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Layer System: Different Cluster Structure

So I was playing around with some trap bar deadlifts today, hit my max (low handle PR, bit of a grinder) and dropped down to 90% for my clusters, but instead of performing them in the usual manner (3 sets of max reps with 10-15 seconds pause between reps) I just performed one set of max singles with 30 seconds rest between reps. I got 12 reps, which is right around what I’d normally get over the 3 sets (more or less, depending on how heavy the max was), but I did it in under 8 minutes, which is at least a couple minutes less than is normally the case (anywhere from 10-15 depending on how I feel).

So, same volume in less time = higher density at same intensity.

My immediate thought is that this is a positive thing. Anybody have any corroborating or conflicting opinions about that? Christian, how do you feel about performing clusters in this manner?

[quote]Khaine wrote:
So I was playing around with some trap bar deadlifts today, hit my max (low handle PR, bit of a grinder) and dropped down to 90% for my clusters, but instead of performing them in the usual manner (3 sets of max reps with 10-15 seconds pause between reps) I just performed one set of max singles with 30 seconds rest between reps. I got 12 reps, which is right around what I’d normally get over the 3 sets (more or less, depending on how heavy the max was), but I did it in under 8 minutes, which is at least a couple minutes less than is normally the case (anywhere from 10-15 depending on how I feel).

So, same volume in less time = higher density at same intensity.

My immediate thought is that this is a positive thing. Anybody have any corroborating or conflicting opinions about that? Christian, how do you feel about performing clusters in this manner?[/quote]

Yes, I call that a giant cluster. It was included in the original indigo strength program. I like this method and used it extensively when I was competing in olympic lifting. It works well for sure, might have to revisit it for the layer system!

Here is a similar method from one of my articles:

"We’ll use what I call a “giant cluster.” With this, you’ll have a certain time frame (20 minutes, in our case) during which your goal will be to perform as many reps as possible. The number of repetitions per set will vary depending on the load.

Week 1: You’ll use 80% of your maximum and perform as many sets of three reps as possible in 20 minutes. I’ve found that sets of three are ideal with 80%. Any more than that and fatigue accumulates much faster, which requires you to take longer rest periods between sets and thus lead to less reps being performed. Less than three reps won’t lead to a significant reduction in fatigue, and generally doesn’t lead to an increase in the total number of lifts (maybe in the total number of sets, but not in the total number of lifts).

Week 2: You’ll increase the weight to 85% of your maximum and perform as many sets of two reps as possible in 20 minutes. Because of the increase in loading, reducing the reps to two per set is necessary to maintain a high quality of work at a high output.

Week 3: You’ll increase the weights to 90% of your maximum and perform as many sets of one rep as possible in 20 minutes. Since this is a near maximal effort, doing more than one repetition per set will lead to a decrease in the quality of work, which is unacceptable when focusing on motor learning.

Week 4: This is a deloading week. You keep the intensity high (90%), but instead of going for the max number of sets as you can in 20 minutes, you simply perform half the number of sets that you reached in week three. For example, if in week three you were able to perform 12 sets, during week four you perform 6 sets of one rep at 90%. You can also take longer rest intervals.

Exactly how many sets should you do? It depends on your level of conditioning, work capacity, and fiber make-up. But, anywhere from 8 to 12 sets per 20-minute period is the norm. Really efficient athletes will be able to reach 12 to 15 sets. But the important thing is that each repetition is perfect."

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
Here is a similar method from one of my articles:

"We’ll use what I call a “giant cluster.” With this, you’ll have a certain time frame (20 minutes, in our case) during which your goal will be to perform as many reps as possible. The number of repetitions per set will vary depending on the load.

Week 1: You’ll use 80% of your maximum and perform as many sets of three reps as possible in 20 minutes. I’ve found that sets of three are ideal with 80%. Any more than that and fatigue accumulates much faster, which requires you to take longer rest periods between sets and thus lead to less reps being performed. Less than three reps won’t lead to a significant reduction in fatigue, and generally doesn’t lead to an increase in the total number of lifts (maybe in the total number of sets, but not in the total number of lifts).

Week 2: You’ll increase the weight to 85% of your maximum and perform as many sets of two reps as possible in 20 minutes. Because of the increase in loading, reducing the reps to two per set is necessary to maintain a high quality of work at a high output.

