Cluster training involves using short rest period during a working set ranging from 10-30 seconds before continuing the remainder of the set. The purpose of these short rest periods is to allow the body to lift more weight.
An example of cluster training would be take a 5 rep max weight and do 4 micro sets of 2 reps each by simply adding a brief pausing in between each 2 rep set. While the extra 3 sets may not seem like much of a difference, think about how you just did your 5 rep max 8 times. These extra 3 reps actually equate to a 60% increase in volume. That takes what seems impossible and makes it very possible. The added weight means that you are adding more stress to the muscle, which will in turn force the muscle to grow bigger and stronger.
In addition to the increase in volume, cluster training remains an excellent way to break through those nasty plateaus that we all hit every once in a while.
Cluster Training vs. Traditional Lifting
Traditional lifting would have the example above where you would do a 5 rep set then break for 2-3 minutes between sets. With cluster training, we lifted more weight in a shorter time.
Does cluster training sound a little familiar to you? It should. It is closely related to another form of training involving starting and stopping – Rest Pause Training.
Cluster Training vs. Rest Pause Training
While both cluster training and rest pause training share many similarities, there are a few notable differences.
When resting, rest pause training involves supporting the weight while resting whereas cluster training has you re-rack the weight.
Rest pause training has you take your first set to failure with each set consisting of a decreasing number of reps. Cluster training generally avoids failure and all sets have the same number of reps and the same amount of weight. Rest pause training has you using the same weight, but varies the total number of reps.