Cluster Training is an extremely useful method for mass and strength building. It’s essentially a way to mitigate fatigue, allowing you to get more reps with a certain weight than you could with a straight-through set.
You perform a small cluster of reps, take a short ret, then another small cluster of reps, then a short rest, then repeat for whatever framework you’re doing overall. Then you take a longer rest, then you can repeat the cluster again.
It’ll be easier to understand with numbers. Here’s what it might look like. For this one, you’d use a weight you could normally get 10 reps with.
Mini-set #1 – 4 reps
rest 10 seconds
Mini-set #2 – 4 reps
rest 10 sec.
Mini-set #3 – 4 reps
rest 10 sec
Mini-set #4 – 4 reps
rest 10 sec
Mini-set #5 – 4 reps
rest 10 sec
Mini-set #6 – 4 reps
rest 2 minutes then repeat.
That would be one Cluster set. By resting 10 seconds between each mini-set (and the first 4 or 5 mini-sets, you’re not getting close to failure, you delay the build-up of lactic acid and other waste products. You also allow for a bit of recovery.
This allows you to hit more reps within a shorter period of time and it’s more targeted to building muscle.
The style of training I want to focus on here is Single Rep Cluster Training…and it’s a very effective way to build STRENGTH (and muscle, if you do higher-rep clusters).
It’s the same idea, only instead of sets of 4 reps (as in the example above), you’ll be doing sets of 1 rep (and I like to aim for 15 to 20 seconds rest here, because the weights will be heavier).
Here’s what it might look like:
Mini-set #1 – 1 rep
rest 15 seconds
Mini-set #2 – 1 rep
rest 15 sec.
Mini-set #3 – 1 rep
rest 15 sec
Mini-set #4 – 1 rep
And this could done with a weight around 90% to 95% of your 1 RM (ish).
By taking those short rests in between single reps, you allow some degree of recovery…more so than trying to do reps following right away.
The 10 rep set allows for greater training volume at a high intensity (which is defined as a high percentage of 1 RM). It’s a VERY effective way to train and build strength and it allows you to spend more time working with heavy weights…which gets your body accustomed to doing so both in the connective tissue and the nervous system, in addition to your muscles.
I would suggest doing this style of training no more than once a week as it is challenging to the nervous system, especially when you get into heavier weights.
You can work with any rep range between 2 and 10, depending on the amount of weight you’re using and your primary goal (lower reps for strength, higher for muscle mass/strength).
I would recommend no more than 3 or 4 sets done in this fashion per bodypart/exercise (you won’t need more than one exercise when you do this with heavy movements like deadlifts, squats or bench press).
Also, I would stick to compound exercises for this style of training.