perfect.

Here are a couple examples of limitation drivers:

  • T-spine extension work paired with a squatting pattern.
  • Ankle mobility work paired with a squatting pattern.
  • T-spine extension work paired with an overhead press.
  • Foam roll or static stretch hip flexors paired with a split-squat.

Remember, the goal here is simple: To really attack the primary limitation, and then reinforce high quality reps with a better movement pattern.

I’ll typically use this on the main exercise or lift for that training day, but you can really use it anywhere it’s appropriate.

#3 – The Strength Driver

The final type of driver I use in my programs is called a strength driver. Like the name implies, this is when I combine a superset for two strength exercises.

Do I want to use non-competing exercises? Sure

But more importantly, I use the first exercise to really “cement” better movement in the second exercise.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of examples here. But the one I do have is pretty darn good, and I use it with great success with my clients and athletes.

  • Half/Tall-Kneeling upper body exercise paired with a hip extension pattern.
  • Half/Tall-Kneeling Exercise upper body exercise with a squat pattern.

I really like use tall and half-kneeling exercises to drive hip extension. For example, try supersetting a half-kneeling cable push or pull with a pull-through.

The half-kneeling exercise teaches you to stabilize using your core and glutes, while simultaneously allowing you to shut off your hip flexors.

You then follow that up immediately with a strengthening exercise to facilitate better hip extension. What you’ll find is that you do these 2, 3 or even 4 times; your pull-through pattern cleans up immensely.

I also use these with tall-kneeling patterns superset with squatting/deadlifting patterns. The tall-kneeling helps “square” my clients up, and then I cement that posture or patterning with a big-bang lift.

Summary

While I’ve dabbled with the concept of “drivers” for years, really fleshing it out and making it something usable for my readers is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

However, I feel with some of the concepts and frameworks I’ve provided, you can start getting more out of your supersets by including drivers. The key is to understand the end goal, and then develop programming that helps you achieve said goal in a safe and effective manner.

Good luck and good training!

Stay strong

MR

P.S. – If you want more info on how I use supersets in my programming, along with real examples, be sure to check out my Chicago In-Service DVD’s or streaming video!

13 Comments

Leave Comment

  1. Thanks for the great article, the idea of using drivers within your supersets is a great idea, and a concept that will help my programming tremendously. Thanks for the great article, and I absorbed some great info at the elite training seminar this weekend.
    Thanks!

  2. Great post Mike. I went through Eric Cressey “Show & Go” Program a few months back and he incorporated all three drivers into the program. This was my first time seeing this format in program design. Unfortunately he didn’t explain in greater detail what his intentions behind them but after reading your article it has now made more sense to me. Thanks for shedding light on this.

    • My pleasure Vincent!

      I know I’m not the first to use these, but I’m doing my best to explain the “concepts” behind each.

      I hope it helped!

  3. With clients who have a difficult time activating certain muscle groups for lifts (for example, someone who has a hard time using their glutes in a box squat and tends to want all the work to come from the quads), I would begin with a glute bridge to get the muscle firing and then go straight into a box squat.

    I’ll try using the tall-kneeling first instead this week and see how it works with my clients. If anything they’ll enjoy the variety!

    Thanks for the great articles – can’t tell you how much I use things I learn from here with my clients.

  4. Yes! Always great to see programming in the industry take postural breakdowns into consideration. Such an important concept that needs to be addressed with everyone from the elite athlete to gen pop joe. Like the ideas, thanks – Greg

  5. Nice article Mike. I have been doing this with clients for some time now but this article re emphasised the importance of making the driver specific to your assessment and the movement it is paired with. Will begin to integrate some more tall and 1/2 kneeling stuff!

  6. Love this stuff Mike. People disguise dysfunction with fitness. These are awesome, no one can make the argument they don’t need this.

  7. Great stuff Mike. I have been using this concept with my athletes for a while and just wanted to share that a great benefit of the tall and half kneeling work when paired with high load compressive movements (squats, deads, etc), especially lifts and OH movements, is that it allows the athlete to “get up” a bit in between sets and counterthe compression…which has been a big problem with many of our athletes.

    As always, thanks for the great information.

  8. wow, terrific article (as usual). This one really shed light, though: I been working on Tspine mobility for a while. I always do this throughout the day, though. I don’t do it in between squatting sessions, etc. I do it in the morning, at lunch, and then before dinner. I’m conscious of my Tspine and posture while under the bar but actually doing so extension, activation etc between sets at the gym…now I think this is brilliant. We get so set in our patterns yknow? Excellent. Thanks a bunch.

  9. Mike,

    I especially like the strength driver part of this article. Great way to Pre-stretch the hip flexors prepping the posterior chain for some heavy work in a squatting or dead pattern. Will definitely incorporate this into some heavy posterior chain blocks with my athletes!

Leave a Reply


Back to All Posts