Week 3: You’ll increase the weights to 90% of your maximum and perform as many sets of one rep as possible in 20 minutes. Since this is a near maximal effort, doing more than one repetition per set will lead to a decrease in the quality of work, which is unacceptable when focusing on motor learning.

Week 4: This is a deloading week. You keep the intensity high (90%), but instead of going for the max number of sets as you can in 20 minutes, you simply perform half the number of sets that you reached in week three. For example, if in week three you were able to perform 12 sets, during week four you perform 6 sets of one rep at 90%. You can also take longer rest intervals.

Exactly how many sets should you do? It depends on your level of conditioning, work capacity, and fiber make-up. But, anywhere from 8 to 12 sets per 20-minute period is the norm. Really efficient athletes will be able to reach 12 to 15 sets. But the important thing is that each repetition is perfect."[/quote]

Hey Thib, really enjoy training this way. The problem I got is I was never sure of when to increase the weight?

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Khaine wrote:
So I was playing around with some trap bar deadlifts today, hit my max (low handle PR, bit of a grinder) and dropped down to 90% for my clusters, but instead of performing them in the usual manner (3 sets of max reps with 10-15 seconds pause between reps) I just performed one set of max singles with 30 seconds rest between reps. I got 12 reps, which is right around what I’d normally get over the 3 sets (more or less, depending on how heavy the max was), but I did it in under 8 minutes, which is at least a couple minutes less than is normally the case (anywhere from 10-15 depending on how I feel).

So, same volume in less time = higher density at same intensity.

My immediate thought is that this is a positive thing. Anybody have any corroborating or conflicting opinions about that? Christian, how do you feel about performing clusters in this manner?[/quote]

Yes, I call that a giant cluster. It was included in the original indigo strength program. I like this method and used it extensively when I was competing in olympic lifting. It works well for sure, might have to revisit it for the layer system![/quote]

Alright, excellent. I’ll be guinea pigging this for the next six weeks to see how it works within the context of the system.

[quote]Khaine wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Khaine wrote:
So I was playing around with some trap bar deadlifts today, hit my max (low handle PR, bit of a grinder) and dropped down to 90% for my clusters, but instead of performing them in the usual manner (3 sets of max reps with 10-15 seconds pause between reps) I just performed one set of max singles with 30 seconds rest between reps. I got 12 reps, which is right around what I’d normally get over the 3 sets (more or less, depending on how heavy the max was), but I did it in under 8 minutes, which is at least a couple minutes less than is normally the case (anywhere from 10-15 depending on how I feel).

So, same volume in less time = higher density at same intensity.

My immediate thought is that this is a positive thing. Anybody have any corroborating or conflicting opinions about that? Christian, how do you feel about performing clusters in this manner?[/quote]

Yes, I call that a giant cluster. It was included in the original indigo strength program. I like this method and used it extensively when I was competing in olympic lifting. It works well for sure, might have to revisit it for the layer system![/quote]

Alright, excellent. I’ll be guinea pigging this for the next six weeks to see how it works within the context of the system.[/quote]

I guess you could try it for the assistance exercise, that way it shouldn’t interfere with the main layer set up, and as it’s regulated depending on how well you do it shouldn’t toast you out.

[quote]Sawinwright wrote:

[quote]Khaine wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Khaine wrote:
So I was playing around with some trap bar deadlifts today, hit my max (low handle PR, bit of a grinder) and dropped down to 90% for my clusters, but instead of performing them in the usual manner (3 sets of max reps with 10-15 seconds pause between reps) I just performed one set of max singles with 30 seconds rest between reps. I got 12 reps, which is right around what I’d normally get over the 3 sets (more or less, depending on how heavy the max was), but I did it in under 8 minutes, which is at least a couple minutes less than is normally the case (anywhere from 10-15 depending on how I feel).

So, same volume in less time = higher density at same intensity.

