Forgotten Training Protocols: 4 x 10 Clusters

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For whatever reason some training systems remain in the public psyche while others fall to the wayside, continued only by a few dedicated and often fixated trainers. Thus while nearly every intermediate and certainly every advanced trainee is familiar with manipulating rep ranges, few seem to stray outside the comfort zone of 5 x 5, 8 x 3 and whatever other bland rep schemes we chose. What about 7 x 4 for a change?

Musing aside, today’s short post details 4 x 10 clusters, a method of volume training first introduced to me several years ago by an older trainee and a fallback I use whenever my training gets a little stale.

What is it?

Cluster training is exactly what it says on the tin. You take a certain number of reps, say 30 for example and divide it over a series of set ranges. What differentiates this from your average 5 x 5 training however is the rest ranges used.

In cluster training, the goal is to keep inter-set rest to an absolute minimum. So in the case of 30 reps, we may choose to go with 6 reps, rest 20 seconds, 6 reps, rest 20 seconds and so on until we hit the target of 30. That’s one set.

This style of training, although rare, has many benefits. In the first instance, it allows you to pack more volume in to a short space of time. Coupled with this, the rest period although short, is generally long enough for you to catch your breath and recoup some of your energy. Indeed, once you get past the mental barriers of this type of training, it’s not unheard of for people to use 70 to 80% of their one rep max on cluster training.

What’s so special about 4 x 10?

To be perfectly honest…There’s nothing special about this particular cluster arrangement. It’s not better than 6 x 5, 8 x4 or whatever else you want to do. I prefer it because the sets are sufficiently long to get into a training groove and the volume always ensures a tidy pump in the muscles.

We’ve previously discussed the old school adherence to 20 rep squat training, a brutal form of leg training that was once the go to solution for adding mass to skinny and muscular frames. We should always remember that high volume training for legs was, is, and will continue to be one of the tried and trusted methods of muscular growth. One of the key apostles of this being Tom Platz, pictured below

Tom Platz at his best

The Jury’s Still Out on Whether High Volume Worked for Platz

Why I like 4 x 10 training, a system I use exclusively for leg day, is that it allows me to use relatively high weights while still overloading the quads with volume. Plus I struggle with numbers past ten.

How to Use It

Generally I reserve this method for those times when my training needs some shaking up. When I’m going through the motions or when I’ve gotten bored with what I’m doing. A call to basics that comes up once or twice a year. Something I’m sure we’ve all experienced with a few years training under our collective belts.

Simplifying everything, I follow one of these two programmes for two to three months depending how I’m feeling. Pay attention now, because this is important.

Workout One

Back Squats

Workout Two 

Barbell Loaded Split Squats

Simple right? Let it never be said that I lack imagination in my training…

In any case for either workout the pattern is the same:

10 reps, rest 30 seconds, 10 reps, rest 30 seconds, 10 reps, rest 30 seconds, 10 reps, rest 2-5 minutes depending on how I feel. That’s one set.

Over the course of an hour I might get in anywhere from 7 – 10 sets. Each workout I increase the weight on the bar and I generally begin with about 75% of my One Rep Max on either exercise.

The Result?

I’m not going to lie, it’s not a pleasant way to train. By the third set I usually want to give up and those days I make it to ten sets, I’m an unmitigated mess emotionally. There’s not enough pre-workout in the world that can stop that!

That being said, the method has proven easier for me than 20 rep squats, both mentally and physically, and stemming from this, more effective.  20 rep squats, though effective, are in my own experience easier to cheat on. The rest periods in 10 x 4, although small, usually help keep my form and thus my lower back, in check.

As a natural trainee I’m always sceptical of saying, ‘I gained 10 lbs.’ in only ten weeks and  you can too. So no, I will not claim that this training style produces steroid like gains. For that you have to try my exclusive system for only 9.99$ a month…

What I will say is that this style of training nevertheless comes with several tangible benefits that myself and anyone I’ve alerted to this style of training have all recorded. A more truthful recounting me thinks!

First it nails in your technique. Try squatting a relatively heavy weight with bad form for over 300 reps and let me know how that goes will you? The next morning will be a real treat. If one agrees to leave their ego outside the gym, just this once I promise, this training style can greatly help you hone in on your squatting technique. By pure overexposure it would seem.

Second the high volume forces you to examine your mental game in the gym. 30 seconds rest is enough time for you to make all the excuses, all the promises and all the regrets that you want. This style pushes you physically and it’s up to you to respond in a positive attitude. Rarely do lifters talk about ‘flow’ in the gym, that magical space where your minds blank and you’re truly engaged with what’s happening in the moment. Yes it sounds airy to some, but for myself, this programme helps engender a sense of flow in training that is absent when I just go through the motions in the gym.

Finally, yes I have experienced weight and muscle gain using this approach but I will not say how much, as I don’t want to engender expectations. I combined this approach with an eating regime equivalent to a horse. Of course I gained. The programme helped but I will never isolate it as the one primary factor. It has helped others pack on mass as well, but always in conjunction with more calories. Truth be told, you’ll have the appetite of a Viking Invader if this is done correctly.

So why not give it a try and let us know what you think below! As always, Happy Lifting!

P.S.

I am truly aware that there is nothing new under the sun. The programme outlined above is similar to DoggCrap Training in that it utilises a rest-pause system. Similarly it’s similar to the handful of cluster protocols found on line.

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