T Nation

Cluster Sets and Rest Pause?


Thibs, What would you think about doing triceps extensions for 3 sets of rest pause one day of the week and later in the week doing a cluster set where you pick an 8 or 10 rep max, and do 5 reps rest 15 seconds 5 reps rest 15 seconds and repeat for 5 minutes straight or until I could not complete 5 reps anymore?
Would that be too much volume and raise cortisol too much for a natural? Or could I give it a try?
Thank you.


Triceps will become living horsehoes


Talk about a theoretical approach. With 15 sec of rest you will likely make it to 4 sets max. Which will leave you about 3:45 seconds. I used to do a lot of 5-4-3-2-1 (same thing as you mentioned but with descending reps) with about an 8-10 RM (70%) and by the time we hit the 3s it was HEEEEEELLLL. Sometimes we didn’t even complete the 2s and had to do 5-4-3-1-1-1 instead.


Try it because unless you…

  1. use a much lighter load then you plan on
  2. take a lot more rest than 15 seconds between sets (30s at least)
  3. use shitty form to decrease muscle tension to be able to get more reps (which would of course be counterproductive)

… there is no way you make it even halfway to 5 minutes. NEVER try to invent something in your head. Invent something in the gym. See if it feels good and then analyze if, based on your knowledge, it is a good method to use or not. The way you presented it, unless you are mega slow twitch dominant and used to super high reps, it’s not even possible to do.

See it might be a setup that works for conditioning exercises. KB swings, sledgehammer striking, box jumps… but with isolation movement the pump will become way to intense (which also inhibits muscle contraction) after a few sets, preventing you from continuing. And on exercises like the squat or deadlift the form would break down and endurance would also become a limiting factor.

For the purpose you mention I don’t dislike the idea of doing sets of 5 with a 8-10RM with 15-20 sec of rest. I used such a method myself (5-4-3-2-1`, also did 4-4-3-3-2-2-1-1) and “hard 5s” (3 sets of 5 with 20-30 sec of rest). But your theory is not well thought out. You should start by trying to do a few sets of 5 reps with your 8-10RM with 15 sec of rest and see how many sets you can get. The 5 min limit is arbitrary and unrealistic.


Ok thanks. I think I’ll try the 5 4 3 2 1 method or 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 and see how it goes!


You know what? I might have been mistaken (it happens). I tried doing 5 reps with 15-20 sec of rest for 5 minutes and it worked BUT I used a cable isolation exercise (triceps pressdown) and a slightly lighter weight then you wanted to (a weight I can get 10-12 reps with) and it worked fine.

My past experience with the 5-4-3-2-1 scheme was with compound lifts (bench press, overhead press, squat) so my evaluation might have been erroneous. BUT I think that it will work with isolation exercises and using a slightly lighter weight.


Good news. I’m going to do it with dumbbell triceps extensions today and see how it goes!


I’m interested by your experience. To see if it applies to free weight isolation exercises


Well you’re right. I picked a weight I could get about 12 reps with and I made it to 4 minutes but not all 5 reps. Was doing a lot of 4’s of 3’s at the end.

Still had an awesome pump! I like mixing this in one day a week with the other day being strictly rest pause.


I had the feeling that with a DB movement this would happen. The constant tension with the cable kinda make the movement more tiring BUT the peak tension (point in the range of motion you have to produce the most force) I much lower with the pulley. With DBs you have to produce a lot more force at the beginning of the movement. So when you get fatigued you are much more likely to hit a sticking point.

Not to mention that with a pulley you can more easily make postural changes that help you get a few more reps without denaturing the movement.


Thanks for the help as always


One last thing. Do you think it is okay for a natural lifter to keep doing this one day a week with rest pause on the other day. Or should I do two days of rest pause?


It’s likely fine