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I have started using Cluster training more and more for general population clients, and even some (in-season or time constrained) athletes. Basically I pull it in and out with anyone I think is “strong enough”.
There is a point of diminishing returns on some forms of weight training. However maintaining the big moves on some kind of regularity is critical.
My approach to anyone, especially those of low Training age is;
- get them right along the mobility-Stability healthy joint continuum. - ramp up strength training using all the common compound human movements
- Hit some endurance and aerobic work by doing that in continuous circuits.
- reduce that to working on 2-3 main movements for a bit of volume and real strength development. - add in Specific conditioning relative to what the person has a deficit in or their sport needs.
But at some point people will reach a point of diminishing returns. This does not mean we abandoned traditional strength training, we just prioritize other modalities of fitness and maybe add some variety.
For 30 or 45 minute session though I have found cluster training to be ideal.
What clusters are essentially is density training. We shorten the rest periods and stick to one exercise for a number of sets.
I use 2 methods generally, Max Strength 4-8 rep range or Hypertrophy/Endurance in the 8-15 rep range. For general population you can swap in and out of these.
But what might be different about my approach is we do not have a set amount of sets. The truth is we never really know day to day what someone has in the tank. We generally stick to compound exercises like Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press, Chins, Rowe, Swings etc.
If we pick 3 to do in a 30 minute PT session then in 10 mins we could get through a huge volume of Strength training which allows us 20 mins to work in many other aspects that may need addressing.
So what you do is;
- pick an exercise like Back Squat at lets say 75% of your max
- Do as many good reps as possible
- Put it down and rest 20 seconds
- Go again, and max out
- Repeat until you drop below 50% of your 1st set
And that’s it. For clients it is challenging and for coaches time efficient