T Nation

Critique my Cluster Set Training Please

So I have tried many training methods and would like to try cluster set training only for my compound lifts but would only keep the rep/set range within strength/hypertrophy.

Am I on the right track:



Bench Press (225) 4 sets of 6 reps total
15 secs rests for every two reps and 3 min rest after completing full set


225 is what % of your max

I have not maxed in a long time but I would say 275 or 285

Then 225 would be too light.

The goal of clusters is to end up doing more reps per set than you normally would or use more weight for a predetermined number of reps.

In your example you have 6 reps per set. The majority of people can use 85% for 6 reps. 225 is 80% of 275 (and 78% of 285) so you are actually doing 6 reps with a weight you are capable of doing 7-8 reps with. With a cluster of 6 reps you want to use a weight you could lift 3 or 4 times in a normal set. So around 87%, or 240-245lbs.

The other approach you can use is to start with a certain weight, let’s say 225.

You do mini-sets of 2 reps in your cluster and you try to get as many mini-sets as possible.

For example:

225lbs --) 2 +2+2+2 … here you get 4 mini-sets (8 reps)


So you might do…

235lbs --) 2+2+2+1 … still more than 6 total reps

The 3rd set you do

245lbs --) 2+1+1 … oups only 4 reps … iwhich is fine BUT I would lower the weight back down for the next set… back to 235.

So in other words if you exceed 6 add weight, if you get 4 reps or more, lower the weight. If you get 5-6 reps keep the same load.

Thanks for all the info. Its odd because at times even with 225 on cluster training seems surprisingly difficult. For example, I was told the purpose of cluster set training is not to perform grinder reps but more so strict reps without fatiguing yourself so quickly. The goal here is for strength and hypertrophy but at times I catch my self in every mini set performing the last two reps as almost grinders. This is the same with my 225 front squat. How long should I be training with cluster sets? I am looking to do this for a while with only compound movements and ultimately bring my one rep max up or it least build more hypertrophy by increasing reps with weight that I use to not hit as many reps with. Is this ideal?

Clusters are a maximal method. Its ok to grind as long as you dont break form.

Clusters is neurally draining. They shouldnt be done for more than 6 weeks and 3-4 is best

Ok thanks for the clarification. I had plans to keep the cluster sets in my training for 8-12 weeks so that I can gradually increase strength. Can I do so if I am exceeding 6 reps everytime I increase weight or would this be too taxing on my CNS and would effect my overall training with other exercises after completing my cluster sets?

If you reach 7-8 from time to time thats fine. But that means that the next set you increase the weight. Ideally you hot 5-6 per set.

I would suggest 3 weeks of 2-2-2 clusters and 3 weeks of 1-1-1-1-1 clusters with about 5-7% more weight

Same rest time? 15sec for every 1 rep and 3 minutes for every complete mini set? Also, after those three weeks for 1-1-1-1-1 can I continue on again for another few weeks with the 1-1-1-1-1 by slowly increasing weight? Is this an ideal method for hypertrophy as well?

Yes same rest, no you cant continue with any cluster scheme

I remember a thread where you suggested a high-rep cluster set scheme, which I believe worked like this: Normally you would to 3 sets of 15 reps with 80% of your 1RM. You’d reach that 15 reps by dividing the set into mini-cluster sets of 1-3 reps. You’d be allowed to use as many mini-rep sets as necessary to get to 15 reps. The exercise would be finished if you couln’t do at least one rep in one of those mini-cluster sets. If you’d be able to do more than 4 sets of 15 reps you’d have to increase the weight the next time.

Would still recommend the use of this technique, Thib?

Dude I am giving a seminar on training methods and loading schemes and I have over 60 methods. Everything works but nothing works forever. So I will not make a recommendation saying “you must use this method”. Is it part of my toolbox? Yes. Is it something that can be used? Yes. That’s as far as I’ll go.

Cluster in a nutshell is just ramping up near a 1-3rm then being creative with low reps, whether its 5/4/3/2/1, triplets, EMOM, singles

doesn’t even matter right CT

It does matter to some extent 5-4-3-2-1 will not have the same effect as 1-1-1-1-1 or 3-3-3-3-3

And the ramping portion is not part of clusters. Clusters are a separate method. You don’t have to ramp up to do clusters