Cluster Workout

Cluster Workout

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


A cluster workout plan can be an excellent way to increase your strength. Although it doesn't produce hypertrophy gains, cluster training can set the stage for impressive muscle strength. A cluster workout plan is an effective way to increase your strength while maintaining an intense level during your workout. You'll see some impressive gains with this type of plan, but it's not for everyone.

Poliquin-style cluster sets routine

When combined with a stacked set of heavy compound movements, Poliquin-style cluster sets are a powerful and effective way to maximize strength gains. These workouts are highly effective for achieving a variety of goals, such as increasing explosive power and hypertrophy of type II-B muscle fibers. These sets are often performed with two to three repetitions of each movement, followed by rests of one to five minutes.

A Poliquin-style cluster set workout consists of multiple small sets with mini rest periods in between. One cluster might be four reps followed by a short rest period, such as two to three seconds. Then, the athlete repeats this set for a total of five to 10 repetitions. Then, the athlete completes three or four sets with a short rest period in between. Each set should be built on the previous one.

Keeping intensity high while doing more reps

Using cluster training, or multiple sets of exercises, can maximize strength and explosiveness. By alternating moderate weight with heavy weight, athletes can increase intensity while doing more repetitions. A cluster workout plan is highly effective for athletes who feel the effects of DOMS. The key is to monitor output without getting too fancy. It's best to compare the results of a cluster workout to that of traditional, good work.

As an added benefit, the repetitions are highly effective, even for beginners. Using cluster sets will enable you to maximize your training intensity without sacrificing the benefit of rest. While cluster sets may sound complicated, they're actually simple. Unlike traditional reps, cluster sets are similar in duration, which allows you to get more work done in less time. They're also great for athletes who are plateauing on a particular compound movement.

Programming a cluster workout plan

The cluster set is a brutal workout, but can also be an effective way to increase your maximal strength. These sets are comprised of multiple sets of five reps with ten to thirty seconds of rest between each set. Using this workout plan is particularly beneficial for bodybuilders who want to train for a period of two to four weeks. 

While some people are skeptical, many experts agree that cluster training is an effective way to increase a person's work output in a single set. The cluster training method can be helpful for strength training athletes who want to develop their concentric and eccentric skills. This method can be helpful for beginners who are working to perform their first pull-up or for more advanced athletes who are aiming for a one arm pull-up.

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What does a cluster set look like?

Typically, if you are looking to increase muscular endurance you would perfrom over 12 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets. The weight would be 70% of your 1 repetition max. Ie the heaviest weight you can lift for 1 time. 

Hypertrophy would consists of 6 to 12 repetitions over 3 to 6 sets. This would maximize muscle growth when you lift 70-80% of your 1 rep max. 

If you were interested in maximizing your power which could be useful for a number of contact sports you would reduce that number of repetitions and do 2 to 5 over 3 to 6 sets at 65-85% of your 1 rep max.

Strength is different. Typically you would perform 1 to 6 reps for 3 to 6 sets. The weight would range from 80-100% of your 1 rep max.

For these workouts, you would usualy leave 90 seconds between each set for recovery, although there is some flexibility in this. 

Clusters are slightly different. 

Cluster sets are great for increasing strength. 

With other resistance training programs, regardless of the desired outcome, the repetitions of a set get progressively more difficult which leads to exhuastion.

Cluster sets are extremely difficult for each repetition without the profgressive exhaustion.

This is because a set may consist of 5 repetitions. However, after each repetition there is a 25 second break.

You're essentially performing singles. And the weight is at 90% of your 1 rep max.

After each set, there's a 5 minute rest period. This stress is proven to develop strength.


As a word of warning, before you start any resistance training program you need to condition your body.

This means introducing it to the stresses the body will endure and experience. 

Therefore, you should embark on a few works of light resistance training at a higher repetition range to strengthen and condition the tendons and ligaments to avoid injury. This will also prepare you mentally and iron out any issues you may have with exercise form. 


If you are looking to increase your strength, a cluster workout may be ideal for you. It can take a longer time to perform all of the sets but the stresses on the body and musculature are effective. 

However, do ensure that if you aren't already engaged in a resistance training program that you do some pre-conditioning work and always stretch off and warm up before any activity to minimize injury.

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