Cluster sets are multiple mini sets grouped together. Most traditional training styles call for standard sets of various amounts of reps. There’s nothing wrong with this but if you want to gain size and strength then you’re going to need to push yourself. This is where cluster sets come into play. Cluster sets call for brief rests (20-30 seconds) at different points so you’re able to perform more reps with weight that you wouldn’t normally be able to use.
By Roger Lockridge
When many people step foot into a gym or weight room for the first time, they have to experiment to figure out how strong they are with various movements. Once they have an idea of how strong they are they start thinking about how strong they want to be and set a goal. If this description matches you then you need to keep reading because this technique can help you.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re working with Incline Barbell Bench Press. Choose a weight that you can perform for 5 reps. Let’s say that is 225 pounds. With a traditional set you would perform 5 reps and rack the weight. Now let’s do a cluster set. Instead of performing 5 reps, you’ll perform 2 reps and rack it. Once you rack it, count out 20 seconds. As soon as that time passes, perform 2 more reps and rack it again. You’ll repeat this pattern until you perform 4 “mini sets” of 2 reps. After you finish your fourth round, you’re finished with your first cluster set. Instead of performing 5 total reps, you actually performed 8 reps. Which way do you think was more productive? You performed more work with the cluster set. Three cluster sets like that and you’ll know you did some serious work.
Implementing Cluster Sets into Your Routine
You can use cluster sets on any movement you like but I prefer to use them on multi joint, compound movements like bench press, squat, deadlifts, rows, and shoulder presses. These are the big exercises that work multiple muscle groups which are best for gaining size and strength. If you would like to take cluster sets for a test drive then try this routine on your next chest day.
Pec Deck or Machine Flyes – 3 sets of 20, 15, 10 reps.
- Light to moderate weight.
Incline Barbell Bench Press – 2 warm up sets of 15, 10 reps. 3 cluster sets of 2+2+2+2 reps.
- 20 seconds rest in between each “cluster”. 2 minutes rest between each set.
Flat Dumbbell Flye – 3 sets of 20, 15, 10 reps.
- Increase weight as reps decrease.
Dips – 3 sets of 20 reps.
- Use a vest or dip belt if necessary for extra resistance.
Rest 1-2 minutes between each set with other exercises.