all posts post new thread

Honest Effort

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
My experiment with Cluster Sets is ending with a deload/R&R week to be followed by basic sandbag modified DeLorme.

Clusters, as I settled upon worked very well for building upper body strength and size. Arms haven't been this big in quite some time. The only lift that didn't really take off was my loaded PUs, but they did come back to the levels they were at 2 Summers ago. Also PUs were the most effected by my degenerative disk flare up, that really threw a wrench in this training block.

The high volume and high frequency applied lo legs wound up leaving me perpetually sore and tight in the legs. A good sign that this is effective, but a bad sign that I never really acclimated to it. Part of this might be that my limited ability to load resulted in fairly high rep counts for some of the exercises but that only partly accounts for it. Next time I work in a block of Clusters I will need to dial back the number of repeat intervals when doing lower body. Still, I was able to progress quite a bit and similar to my upper body lifts more or less doubled the number of reps at a given loading compared to my start values in all exercises.

All in all very successful, Clusters are a potent tool at any rep range, and a mentally easy way to really dial up intensity and volume.

esj8uGZm.jpg
 
Last edited:

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello @North Coast Miller

Impressive physique and results ! Great example of the "form follows function" thing !

Obviously, what I'll say has to be considered with a pinch of salt, as you are way more experienced than me, both in training and programming.

As far as leg soreness is concerned, maybe it can be mitigated with easy running (MAF type) or swimming (if swimming pools are currently opened) on off-days or upper days. In "Training For The Uphill Athlete", it is mentioned that a strong aerobic system acts as some sort of lactic-acid vaccum cleaner.

Beyond the cardiovascular benefits, this activity can be considered as a great recovery tool. That's why a lot of combat sport athletes do this "easy roadwork". My boxing teacher, who is at national level also advocates this. It does not have to be difficult or fancy: something like 2 or 3 30-45 minutes nasal breathing running sessions (no need for elevation or technical trail stuff). At the end, you do not have to feel tired. A great indicator would be the talk test: being able to talk during all the session.

Since I've begun trailing, I've noticed I recover far better. The curious but appreciable thing is that legs recover better, but upper body as well.

Hope it can give you ideas,

Again, great work !

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello @North Coast Miller

Impressive physique and results ! Great example of the "form follows function" thing !

Obviously, what I'll say has to be considered with a pinch of salt, as you are way more experienced than me, both in training and programming.

As far as leg soreness is concerned, maybe it can be mitigated with easy running (MAF type) or swimming (if swimming pools are currently opened) on off-days or upper days. In "Training For The Uphill Athlete", it is mentioned that a strong aerobic system acts as some sort of lactic-acid vaccum cleaner.

Beyond the cardiovascular benefits, this activity can be considered as a great recovery tool. That's why a lot of combat sport athletes do this "easy roadwork". My boxing teacher, who is at national level also advocates this. It does not have to be difficult or fancy: something like 2 or 3 30-45 minutes nasal breathing running sessions (no need for elevation or technical trail stuff). At the end, you do not have to feel tired. A great indicator would be the talk test: being able to talk during all the session.

Since I've begun trailing, I've noticed I recover far better. The curious but appreciable thing is that legs recover better, but upper body as well.

Hope it can give you ideas,

Again, great work !

Kind regards,

Pet'
This is good advice! Unfortunately my left knee still has issues with possible torn meniscus (MRI in August if no improvement by then) and my right knee decided to act up as well. Currently my only easy recovery for legs is walking, mobility and some stretching. Am planning to try some light jogging next week, but again am liable to run into heel spur aggravation. I may be limited to some rucking with a 30lb pack.

But I think biggest factor, the volume when doing Clusters can really sneak up on you - it is HIT in disguise with added features, even if you don't go to true failure. This is something I didn't appreciate when I started but came to understand as I went. You don't often think of "failure" as not being able to complete another 3 rep interval. More than once I thought "I'll bet I could get 90% of the benefit with one warmup set and one working set" but always did that middle set anyway.

