Rest-Pause vs. Clusters

Im wondering what the similarities/differences are between these two methods. Also, I haven’t been able to find clear definitions distinguishing the two. Heres what I understand them as:


*A set of reps broken down into smaller “clusters”, seperated by short rest periods
*Usually trained with heavier loads (ex. 3-5rm)
*fatigue and failure usually avoided
*Always re-rack the weight in between clusters
*All clusters contain the same number of reps

Ex: Bench - 5-6rm load, 2x3x3 each set is 3 reps, rest, 3 reps, rest, 3 reps REST


*One long set is used, but rest is interspersed between reps as fatigue builds
*Usually trained with moderate-light loads (ex.8-20rm)
*Usually pushes fatigue high and inches toward failure
*USUALLY doesn’t re-rack weight while resting
*Usually one total set done
*The mini-sets do not have the same number of reps, but reps are dictated by fatigue

Ex: 20-rep squat Taking a 10rm load, peform about 8-9 reps, then rest, then perform a few more, then rest, and repeat until you reach 20.

Now I dont think these are textbook definitions, but for the most part accurate. I see many advantages to doing rest-pause by re-racking the weight while resting.

So here are my opinions of the two methods.

*I think the big difference between the two is FATIGUE. IMO clusters are more of a strength-density method where fatigue is avoided, while rest-pause is more of a fatigue-delaying method. In rest-pause you are pursuing fatigue, but you are trying to get more reps in before fatigue takes over.

And im speculating; based on what ive seen others do, that clusters are best used on the big lifts that most resemble sporting events, whereas rest-pause is better used on supportive musculature to increase strength-endurance.

So just a basic example: A powerlifter might use clusters for bench, squat, and deadlift variations, but then use rest pause for rowing, incline pressing, hip/back extension, and hamstring movements.

So those are my opinions of the two methods, but I’d like to hear what others think, and how you would use the two methods for different goals (strength, endurance, hyertrophy)???

I think the only real difference between the two is rest-pause does not have a set amount of volume, rather a set amount of load over a block of training. Clusters on the other hand have a changing (increasing I would assume) load over a block of training while the volume is predetermined.

Rest-pause example= 100kg. Wk1=20 total reps, wk2=24 total reps, wk3= 26 total reps

Clusters= 3x5,3,2. Wk1=100kg, wk2=110kgs, wk3=120kgs. Or an undulating approach each workout.

Dr. Mike Stone actually has a good article of the use of clusters if you search for it.

Just my 2 cents…

I wasn’t able to find the article you mentioned.

Ive thought of a few other differences between the two methods.

Although it is commonly suggested that rest-pause involves supporting the weight while resting, whereas clusters you re-rack, this isn’t always true.

***I think the biggest thing between the two is this.

-Rest-pause, you generally take your first set to NEAR failure. Then each set after that has a decreasing number of reps.

-Clusters, generally failure is avoided completely and all sets have the same number of reps.

Ex: theres a video on youtube i think its dave tate.

JM press ~12 RM, 10 reps, rest 10 sec, 4 reps, reset 10 sec, 1 rep…

Cluster- 3x3. Basically take a weight that is about 90% of max, perform 1 rep, rest 5-10 sec, perform another, rest 5-10 sec, and perform another, REST 1-2 minutes.

And then there is stuff like max stim, which states its rest-pause, but it looks more like clusters to me.

I want to start using these methods, but am still not too clear on their usage.

I was thinking of using clusters mainly for strength on the lifts that most resemble bench, squat, deadlift. And then using rest-pause for anything that doesn’t resemble these lifts too much (like inc. db press, pullups, tricep ext. etc.) But obviously I wouldn’t use these two methods for everything.

My reasoning is that clusters are a quality method, in which you aim at having the highest force and highest quality of movement each rep. Rest-pause is a quantity method, in which you try to maximize your volume. At my level, rest-pause could certainly screw up my form on the big lifts or even lead to injury.

I’ve read somewhere on the Power & Bulk forums about Hepburn’s rest-pause method. Looks a lot like the low rep clusters. I think he used singles with 10 seconds rest between reps, adding one rep a session till 6 is hit or something along those lines. I think the recommendation was to use a 2 or 3rm which seems kind of heavy, but I may be completely misremembering.

do clusters have a more specific rest period? I know at IM Dante said something about RP sets having 15-20 “breath” pauses, but nothing more precise than that(with regards to rest periods)

[quote]Therizza wrote:
do clusters have a more specific rest period? I know at IM Dante said something about RP sets having 15-20 “breath” pauses, but nothing more precise than that(with regards to rest periods)[/quote]

I dont think thats necessarilly true. Both should be somewhat short 5-15 seconds.

[quote]dankid wrote:
Therizza wrote:
do clusters have a more specific rest period? I know at IM Dante said something about RP sets having 15-20 “breath” pauses, but nothing more precise than that(with regards to rest periods)

I dont think thats necessarilly true. Both should be somewhat short 5-15 seconds.


