Effectively build muscles with cluster training

Effectively build muscles with cluster training

Do you train regularly, are pretty fit, and are looking for new training variations? Then you should take a closer look at the so-called cluster training. Although it’s a bit older, it’s relatively unknown. That’s surprising because some experts consider it to be the most effective strength training method of all.

Developed by a weightlifting coach

Cluster training is also considered the break program. But the break should be seen in relative terms. The breaks are extremely short, and the load is very high. Cluster training was developed by the US American Carl Miller. He presented it for the first time in 1981. At that time, he was head coach of the American national weightlifting team, and he divided the individual forms of exercise in strength training into clusters.

In cluster training, the breaks are the decisive criterion

How the method works are best explained with an exercise example. Let’s assume you are doing a bench press with a barbell. You are undoubtedly familiar with the training variant in which you train eight repetitions with 80 percent of your maximum strength. With cluster training, you work with 90 percent of your repetition maximum. But you take a short break of 10 to 15 seconds after every single or every second repetition. This has two advantages:

  • The higher weight causes more muscle fibers to contract. This allows for a more effective workout.
  • Despite the higher weight, the pauses do not overload the neuro-muscular and central nervous systems.
Cluster training
Cluster training should always be done with a partner (ⓒadpic)

Studies have proven the effectiveness

Several studies have clearly shown that even top athletes gain strength and muscle through cluster training. The only disadvantage is the significantly higher time requirement due to the cluster-like break design.

How cluster training looks like

To train successfully with this method, you need to know your maximum strength for the individual exercises and determine it regularly. Then do 3 sets of 6 times 1 repetition with 90 percent of your repetition maximum for each exercise. After each repetition, you take a break between 10 to 15 seconds. Take a gap of 3 to 5 minutes between sets. Very important: You work with hefty weights and pay attention to the correct execution of movements. In addition, you should refrain as far as possible from breathing under pressure despite the intense load. My advice:

  • You should not do cluster training alone but with a training partner or coach.
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1 thought on “Effectively build muscles with cluster training”

  • Just an FYI. Carl Miller was the head coach of the US Weightlifting Team at the 1978 World Weightlifting Championships. I attended his weightlifting camp in 1977 where he discussed cluster training. However, the only source easily assessable is Miller’s 1981 book that has a chapter about it, “The Sport of Olympic-Style Weightlifting.”

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