Combine this with training every day and am pretty sure I was hitting each exercise a LOT harder than I realized and just plain never reached even 80% recovery. It took 4 days of complete, total detraining for my quads and hamstrings to be completely free of muscle soreness when I decided it was time to stop this block. Even dialing it back for alternating sessions wasn't enough to get me in the clear as my quads and hams were always tight.

Upper body thrived on it though, and this is something I've noticed off and on my entire fitness life - lower body does just fine on straight sets and less periodizing, upper body likes to shake it up more. Also lower body work overlaps a lot more and upper body seems to tolerate a lot more similar movement patterns without overtraining.

Also not monitoring my results as closely as I normally do, but my legs have gotten quite a bit larger, developing a case of adductor chafing, and my shirts are all tight despite a lack of real definition I normally get from training high intensity.

Am definitely going to revisit this again with tweaks. Planning on a 4 week block of my old "Hobo Strong" offset weighted pole and dial it back on the leg work a little.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Loaded pushups and GoodMornings. Have been doing higher volume Good Mornings, making the bag catch air. PUs have been moving my hands further forward to mimic more of an incline press. It winds up reducing the amount of resistance a bit but the movement is tougher and hits upper pecs more. Doing them with hands lower has the effect of turning them into a heavier decline press - I don't want my lower pecs any more developed than they are.

Have temporarily decommissioned my 130lb bag and made two sets of 75 and 105lbs for work and home since I'm having a tough time consistently training one, but can reliably manage either/or.

Burpees for warmup

PUs 75lbs x 10
GMs 75lbs x 30

PUs Cluster 105lbs x 4,4
GMs 105lbs x20

PUs Cluster 105lbs x 5,5,5
GMs Cluster 105lbs x 20,20

Crunches loaded w/30lb x 20
Curls, pronated grip 75lbs Cluster 4,4
Stretching
Crunches loaded w/30lb x 20
Curls, pronated grip 75lbs Cluster 4,4,4

Did the Renaissance Fest over the weekend and finally got 3 for 3 (the gold hammer) on the High Striker game. Murdered the thing - it was effortless. Am kinda surprised it ever gave me trouble. Many hours loosening clay with a pick mattock last Summer must've dialed in my form in ways splitting firewood never did.

1735gqGm.jpg
 

Ryan T

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Hey, thanks for checking it out.
Haven't been keeping it updated very well lately, I train a lot more consistently than I post on here. Much of it is pretty repetitive/park bench stuff with small tweaks as I go, so I stopped doing a daily account a long time ago.
I find it is enough as long as you’re keeping track in some way and reviewing regularly to distinguish patterns and adaptations. Personally, I have to post a log daily or every few days or so, or else I start to lose track. Online works pretty well for me.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
I find it is enough as long as you’re keeping track in some way and reviewing regularly to distinguish patterns and adaptations. Personally, I have to post a log daily or every few days or so, or else I start to lose track. Online works pretty well for me.
I normally keep a steno pad logbook, and transcribe it to the forum for safekeeping and to participate. When I switched to Clusters and autoregulating the rep count I almost think it is better NOT to keep such close tabs except for vague exercise selection.
 

Ryan T

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I normally keep a steno pad logbook, and transcribe it to the forum for safekeeping and to participate. When I switched to Clusters and autoregulating the rep count I almost think it is better NOT to keep such close tabs except for vague exercise selection.
You feel like you’d get too “competitive” with yourself and try to beat your previous times? ;)
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Burpees warmup

Upright rows, Zercher Squat. At the top of the upright row I am now adding a very short ROM facepull, basically pulling the slack out of the bag/handles. Repeated efforts to find a suitable alternative to these for a high pull have been unsuccessful. Hang cleans are a strong contender, but not a replacement for a grind.

2nd session with Zercher, holding the bag higher to keep it off my thighs at the bottom. I expect loading to increase a bunch from here. Am curious if bilateral squat will help with my (possible) torn meniscus in left knee and patellar pain in right knee.