My immediate thought is that this is a positive thing. Anybody have any corroborating or conflicting opinions about that? Christian, how do you feel about performing clusters in this manner?[/quote]

Yes, I call that a giant cluster. It was included in the original indigo strength program. I like this method and used it extensively when I was competing in olympic lifting. It works well for sure, might have to revisit it for the layer system![/quote]

Alright, excellent. I’ll be guinea pigging this for the next six weeks to see how it works within the context of the system.[/quote]

I guess you could try it for the assistance exercise, that way it shouldn’t interfere with the main layer set up, and as it’s regulated depending on how well you do it shouldn’t toast you out.[/quote]

I’ll probably just do them in place of the regular clusters and see what happens. Intuitively, I’m guessing it’ll give me higher volume/density for High Pulls and Trap Bar Deads than the original structure, and maybe less so for the pressing exercises. Only one way to find out though.

Christian, just brainstorming here, but looking at the giant clusters set-up you posted above, I got this idea to hit a bunch of 5s at 70% in place of/as an HDL set. Again, trying to cram as much volume at a certain intensity into a given time frame as possible. I have a hunch this will stave off fatigue effectively and allow for a high level of density. What do you think? What would be the effect of such a structure compared to the HDL sets? Less fatigue, higher density = more strength/technical proficiency, but less hypertrophy?

Again, just thinking out loud here, really. Whole idea could very possibly be shite.

[quote]Khaine wrote:

Christian, just brainstorming here, but looking at the giant clusters set-up you posted above, I got this idea to hit a bunch of 5s at 70% in place of/as an HDL set. Again, trying to cram as much volume at a certain intensity into a given time frame as possible. I have a hunch this will stave off fatigue effectively and allow for a high level of density. What do you think? What would be the effect of such a structure compared to the HDL sets? Less fatigue, higher density = more strength/technical proficiency, but less hypertrophy?

Again, just thinking out loud here, really. Whole idea could very possibly be shite.[/quote]

Well, if you are already doing the giant cluster you really have to be careful with the 70% for 5 reps… it’s the HDL work that hurst recovery the most from my own experience. Which is why I DO use straight sets of 5 for HDL… I call them “HARD 5s” which are sets of 5 reps with 20-30 sec. of rest. I never go above 4 sets and normally it’s 3.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Khaine wrote:

Christian, just brainstorming here, but looking at the giant clusters set-up you posted above, I got this idea to hit a bunch of 5s at 70% in place of/as an HDL set. Again, trying to cram as much volume at a certain intensity into a given time frame as possible. I have a hunch this will stave off fatigue effectively and allow for a high level of density. What do you think? What would be the effect of such a structure compared to the HDL sets? Less fatigue, higher density = more strength/technical proficiency, but less hypertrophy?

Again, just thinking out loud here, really. Whole idea could very possibly be shite.[/quote]

Well, if you are already doing the giant cluster you really have to be careful with the 70% for 5 reps… it’s the HDL work that hurst recovery the most from my own experience. Which is why I DO use straight sets of 5 for HDL… I call them “HARD 5s” which are sets of 5 reps with 20-30 sec. of rest. I never go above 4 sets and normally it’s 3.[/quote]

Alright, so basically resist the urge to overdo the volume, I get it.

[quote]Khaine wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Khaine wrote:

Christian, just brainstorming here, but looking at the giant clusters set-up you posted above, I got this idea to hit a bunch of 5s at 70% in place of/as an HDL set. Again, trying to cram as much volume at a certain intensity into a given time frame as possible. I have a hunch this will stave off fatigue effectively and allow for a high level of density. What do you think? What would be the effect of such a structure compared to the HDL sets? Less fatigue, higher density = more strength/technical proficiency, but less hypertrophy?

Again, just thinking out loud here, really. Whole idea could very possibly be shite.[/quote]

Well, if you are already doing the giant cluster you really have to be careful with the 70% for 5 reps… it’s the HDL work that hurst recovery the most from my own experience. Which is why I DO use straight sets of 5 for HDL… I call them “HARD 5s” which are sets of 5 reps with 20-30 sec. of rest. I never go above 4 sets and normally it’s 3.[/quote]

Alright, so basically resist the urge to overdo the volume, I get it. [/quote]

I’ll be honest, nothing killed my progress more than doing too much HDL/volume work. And everytime I back off of the amound of HDL work I do, my strength goes up.

