Should You Cluster Train?

Read this before you ditch traditional methods.

Should You Cluster Train?



Traditionally, exercise repetitions are completed in a continuous manner during each set. Momentary muscular failure generally signals the end of the set. The inclusion of interset rest periods is known as “cluster training” and is an effective way to increase the number of reps that can be completed during a set before momentary muscular failure occurs. Additionally, it allows more weight to be used for a given number of reps. The use of more weight should produce a more potent strength stimulus.


There is a lack of evidence that stopping in the middle of a set to rest will lead to greater strength gains than traditional sets. It may be that including interset rest periods effectively reduces the overall intensity of the set. If intensity is related to the strength stimulus, then one should expect cluster training to be at best, no more effective than traditional training, and at worst, inferior to traditional training.


  • A study performed at Edith Cowan University in Australia Compared cluster training and traditional strength training and found traditional training to be more effective at increasing maximum strength.
  • A recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology demonstrated that cluster sets that permit higher- volume loads offer no benefits over traditional sets for the development of maximal strength. 


Traditional training methods edge out cluster training for developing maximum strength.


Cluster training is an interesting concept and may have a place in a bodybuilder’s tool bag. At this time, however, it is premature to claim that
it has any bene ts over traditional training methods.

I have seen lifters use cluster training periodically to hit a certain number of reps with a weight they’ve been struggling with. Outside of its utility in stretching out a set, it should not be looked at as a superior training method.


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