Upr row 75lb x 20
Zercher 75lb x 20

Upr row Cluster 105lbs 3x2
Zercher Cluster 105lb 6x 2

Upr row Cluster 105lbs 3x3 Dropset 75lbsx 8
Zercher Cluster 105lbs 8x3

Crunches loaded 30lbs x 25
Tricep extension Cluster 75lbs 4x2
Stretching
Crunches loaded 30lbs x 25
Tricep extension Cluster 75lbs 5x3
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Today's pair, one arm rows and...Hack Squat!

Has been a year since I could do these on account of my left knee possible torn meniscus and lately my right knee acting up, xray shows a bit of arthritis.

These felt fine (and by that I mean unpleasant but no knee pain and very little mechanical clunking) done with 75lb bag held around my kidneys.

Managed to finish with a Cluster Set of 2x10 and pounded out 20 rapid bodyweight as a Drop Set. I needed this, been pretty down about my knees and have had to nix almost all my conditioning for quite a while. Glimmer of hope.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Been on vacation for a week and took off another week on top of that, total deload. My lower back and knees feel great for it.

Am going to commence a block of Isometrics, trying to address the fundamental deficiencies in my last set of Iso, namely challenging the legs and hinge sufficiently. To that end have changed my lower body exercise selection. Am using a homemade suspension trainer, 20 seconds on : 40seconds off, 4-5 sets per.

My first session today felt great - leg exercises a work in progress, will update as I go. Upper body is similar to previous approaches using overload from a basic squat or hinge to recalibrate effort on the fly.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Isometrics reboot continued. 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off, 5 sets each exercise. Quick and brutal.

- Zercher Deadlift with a 2" PVC pipe

- "tricep/posterior pull" (similar to the follow through when crossc ountry ski poling) from a low squat

- lateral extension from a low squat/Hacksquat
Finished it off with 5 minutes of jumprope, which I barely completed. VERY surprised to find I almost was unable to perform this relatively simple act, but I was absolutely wiped, especially my shoulders coming off the lateral extensions.

The Zercher DLs are so far thebest iso movement I've used to really dig into the hinge - could feel it in glutes, hams, erectors all about equal. Even cheated a little by bracing my elbows against the top of my thighs on the last repeat. Set these up quite low in the ROM.
The poling hold hits the lats, traps, triceps quads.
the lateral extensions were horrific.

I may need to insert some jumprope at the conclusion of each exercise rather than wait till the end. Am still tinkering around with increasing bloodflow when doing Isometrics to improve the overall response. The fact I was too gassed to easily do 5 minutes of jumprope was quite a surprise and left me feeling not-quite-pumped but more activated (?!) than just the isometrics. My earlier use of Iso and HIIT has left me conviced there is a simple path to rounding out this approach in a single session, which would greatly increase the utility of isometrics as a primary means of resistance training. Next will try a few not-quite-HIIT jumprope intervals of 20 seconds on 40 seconds off at an RPE of about 7.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello @North Coast Miller

I am very intrigued with the Zercher DL. How do you perform it (at what angle(s): bottom, middle, top position of the lift) ?

Another question: why did you chose this move instead of doing an actual squat (either front or back) and an actual deadlift ?

I hope these are not too stupid questions !

Thanks again,

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello @North Coast Miller

I am very intrigued with the Zercher DL. How do you perform it (at what angle(s): bottom, middle, top position of the lift) ?

Another question: why did you chose this move instead of doing an actual squat (either front or back) and an actual deadlift ?

I hope these are not too stupid questions !

Thanks again,

Kind regards,

Pet'

I am including a lowbar backsquat to the mix on days opposite the Zercher DL.

In the past I found that back loaded Good Mornings and low hold DLs seemed to result in too much of the effort falling on the erectors as well as grip strength being too weak to assure a "max voluntary effort".

