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Question about Clusters

Hi coach, I am now running Bryan Haycock’s HST (basically it is a linear progression where first two week you work with 15 reps sets, two weeks with 10 reps sets and 5 reps the following two weeks). Basically you aim, every week to perform a decent volume (1x15, 2x10, 3x5). The program have you perform another last 2 weeks training beyond your 5RMs up to your 3RMs still aiming to keep the volume the same (15reps).

While there were many viable ways to do so…
I have seen that a popular method to do so, back when the program itself was popular, was the so called “Max-stim”, from Dan Moore, where you perform one long set with 5-30 seconds between sets aiming for 15 reps total. I wonder wether you think this method might give you as much of an hypertrophy stimulus as a Poliquin Cluster.

PS got great results and was fun to train with your Beat the Apocalypse plan at home :slight_smile:

Yeah, I know what it is. Read about it and used it about 15 year ago.

Well, both are completely different animals. The Max Stim is more similar to Myo Reps by Borge Fagerli (which I have referenced a few times in my articles). The Poliquin clusters (and other clusters like the Miller and Mentzer ones) are primarily a strength method, with a side benefit when it comes to hypertrophy. I would not put clusters in the hypertrophy methods category. You will certainly get growth stimulation from them, but it’s not the main training effect.

As for the Max Stim set, I have never read about them and you don’t give me all the info to tell you what kind of stimulus it will provide.

15 total reps using several micro sets… ok… but that really doesn’t tell me much. Here are several scenarios that would all have a different training effect:

A. Using roughly your 6-8RM (around 75%), doing 6-8 reps close to failure then reaching the 15 total reps by adding a few micro sets. This is essentially a normal rest/pause method, which I consider to be one of the most effective approach for muscle growth.

B. Using around 4-6RM (around 85%), doing 4-6 reps close to failure then doing your micro sets. This would also be a simple rest/pause, but more slanted toward strength. This method would give you a bit more strength than method “A”, likely the same hypertrophy stimulation BUT would be more demanding on the nervous system.

C. Using around 4-6RM (around 85%) doing sub-failure micro sets until you reach 15 total reps. For example: 3 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 2 - 2. This would be about as good for strength as method “B”, not as good for hypertrophy but would be less stressful on the nervous system and would be better to improve lifting technique with heavy weights.

D. Using a 2-3RM (around 90-92%) doing sub-failure micro sets until your reach 15 total reps. For example: 2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 . This is very similar to my giant cluster approach. It’s a great method for strength by improving every neurological factors involved in strength production. It is close to being on par with regular clusters for hypertrophy but it is a very demanding method to recover from.

As you can see, many different ways to do it.

Basically we are talking about your D. Option (1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1). The first workout you might start at your 5rms and your 6th workout you might be using your 2-3 rm; rest times between reps vary from 5 to 30 second, as long as you can get the desired number of reps.
I get that it might be quite stressful on the cns… But wouldn’t the following 9-14 days of strategic deconditioning take care of this?

Anyway nice to know that you ran it a while ago, how did you find the program @Christian_Thibaudeau ? (it looks like nobody uses it now, even though guys were reporting good results when the program was en vogue).

I found it amazingly boring and too rigid for my own preferences.

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I guess we are two different kind of animals (it has to do with what you call neurotypes, right)? I hate changing it makes me anxious and unable to put my effort in training if I keep changing things. I’d rather stick to the same 8-10 exercises for months and months and having everything pre-planned.

Anyway I’ll give a honest go for a few cycles to fine-tune the program on myself and see what results I come up with.

Correct. I found HST extremely sound, which is why I gave it a shot when it first came out about 15 ish years ago. And I still believe that it has a lot of elements that I really like and found to be effetive:

*Higher frequency per muscle group (3x a week)
*Lower volume per body part
*Progressive overload

I do need variation, but not in exercises. So that part, I was fine with. What I missed from the program was the special methods that I was using even back then (I’m being using eccentric and isometric methods for 20 years) and the lack of “performance” work like the olympic lifts, plyometrics, loaded carries, etc. But these are not hypertrophy tools, it’s more that I’ve always preferred training using a hybrid of performance and hypertrophy.

And there are two things I personally didn’t like:

*Sets of 15
*The strategic deconditioning period

I’m not saying that they aren’t effective, they are, but it didn’t fit what I personally like to do… especially back then, now I’d be fine with them.

And I think we evolve with time to some extent. I HATED 5/3/1 the first time I tried it… HATED IT. I lasted 3 weeks!

But I used it again for about 6 months when my son was born and I liked it.


As I get older (54)I am more interested in training efficiency than I am with the social aspect of being in the gym. I am really liking the ideas of Rest Pause and cluster sets.
Just a few questions.
Clusters. I know it all depends on the individual, but at what rep goal should we look to add weight? Or is this best initially to just set a point near 8-10 and increase the load once the goal has been reached. I am finding two sets to really be enough.
Another question, is it always one rep? I know it really isn’t a cluster with 5, but is there any benefit to doubles or does this flush all the benefits of the cluster set benefit?
Rest pause. Really enjoy these because some days I can simply perform better for whatever reason. At my age though, should I be doing a set to near failure, technical breakdown, rest like 20 seconds, and then do mini sets of 2 or three or do two more to technical or speed breakdown?

Well, you can do clusters with any types of reps (just like regular sets) but it works best with intensity zones where the nervous system is challenged (i.e. 8 reps or less for normal clusters). And personally I normally use cluster sets of 3 to 6 reps with clients.

Two sets are indeed enough. That’s where I differ from Charles Poliquin who recommended 5 cluster sets. Which is the best way to burnout anybody who is not on steroids or a freak.

Personally I see cluster progression pretty much the same way as the double progression for regular loading schemes: pick a training zone (2-3, 4-5, 6-8 for example) and when you can do both sets (or 3 if you decide to do 3 work sets) with the same weight and that all reps feel solid, add 10ish pounds at the next session.

The name of a method is really irrelevant (except to those who fall in love with a concept and get excited to do something called “clusters”). You absolutely can do clusters of 2 reps per micro set. You could even do micro sets of 3 reps or of different numbers (3-2-1). Technically this becomes more of a rest/pause variant. But who cares?

I would still abide to the 8 reps/set limit, otherwise you are better off sticking to regular rest/pause.

The main difference between these 2-3 reps/micro clusters and rest/pause is that in this cluster variation you don’t go close to failure on the first micro-set(s): for example if you shoot for 8 total reps with micro sets of 2, the first 2 or even 3 micro sets are submaximal whereas in a rest/pause for 8 total reps you would do something like 6 reps close to failure than an extra 2 reps.

In both cases you will be able to increase size and strength. I really don’t think that the training effect will be that different between both. You might get a bit more strength and less fatigue from the 2 reps/micro cluster at equal weight and maybe a tad less size. But I don’t think it’s significant.

It’s not just a matter of age but also of technical mastery, experience, lifestyle (stress level), immune system efficiency, etc.

Some 50-60 year olds will recover better than some 30 somethings.

Without knowing your situation it’s hard for me to tell you if they will be ok or not. But something like 2 regular sets followed by one rest/pause sets should not be a problem.