Do Cluster Reps To Smash Plateaus

If you get stuck around rep 8 when doing pull-ups, cluster sets should be your go-to training method. With pull-ups, once you hit the wall in a workout you're pretty much done. Cluster sets allow you to do more total reps in a shorter time period without building up too much fatigue and hitting failure. The short rest between clusters allows you to accumulate more total reps per set AND overall.

A cluster set is several smaller sets (clusters) of an exercise with short rest in between. So a cluster set of 10 reps might be 4 reps, short rest, 4 reps, short rest, and 2 reps. If you can't do 10 straight reps, then doing a cluster set will help you get the same total reps.

Aim for your max rep set broken up into three clusters with short rests between clusters. Let's say your max rep set of pull-ups is 8. Do this:

  • Do 3 reps
  • Rest 20 seconds
  • Do 3 reps
  • Rest 20 seconds
  • Do 2 reps
  • That's one set. Now rest 2 minutes and repeat for three more sets.

Two Ways to Progress

Either increase the total number of reps, or decrease the rest between clusters.

1 – Increasing reps each week

  • Week 1:  4 sets of 3, 3, 2 resting 20 seconds between clusters (32 reps total)
  • Week 2:  4 sets of 3, 3, 3 resting 20 seconds between clusters (36 reps total)
  • Week 3:  4 sets of 4, 3, 3 resting 20 seconds between clusters (40 reps total)

2 – Decreasing rest between clusters each week:

  • Week 1:  4 sets of 3, 3, 2 resting 20 seconds between clusters
  • Week 2:  4 sets of 3, 3, 2 resting 15 seconds between clusters
  • Week 3:  4 sets of 3, 3, 2 resting 10 seconds between clusters

You could even reduce the number of cluster sets as well, increasing the number of reps in each cluster.

Related:  The 4 Levels of Pull-Up Power

Related:  How to Use Cluster Sets for Size & Strength