With the Zercher DL, I hit about 2/5 point in the ROM, the bar about 22-24 inches off the floor. This is about the lowest I can get and still pull my shoulders back enough to maintain a solidly neutral back. Also tinkering around to see at what length the contribution "feels" fairly equal between erectors, hamstrings, glutes (an identical feeling-out process used for squat).

As long as the muscles involved are working at longer lengths the outcome should improve strength through the entire ROM.

Unrelated, or mostly unrelated since I first noticed this trying to balance the ROM point for DL and squat - have noticed a phenomena when doing iso where not all muscles in a lift are firing maximally. Paying attention you can detect some muscles like slacking workers on a crew either don't realize they should be included or underestimate their role. Its a strange feeling when you notice it, and probably not possible with isotonic exercise without a much greater deliberate intent to uncover. This is apparent in almost all movements if determined to find it.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Today's line-up:

- Backsquats, bar at 40".
- Pec diagonal up from DL, finish with eccentric hands about even with trochanter
- high pull
- lunge out - lunge position with toe on one side of doorframe, ball of rear leg on other, keep rear leg bent as little as possible, front leg as bent as possible on flat foot - drive feet away from each other. This opposed to a "lunge in" which doesn't need a doorframe - brace in a lunge with lead leg bent as little as possible on ball of foot, rear leg as bent as possible on flat foot. try to drive feet together.

Changed out timer for 15 seconds on : 45 seconds off, 5 repeats. This winds up being about 3 partial Valsalva exhales, on upper body holds the last one is done while driving with lower body to force an eccentric.

One minute jump rope after each exercise.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello @North Coast Miller

I'd like to introduce drop-sets to increase my strength a little. How much drop-sets sessions per week would you use for this ?

Thank you !

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello @North Coast Miller

I'd like to introduce drop-sets to increase my strength a little. How much drop-sets sessions per week would you use for this ?

Thank you !

Kind regards,

Pet'

The best way is to use it as a final set in whatever exercise. It can be used multiple times per week as long as you are getting at least a full day or two off per exercise using it. Burnout will take 3-5 weeks, initially you'll just notice you need a little extra time before moving to next exercise.

My advice is to use it with a very heavy initial load, 3 reps of your 4 rep max or so, taken to technical failure (reasonably sure you can't get another strong rep, therev is never a good reason to go 100% failure unless testing). Follow within 10 seconds a set using your 8-10 rep max, again to tech failure. This can be followed yet again with a 15-20 rep max weight, but in practice the one drop set does 90% of the benefit.

For strength, a Cluster is a little more effective and easier to manage since the load doesn't change. In use it might look like a set of 3 reps of your 5 rep max, follow with 20-40 second rest (time a few inhale exhale cycles when training and just approximate based on breath count. For me, when somewhat fatigued, 5 seconds per, 6 breaths = 30 seconds. Make sure to time your recovery breathing, not your resting. I made this mistake initially and was only giving myself 10-15 seconds between repeats! ), and repeat. The first Cluster is easy, drive with as much speed as possible. By three repeats you should have reached "technical failure" Cluster-style, that is "I can't get another 3 rep set", not "I can't get another rep. If you can do more, do so. This can be followed immediately with a drop set as well, using a very light load 10-15 rep weight or lighter, don't bother going to failure but don't avoid it either. At 15-20 reps you've gotten the benefit no matter.

With Clusters or Drop Sets you will notice direct correlation between load/rep/volume. Doing more with first set shrinks number of repeats or follow on reps. With Cluster this can be manipulated more easily. Say 3 reps of a 6 rep max becomes 5 or more repeats instead of 3.

Rest/Pause is a cousin to both. Works best with a 6-8 rep set taken to tech failure, followed with same load taken to tech failure after 20-30 second. Differentiates from Cluster by taking first set to tech failure, which is why (in my opinion) using a very heavy load 2-3 rep results in too little volume for the resulting amount of fatigue. The second set will always be about half the first one, or less.
 
Top Bottom