So does the definition vary from source to source? Or would it be more accurate to say that the only difference is the number of reps without a pause? Example: Rest Pause would be something like 7/rest/5/rest/4/rest while “cluster” would state “5 clusters of 3”?

Well I still think the big difference is fatigue.

Clusters, you are using a specific weight for a set number of total reps.

Rest-pause, you are using a specific weight, but the total number of reps will be dependant on fatigue.

Fatigue is to be avoided with clusters, and is one of the goals with rest-pause.

Also, like you said, clusters generally have the same number of reps per set, whereas rest-pause the number will decrease.

I think these definitions are pretty good, but im not sure if they are an agreed upon standard. I think it is safe to also state that rest-pause is a TYPE of cluster training.

But aside from definitions i’d like to hear people’s experience/opinions on the two methods.

Im very suprised that you dont hear more about both of these methods. In all of the westside stuff ive read, ive seen no mention of either, but I know many of the guys use these methods.

My biggest concerns with these methods is over-using them. If somewhere to go extreme with westside and these methods I could see them using clusters instead of all ME work, and rest-pause in place of DE work. And I think this would definately be overdoing things.

I dont think clusters are necessarily fatiguing if done correctly. If I were to do 3 x 1,1,1 in place of ME with about 90% 1RM this would be 9 total reps. In a typical westside ME day working up to a 1RM, I would expect to get about 3 reps at >90% 1RM. Im sure the average load lifted would come out to about the same, but the normal ME method would take a lot longer due to longer rest breaks.

So I can already see advantages/disadvantes to clusters depending on the person. A high level pl’er might do better to work up to a 1rm. 3 reps greater than 90% might be a lot of volume for them, and more importantly lifts in the 95-105% range are going to be more necessary for a higher level lifter. And long rest breaks will be optimal for maximal recovery

On the otherhand, a lower level lifter or non-powerlifter needs more reps, and can benefit from shorter rest breaks. 5 minute rest breaks might allow more recovery, but probably aren’t needed.

so the use of clusters is pretty simple IMO.

but, rest-pause is a bit more copmlicated. I can see rest-pause easily being overused if someone uses it often for bench, squat or deadlift. So to avoid this, I’ll probably avoid rest-pause on any movements that I tend to train heavy on.

So as of now, im thinking of this.

Clusters: Flat benching (cg bench, comp bench, floor press, board press, rack lockouts)
Squatting (back, front, zercher, rack)
Deadlifts (sumo, deficit, comp, rack pull, rdl)
Tricep ext


       DB presses (incline, flat, floor press)
       Pull downs
       Isolation work  (like leg curl, or shoulder raise)

So thats what im thinking, but im not sure how often these can be used. Like can clusters be used EVERY ME workout if you rotate the exercise each week.

So its gonna take some trial an error, but Id like to go into things knowing what others think and have done.

I agree with you, the main difference is fatigue and also the goal of the set. With clusters, the goal is to be able do a greater than number of reps at a weight that is a high % of your 1RM. For example, if you go with 90% of your 1RM the text books say you should get about 4 reps before you fail. If you do it cluster style (I have always done them 1 rep at a time with 10-15 sec breaks) you might get 8-12 reps before you fail, so that is more practice and more time spent with the heavier weight. Primarily a strength technique.

The purpose of rest pause as you suggested is to fully fatigue the muscle and hit as many motor units as possible. You go until failure, rest a bit to allow the muscle to recharge, then go again with the hopes of taping into some unused motor units that didn’t get the first time. Primarily a size technique.

Both good ideas, shouldn’t be used too often, and I agree that certain exercises lend themselves well to each method. I have had some good results doing clusters on pull-ups in particular.

Good luck with your training.

Ive been experimenting with clusters these past few workouts, and am a bit confused.

On my last leg workout, i did 3 x (1,1,1) on deadlift with about 90% 1rm. I did the same thing today with bench.

It felt good to get some more reps with “heavy” weights in, but 9 reps isn’t that high. Compared to what im used to though on a ME day, it was a good amount of reps.

But then I was looking up some programs using clusters and came across a few, that have MUCH higher volumes.

One I saw is 5x5 with clusters. Basically you use about 90% 1rm and do 5 x (1,1,1,1,1). This seems excessive to me. I know a lot of people follow prilepin’s chart which I think would be like 3-7 reps at this intensity.

I know I can get a lot more out of my lifts, but am not sure what to put my focus on. Do I do more of my main lifts and cut back on everything else, or keep the main lifts intense but low volume and work the supplementary stuff more.

My current lifts are:

B: 255
S: 355
D: 405

I think im pretty good on speed, but need more muscle and work with heavier weights.

So I was thinking of going with a ME (cluster) day, and a RE day for both bench, and squat/deadlift. But really the question is, do I up the reps on the “heavy” stuff to 20+ or keep it around 9 or so?