Traditional set training has recently been challenged, and with good reason; it causes muscle fatigue which can interfere with muscle performance and gains during a workout and over time.
One proposed solution was cluster set training, a method of resistance training that uses short rest periods within sets versus longer rest periods between exhaustive traditional sets. When compared to traditional sets of equal number of repetitions, cluster sets were shown to be an effective way to change up workouts and improve muscle performance (Tufano, 2016). However, the most recent studies have called the benefit of cluster sets into question and have suggested an entirely new way to train—equal rest between each repetition. This is defined as “Redistributed Rest Training.”
To determine if this new set method really is a more effective way to train for muscle force, velocity and power output, one study compared the efficacy of redistributed rest training to cluster sets on measures of muscle velocity and power output in Back Squats (Tufano 2017).
In the 2017 Tufano study cited above, eight men with resistance training experience performed three different workouts. Each workout was separated by 48-96 hours of recovery. Each workout included 36 repetitions of the Back Squat at 75% of their one-repetition maximum (1RM). For all three workout groups, the same total rest duration of 420 seconds was allowed. However, the key is how those 420 seconds of rest were distributed throughout the workout. The three different training groups are shown below:
Group 1 (CS4): These athletes did four cluster sets that included 30 seconds of rest after the 4th, 8th, 16th, 20th, 28th and 32nd exercise repetition, in addition to 120 seconds of rest after the 12th and 24th repetitions.
Group 2 (RR4): For these athletes, the total 420 seconds of rest was redistributed so that athletes performed nine sets of four repetitions. At the end of every four-rep set, they rested for 52.5 seconds.
Group 3 (RR1): The final group of athletes used a unique protocol where the total 420 seconds of rest was evenly distributed after each of the 36 single repetitions. This resulted in 12 seconds of rest after each repetition.
This graphic from the study provides a visual of how the 420 seconds of total rest was distributed among and around the 36 Back Squat reps:
After the results were evaluated, the takeaway messages were this:
- With the redistributed rest after each repetition (RR1), mean and peak muscle velocity and mean and peak muscle power remained the same for every rep. However, those measures all decreased every four repetitions in the two other protocols.
- Peak muscle force was maintained in RR1, but was less for cluster and RR4 for subsequent repetitions.
These data indicate that when total rest time is redistributed over each repetition, kinetics and kinematics of each exercise repetition is more constant, improving muscle performance results. Whether or not this method of training is feasible for you depends on personal preference and goals, but given the data and the novelty of the method, it is certainly worth exploring.
Tufano JJ, Conlon JA, Nimphius S, Brown LE, Seitz LB, Williamson BD, Haff GG. (2016).
“Maintenance of Velocity and Power with Cluster Sets During High-Volume Back Squats.” International Journal of Sports Physiology Performance. Oct., 11(7):885-892.
Tufano, James & Conlon, Jenny & Nimphius, Sophia & Brown, Lee & Petkovic, Alex & Frick, Justin & Haff, Guy. (2017). “Effects of Cluster Sets and Rest-Redistribution on Mechanical Responses to Back Squats in Trained Men.” Journal of Human Kinetics. 58. 35-43.
Photo Credit: DragonImages/iStock