Cluster training was created to make strength gains quickly, ramping up your metabolism to burn calories the rest of the day. Your body requires a variety of methods to make progressive gains with your fitness goals so instead of doing reps you do this instead.
I like you to keep the total reps slightly higher on the kettle bell swing than on other classic compound moves. Fast ballistic move, with heavy weight, with rounded spine = blooming disaster for ligaments and disks in your back.
Go back, master Hip Hinge to Glute Lock and transfer that move to the Swing itself. The spine must remain fixed from ass to neck throughout the swing.
Kettle bells can work well in traditional strength-and-size focused rep schemes like 5×5 or 3×8-12, but for most people, that approach isn't ideal. Because few, if any, of us have a full rack of kettle bells to match the precise dumbbell and barbell loading schemes that usually go along with those reps.
Cluster training comes in different forms, but the common thread is multiple sets of low reps with short rests between them. If you add the element of time into the workout, it gives you even more ways to progress.
For example, a typical workout in Ready for Anything will tell you to perform clusters of the kettle bell Z-press for 5 minutes, alternating arms with each set. Over time, rather than simply trying to use a heavier weight, you could try to do more work in that 5 minutes.
Both of these metrics measure workout “density,” an underappreciated type of progressive overload that can help you not only add strength and muscle size, but also boost conditioning and fat loss. Pro-tip: If you only have light weights, then just doing sets of 2-4 may be too easy.
High-rep “breathing squats” routines have been around for nearly a century, but they usually involve a barbell on the back. John Resin, DPT, was the one who introduced me to the idea of the goblet squat “test” of 25 reps using half of one's body weight.
You can read about it in the article Don't Dis's the Goblet Squat Until You've Survived This Workout.” The core, upper back and postural muscles, lungs, and willpower are all tested.
And despite what people like to say about goblet squats not being heavy enough to work your legs, your lower body will be weeping. Submitting yourself to this once or twice a week will boost strength and posture, increase conditioning, and give your body a serious push toward being truly ready for anything.
On the other, you can feel like you wasted 15 minutes of your life on what a friend of mine calls a “no-twitch muscle fiber workout.” And by success, I mean simply that I and many other people have been able to predictably make progress with them, not get injured, and experience that “wow, I'm in great shape right now” feeling when hiking in the hills (which, for me, is the ultimate test of fitness).
Alternately, combine ladders with ATM swings and do 5 reps one minute, 10 the next, and then 15. Pro-tip: If you are gasping before a set starts, skip it and give yourself another 30 seconds until the next round.
I actually find it strange that more hasn’t been written about cluster training recently. Cluster training is an effective tool to shock your body into new gains, as well as break up the monotony of taking a straight sets approach to your lifting.
Cluster training involves using short, inter-set rest periods (usually ranging anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds), which act to allow us to do more reps with a heavier weight. I know that being able to do 3 extra reps doesn’t seem like much at first, but when you realize it equates to a 60% increase in output, you start to notice how effective cluster training can be.
By employing clusters into our training in this fashion we can effectively “cheat” a set and perform more reps than we would normally be able to. All the benefits of cluster training arise from the ability to do more reps with a heavier weight.
Whenever you’re able to keep intensity high whilst doing more reps, you’re always going to see an immediate carryover to improvements in strength and muscle gains. The beauty of cluster training is that you can easily manipulate the sets/reps/rest scheme to make it more biased to inducing strength or hypertrophy gains, depending on what your goal is.
Another benefit of cluster training is its ability to break through strength plateaus. Seeing as most people haven’t been exposed to cluster training methods before, it stands to reason that they will see their biggest benefit from it the first time they do it.
Don’t freak out, they’re quite easy to understand, and I’ve given a detailed explanation on the first example so that you know exactly what you’re doing. In this example, you’re going to find a weight that’s around 85% of your 1RM, and you’re going to do as much reps as you can (without going to complete failure) before racking the bar and resting for 30-seconds.
I like using clusters because they’re a change of pace from the regular training methods, they’re hard as hell, and they work.