How To Hit New Personal Records With Cluster Weight Training
Cluster weight training is a high intensity training method that can be incredibly useful for helping intermediate and advanced trainees break through plateaus. It can also be used to help newer lifters practice and maintain proper technique.
HOW Cluster Weight Training WORKS
Suppose you were going to do 3 sets of 5 reps @ 82%. You’ll complete 15 reps. That’s a normal rep scheme.
If you did cluster weight training, you could do 3 sets of 18.104.22.168.1. In this case, you’d do 1-rep, then put the bar back in the rack and pause for 15-sec. Then do 1-rep and pause for another 15-sec. Repeat until you’ve completed 5 total reps.
Taking a mini rest between reps allows you to lift more weight. You’re still doing 3 sets and 15 total reps, but now you can work at 87%. You’ve just bumped your intensity way up.
FOR BEGINNER LIFTERS
I sometimes like to use cluster weight training for beginner lifters whose technique breaks down with fatigue.
Let’s say a new lifter can maintain a great shoulder position in the bench press for 3 reps before they start to loosen up. Normally, you’d want beginners to get plenty of volume in their training, so you could have this person do a few sets of 3.2.2. With a 10-20sec rest/pause inside of the cluster set, they’re doing 7 reps per set but also have the opportunity to re-set their position and hone their technique.
FOR INTERMEDIATES AND ADVANCED LIFTERS
Intermediate and advanced lifters need to be careful with cluster weight training because the intensity and volume tends to be high. It depends on the lifter, but I’ve found most athletes can handle cluster training once per week for three weeks. During the first three weeks they’ll usually improve each workout. After that, the training often gets a bit stale. At this point, lifters are no longer able to progress, and they can start to feel some signs of over training.
Advanced lifters in particular will be more susceptible to over-training with cluster sets, so experiment and see what each individual can handle on your key exercises.
Having said that, this protocol works well in peaking/intensification phases!
When I use cluster training with most experienced clients I’ll usually run them through a normal strength cycle for 8 weeks or so, finish with cluster training for another three weeks, do 1 deload/recovery week, and then re-test.