I believe that the ramp and clusters are so powerful both at stimulating the muscles but also in activating the fibers that much less HDL work than I originally though is needed to get maximum growth. Really, the clusters provide the bulk of the muscle stimulation… the HDL work is there mostly to increase nutrients uptake by the trained muscle. And once maximum pump is achieved you do not need to keep hammering the muscle.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
I’ll be honest, nothing killed my progress more than doing too much HDL/volume work. And everytime I back off of the amound of HDL work I do, my strength goes up.

I believe that the ramp and clusters are so powerful both at stimulating the muscles but also in activating the fibers that much less HDL work than I originally though is needed to get maximum growth. Really, the clusters provide the bulk of the muscle stimulation… the HDL work is there mostly to increase nutrients uptake by the trained muscle. And once maximum pump is achieved you do not need to keep hammering the muscle.[/quote]

Is it your experience that this is universal? Or do some lifters respond better to volume? Do some lifts require more volume (thinking specifically of High Pulls in this context)?

Similarly, how do you decide how long a cycle lasts before you change things up/how do you know whether a lifter has adapted or not?

[quote]Khaine wrote:
Is it your experience that this is universal? Or do some lifters respond better to volume? Do some lifts require more volume (thinking specifically of High Pulls in this context)?

Similarly, how do you decide how long a cycle lasts before you change things up/how do you know whether a lifter has adapted or not?[/quote]

No I’ve seen it pretty much across the board. You can progress for about 3-4 weeks with a higher volume of HDL work, but then if you want to continue progressing you have to decrease (and sometimes eliminate) the HDL-type work.

And high pulls are hit ever harder on this… any lift that is metabolically draining when doing HDL will suffer the fastest from stagnation via too much HDL work.

Thib - When we train this way, when should we increase the weights?

http://images.t-nation.com/forum_images/c/f/cff00_ORIG-belt_sqaut.jpg

Okay, so I don’t know what happened to the “Important” thread, but this seems like a good place to post this too. I had a great workout this morning doing some experiments with a giant cluster.

First, I’ve been experimenting with layering belt squats because I can’t really squat or deadlift right now due to injury. I’ve starting doing barbell belt squats and the nature of the lift, being comfortable and naturally a “from the bottom” lift, I’ve actually done really well with it. But, it’s hard to talk percentages due to the effective load of the barbell, the cantilevered weights, and your body weight (so I won’t mention percentages here). Clusters on 10 seconds also suck because staying crouched down doesn’t give you good rest and kneeling and getting back in position takes too long. So I decided to do 1 big cluster on 30 seconds rest. But, because it was a morning workout, which I rarely ever do and I have a hard time waking up my nervous system, and because of the nature of the setup, I decided to modulate the weight during the cluster and follow my explosiveness as I went. I did a quick light ramp, really just a warm up (the ramp isn’t the point of the layers anyway right?), not fully activating my nervous system. I then started out at a pretty light weight for the cluster. I stayed at that weight (1 rep every 30 seconds) until the weight felt lighter, then I’d add a 5 pounder. If that was fast and light, I’d add 5 more. Once the weight got slow or I was pushing to form breakdown, I’d start stepping down 5 pounds every few reps until my explosiveness came back. Then I’d stay there for a few reps and ramp back up. So, it ended up being a wave pattern of weight lasting for 32 reps and 16 minutes at decently heavy weight. It was fantastic. I then did 3 extended HDL sets and not only was it probably the best morning workout I’ve had, it was one of the best quad workouts period.

Though with a regular barbell lift, you’d have to have at least 1 person adjust weight. With the Barbell belt squat the weight is right there in front of you and you are dealing with smaller amounts, so it’s easy to do alone.

[quote]Sawinwright wrote:
Thib - When we train this way, when should we increase the weights?[/quote]

The max number of cluster reps I recommend in a “normal” workout is 17-20 (except for some blitz cycles). So if you can reach 17 you can add more weight for the next session.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Sawinwright wrote:
Thib - When we train this way, when should we increase the weights?[/quote]

The max number of cluster reps I recommend in a “normal” workout is 17-20 (except for some blitz cycles). So if you can reach 17 you can add more weight for the next session.[/quote]

Is that across the board rep aim? So roughly 6x3, 9x2, 17x1?

Cheers :slight_smile: