In my pursuit of a five hundred pound pull I have been experimenting with a variety different loading parameters, set and rep schemes, and rest period duration in attempt to overcome my inefficient force production off the floor. A month ago I stumbled across a interesting article on Charles Poliquin's websitetalking about cluster training. Coach Charles Poliquin
This was not an entirely new concept to be because I have done some training with the rest-pause method before, but primarily using it as a finishing technique to force muscular failure. What enticed me about this training protocol is that it allows you to increase the intensity of your set without lowering the volume. In addition it prevents the decline of power output as the set continues due to fatigue accumulation. I have been using this cluster technique into my deadlifting cycle over the past month and have had a great experience. The clusters have added some extra intensity to the lift, which in my world is never a bad thing and I have noticed a significant improvement in the speed of the bar off the ground. As a result of the success I have experienced with clusters. I highly recommend you try incorporating this technique into your program.
Cluster sets are simple to perform and require vary little set-up or modification to an exercise making them practical for anybody. Essentially a cluster set can be subdivided into many smaller sets that are defined by a specific number of repetitions performed with prescribed rest period between each smaller set of reps. For example, you could take a typical set and rep scheme, such as 3 sets of 8 reps and break it down using a cluster method. Say you breakdown each set into two smaller sets consisting of 4 reps apiece with a 10sec rest between each 4-rep sets.
If you wanna be big and strong try some clusters.
The wonderful thing about applying this method is it allows you one to increase the weight you could normally use for a set of 8 reps making your training density increase by only investing a small amount of extra time. This technique also prevents a sharp decline in force production and power output as the set goes on by using a short rest interval after a set number of repetitions allowing short-term energy substrates to recover. In addition this might allow you to continue to target fast twitch muscle fibers because the short rest period will allow the fibers to replenish energy stores and begin firing again.
Cluster sets can be incorporated into a variety lifts, but I prefer barbell modalities because it takes minimal time to rack and unrack the weight during the set. One of my favorite pairings to do using cluster sets is the following:
A1) Barbell Bench Press 4 x (4 x 2) w/10sec pause B1) Farmer's Walk x 80yds
Please be forewarned though that this is a brutal pairing and perform it at your own risk.
Anyhow if your looking for a great way to increase your strength level I highly recommend adding cluster sets to your bag of weapons. It will come in handy in your battle against the iron.