The acute responses to cluster set resistance training (RT) have been demonstrated. However, as compared to traditional sets, the effect of cluster sets on muscular and neuromuscular adaptations remains unclear.
To compare the effects of RT programs implementing cluster and traditional set configurations on muscular and neuromuscular adaptations.
Systematic searches of Embase, Scopus, Medline and SPORTDiscus were conducted. Inclusion criteria were: (1) randomized or non-randomized comparative studies; (2) publication in English; (3) participants of all age groups; (4) participants free of any medical condition or injury; (5) cluster set intervention; (6) comparison intervention utilizing a traditional set configuration; (7) intervention length ≥ three weeks and (8) at least one measure of changes in strength/force/torque, power, velocity, hypertrophy or muscular endurance. Raw data (mean ± SD or range) were extracted from included studies. Hedges’ g effect sizes (ES) ± standard error of the mean (SEM) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated.
Twenty-nine studies were included in the meta-analysis. No differences between cluster and traditional set configurations were found for strength (ES = − 0.05 ± 0.10, 95% CI − 0.21 to 0.11, p = 0.56), power output (ES = 0.02 ± 0.10, 95% CI − 0.17 to 0.20, p = 0.86), velocity (ES = 0.15 ± 0.13, 95% CI − 0.10 to 0.41, p = 0.24), hypertrophy (ES = − 0.05 ± 0.14, 95% CI − 0.32 to 0.23, p = 0.73) or endurance (ES = − 0.07 ± 0.18, 95% CI − 0.43 to 0.29, p = 0.70) adaptations. Moreover, no differences were observed when training volume, cluster set model, training status, body parts trained or exercise type were considered.
Collectively, both cluster and traditional set configurations demonstrate equal effectiveness to positively induce muscular and neuromuscular adaptation(s). However, cluster set configurations may achieve such adaptations with less fatigue development during RT which may be an important consideration across various exercise settings and stages of periodized RT programs.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Data Availability Statement
The datasets analysed for the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Ratamess NA, Alvar BA, Evetoch TK, Housh TJ, Kibler WB, Kraemer WJ, et al. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2009;41(3):687–708.
Suchomel TJ, Nimphius S, Stone MH. The importance of muscular strength in athletic performance. Sports Med. 2016;46(10):1419–49.
Cronin J, Sleivert G. Challenges in understanding the influence of maximal power training on improving athletic performance. Sports Med. 2005;35(3):213–34.
Schoenfeld B, Grgic J. Evidence-based guidelines for resistance training volume to maximize muscle hypertrophy. Strength Cond J. 2017;40:1.
Granacher U, Lesinski M, Büsch D, Muehlbauer T, Prieske O, Puta C, et al. Effects of resistance training in youth athletes on muscular fitness and athletic performance: a conceptual model for long-term athlete development. Front Physiol. 2016;7:164.
Tufano JJ, Brown LE, Haff GG. Theoretical and practical aspects of different cluster set structures: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(3):848–67.
Haff GG, Burgess S, Stone M. Cluster training: theoretical and practical applications for the strength and conditioning professional. Prof Strength Cond. 2008;12:12–7.
Goto K, Ishii N, Kizuka T, Takamatsu K. The impact of metabolic stress on hormonal responses and muscular adaptations. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2005;37:955–63.
Lawton T, Cronin J, Drinkwater E, Lindsell R, Pyne D. The effect of continuous repetition training and intra-set rest training on bench press strength and power. J Sport Med Phys Fit. 2004;44(4):361–7.
Dankel SJ, Mattocks KT, Jessee MB, Buckner SL, Mouser JG, Loenneke JP. Do metabolites that are produced during resistance exercise enhance muscle hypertrophy? Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017;117(11):2125–35.
Roll F, Omer J. FOOTBALL: Tulane football winter program. Strength Cond J. 1987;9(6):34–8.
Miller C, Alderwick K. Cluster training. In: The sport of Olympic-style Weightlifting: training for the connoisseur. 1st ed. Sante Fe: Sunstone Press; 2011. p. 89–92.
Haff GG, Whitley A, McCoy LB, O’Bryant HS, Kilgore JL, Haff EE, et al. Effects of different set configurations on barbell velocity and displacement during a clean pull. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(1):95–103.
Latella C, Teo W-P, Drinkwater EJ, Kendall K, Haff GG. The acute neuromuscular responses to cluster set resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2019;49(3):1861–77.
Mayo X, Iglesias-Soler E, Fernández-Del-Olmo M. Effects of set configuration of resistance exercise on perceived exertion. Percept Mot Skills. 2014;119(3):825–37.
Tufano JJ, Conlon JA, Nimphius S, Brown LE, Banyard HG, Williamson BD, et al. Cluster sets: permitting greater mechanical stress without decreasing relative velocity. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(4):463–9.
Tufano JJ, Conlon JA, Nimphius S, Brown LE, Seitz LB, Williamson BD, et al. Maintenance of velocity and power with cluster sets during high-volume back squats. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016;11(7):885–92.
González-Hernández JM, García-Ramos A, Castaño-Zambudio A, Capelo-Ramírez F, Marquez G, Boullosa D, et al. Mechanical, metabolic, and perceptual acute responses to different set configurations in full squat. J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34(6):1581–90.
Joy J, Oliver J, McCleary S, Lowery R, Wilson JR. Power output and electromyography activity of the back squat exercise with cluster sets. J Sports Sci. 2013;1:37–45.
