Cluster sets: Permitting greater mechanical stress without decreasing relative velocity

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance


Human Kinetics Inc.


Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research




Tufano, J. J., Conlon, J. A., Nimphius, S., Brown, L. E., Banyard, H. G., Williamson, B. D., . . . Haff, G. G. (2017). Cluster sets: permitting greater mechanical stress without decreasing relative velocity. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 12(4), 463-469.



To determine the effects of intraset rest frequency and training load on muscle time under tension, external work, and external mechanical power output during back-squat protocols with similar changes in velocity.


Twelve strength-trained men (26.0 ± 4.2 y, 83.1 ± 8.8 kg, 1.75 ± 0.06 m, 1.88:0.19 one-repetition-maximum [1RM] body mass) performed 3 sets of 12 back squats using 3 different set structures: traditional sets with 60% 1RM (TS), cluster sets of 4 with 75% 1RM (CS4), and cluster sets of 2 with 80% 1RM (CS2). Repeated-measures ANOVAs were used to determine differences in peak force (PF), mean force (MF), peak velocity (PV), mean velocity (MV), peak power (PP), mean power (MP), total work (TW), total time under tension (TUT), percentage mean velocity loss (%MVL), and percentage peak velocity loss (%PVL) between protocols.


Compared with TS and CS4, CS2 resulted in greater MF, TW, and TUT in addition to less MV, PV, and MP. Similarly, CS4 resulted in greater MF, TW, and TUT in addition to less MV, PV, and MP than TS did. There were no differences between protocols for %MVL, %PVL, PF, or PP.


These data show that the intraset rest provided in CS4 and CS2 allowed for greater external loads than with TS, increasing TW and TUT while resulting in similar PP and %VL. Therefore, cluster-set structures may function as an alternative method to traditional strength- or hypertrophy-oriented training by increasing training load without increasing %VL or decreasing PP.



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