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Cluster Set Training

April 29, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Overview

Cluster Set Training involves performing a set with built-in short rest periods of 10-30 seconds. Cluster Sets are used primarily to increase relative-strength and the short rest periods allow more reps with a heavier weight to be performed.

There still lies the potential for Cluster Sets to be pushed into higher rep ranges of 8-10 and stimulate muscular hypertrophy for those seeking size over strength.


How To Perform

To perform a Cluster Set choose a compound movement typically using a heavy weight say a 5RM. Rather than performing the entire set at once Cluster Sets essentially break the set of 5 reps into 3-4 mini sets of 2-3 reps, with a 10-30 seconds rest period (re-rack bar) between each mini set. This potentially allows a lifter to perform a total of 6-8 reps or more using the same weight as a 5RM.

Cluster Set Training is very adaptable and can be altered to suit specific goals, using weights (loads) of 80%-90% of a 1RM will primarily improve raw strength, however for the fitness/physique athlete the load can be reduced (60%-70% of 1RM) and rep range increased to 8-12 to primarily target increases in hypertrophy, see the examples below:

Strength Cluster Set

Written as: 5 (6×1)-20 sec w/ 3RM

This shows a total of 5 Cluster Sets, with each set made up of mini-sets of 1 rep (6×1) with 20 sec rest between each mini-set using a heavy 3RM. Each set is performed for a total of 6 reps, however only 1 rep is performed at a time with a short rest of 20 seconds. By doing so fatigue is kept to a bare minimum allowing for multiple explosive reps at a heavy weight.

Hypertrophy Cluster Set

Written as: 5 (5×4)-15 sec w/ 10RM

Hypertrophy Cluster Sets are performed in the same manner a total of 5 Cluster Sets, each made up of 5 mini-sets of 4 reps (5×4) with 15 sec rest between each using a 10RM. Essentially a total of 20 reps using a 10RM is performed for each Cluster Set, the higher rep ranges make this suited to the physique/fitness athlete enhancing the potential for increased hypertrophy (muscle growth) as opposed to pure strength.

Workout Programming

The strength and power focus of Cluster Set training and the requirement to re-rack/rest the weight on a rack or floor means Clusters are best performed using compound barbell movements such as: squats, deadlifts, bench press or olympic weightlifting movements. There is potential to utilize dumbbells, machines or cables with Hypertrophy Cluster Sets, however these pieces of equipment would be put to better use within Myo-Reps when fatigue and sarcoplasmic (muscle fluid) growth are the goal.

Performing Cluster Sets is far more taxing than traditional set structures due to the increase in volume and heavier training load that is held constant across all repetitions. Cluster Sets are best performed for 2-3 weeks during a purposeful intense training period that is followed by a planned deload week.


Advantages

Cluster Set Training bridges the divide between heavy low volume protocols such as (5×5) and higher volume methods (3×8), with its benefits stemming from the ability to perform more reps with heavier weight.

5×5 vs. Cluster Training

Using a 5RM Barbell Bench Press of 100kg a typical 5×5 program would only allow a lifter to use 80%-90% of their true 5RM across all sets.

With the Strength Cluster method a total of 5 sets will be performed, each broken into 4 mini sets of 2 reps with 15 seconds rest between where the bar is re-racked every 2 reps, this allows a heavier load (90%-100% of 5RM) and increased volume of 8 reps (4×2) to be used, resulting in greater potential for strength increases.

Training Volume (V)= Sets (S) x Reps (R) x Weight (W)

Calculations as below:

Traditional 5 x 5 Protocol (@ 80% of 100kg 5RM)

80% of 100kg 5RM = 80kg

Training Volume (V) = Sets (S) x Reps (R) x Weight (W)

Training Volume (V) = 5 x 5 x 80kg

Training Volume (V) = 2000 kg

5 Clusters of (4×2) with 15 seconds rest (@100% of 100kg 5RM)

100% of 100kg 5RM = 100kg

Training Volume (V) = Sets (S) x Reps (R) x Weight (W)

Training Volume (V) = 5 x (4×2) x 100kg

Training Volume (V) = 5 x 8 x 100kg

Training Volume (V) = 4000 kg


Example Workout (Arms)

For all exercises use a weight that you can normally lift for 15 reps; only perform 5 reps followed by 15 seconds rest; repeat this sequence of work:rest until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

Seated Dip Machine

Set 1-Beyond: Choose a weight you can usually get 15 reps with; perform 5 reps followed by 15 seconds rest. Repeat until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

Barbell Bicep Curl

Set 1-Beyond: Choose a weight you can usually get 15 reps with; perform 5 reps followed by 15 seconds rest. Repeat until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

Cable Tricep Pushdown

Set 1-Beyond: Choose a weight you can usually get 15 reps with; perform 5 reps followed by 15 seconds rest. Repeat until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

Cable Bicep Curl

Set 1-Beyond: Choose a weight you can usually get 15 reps with; perform 5 reps followed by 15 seconds rest. Repeat until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

Close Grip Smith Machine Bench Press

Set 1-Beyond: Choose a weight you can usually get 20 reps with; perform 10 reps followed by 20 seconds rest. Repeat until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

Machine Preacher Curl

Set 1-Beyond: Choose a weight you can usually get 20 reps with; perform 10 reps followed by 20 seconds rest. Repeat until you can no longer perform 5 reps in a set.

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