Hansen KT, Cronin JB, Pickering SL, Newton MJ. Does cluster loading enhance lower body power development in preseason preparation of elite rugby union players? J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(8):2118–26.
Rooney KJ, Herbert RD, Balnave RJ. Fatigue contributes to the strength training stimulus. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994;26(9):1160–4.
Zarezadeh-Mehrizi A, Aminai M, Amiri-khorasani M. Effects of traditional and cluster resistance training on explosive power in soccer players. Iran J Health Phys Act. 2013;4(1):51–6.
Dias RKN, Penna EM, Noronha ASN, de Azevedo ABC, Barbalho M, Gentil PV, et al. Cluster-sets resistance training induce similar functional and strength improvements than the traditional method in postmenopausal and elderly women. Exp Gerontol. 2020;138:111011.
Oliver JM, Jagim AR, Sanchez AC, Mardock MA, Kelly KA, Meredith HJ, et al. Greater gains in strength and power with intraset rest intervals in hypertrophic training. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(11):3116–31.
Samson A, Pillai PS. Effect of cluster training versus traditional training on muscular strength among recreationally active males: a comparative study. Indian J Physiother Occup Ther. 2018;12(1):122–7.
Davies TB, Halaki M, Orr R, Helms ER, Hackett DA. Changes in bench press velocity and power after 8 weeks of high-load cluster-or traditional-set structures. J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34(10):2734–42.
Karsten B, Fu YL, Larumbe-Zabala E, Seijo M, Naclerio F. Impact of two high-volume set configuration workouts on resistance training outcomes in recreationally trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2019. (Epub ahead of print).
Nicholson G, Ispoglou T, Bissas A. The impact of repetition mechanics on the adaptations resulting from strength-, hypertrophy-and cluster-type resistance training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016;116(10):1875–88.
Hardee JP, Lawrence MM, Zwetsloot KA, Triplett NT, Utter AC, McBride JM. Effect of cluster set configurations on power clean technique. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(5):488–96.
Asadi A, Ramírez-Campillo R. Effects of cluster vs. traditional plyometric training sets on maximal-intensity exercise performance. Medicina. 2016;52(1):41–5.
Izquierdo M, Ibanez J, González-Badillo JJ, Hakkinen K, Ratamess NA, Kraemer WJ, et al. Differential effects of strength training leading to failure versus not to failure on hormonal responses, strength, and muscle power gains. J Appl Physiol. 2006;100(5):1647–56.
Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. BMJ. 2009;339:b2535.
Covidence systematic review software, Veritas Health Innovation, Melbourne, Australia. Available at http://www.covidence.org.
Smart NA, Waldron M, Ismail H, Giallauria F, Vigorito C, Cornelissen V, et al. Validation of a new tool for the assessment of study quality and reporting in exercise training studies: TESTEX. Int J Evid Based Healthc. 2015;13(1):9–18.
Hopkins WG, Marshall SW, Batterham AM, Hanin J. Progressive statistics for studies in sports medicine and exercise science. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(1):3–13.
Jackson D, Turner R. Power analysis for random-effects meta-analysis. Res Synth Methods. 2017;8(3):290–302.
Egger M, Smith GD, Schneider M, Minder C. Bias in meta-analysis detected by a simple, graphical test. BMJ. 1997;315(7109):629–34.
Wood JA. Methodology for dealing with duplicate study effects in a meta-analysis. Organ Res Methods. 2007;11(1):79–95.
Haff GG. Quantifying workloads in resistance training: a brief review. Strength Cond J. 2010;10:31–40.
Iglesias-Soler E, Mayo X, Río-Rodríguez D, Carballeira E, Fariñas J, Fernández-Del-Olmo M. Inter-repetition rest training and traditional set configuration produce similar strength gains without cortical adaptations. J Sports Sci. 2016;34(15):1473–84.
Morales-Artacho AJ, Padial P, García-Ramos A, Pérez-Castilla A, Feriche B. Influence of a cluster set configuration on the adaptations to short-term power training. J Strength Cond Res. 2018;32(4):930–7.
Yazdani S, Aminaei M, Amirseifadini M. Effects of plyometric and cluster resistance training on explosive power and maximum strength in karate players. Int J Appl Exerc Physiol. 2017;6:34–44.
Byrd R, Centry R, Boatwright D. Effect of inter-repetition rest intervals in circuit weight training on PWC170 during arm-kranking exercise. J Sport Med Phys Fit. 1988;28(4):336–40.
Cuevas-Aburto J, Jukic I, Chirosa-Ríos LJ, González-Hernández JM, Janicijevic D, Barboza-González P, et al. Effect of traditional, cluster, and rest redistribution set configurations on neuromuscular and perceptual responses during strength-oriented resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2020. (Epub ahead of print).
Korak JA, Paquette MR, Brooks J, Fuller DK, Coons JM. Effect of rest–pause vs. traditional bench press training on muscle strength, electromyography, and lifting volume in randomized trial protocols. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017;117(9):1891–6.
Arazi H, Khanmohammadi A, Asadi A, Haff GG. The effect of resistance training set configuration on strength, power, and hormonal adaptation in female volleyball players. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018;43(2):154–64.
Carneiro MAS, de Oliveira Júnior GN, de Sousa JFR, Santagnello SB, Souza MVC, Orsatti FL. Effects of cluster training sets on muscle power and force–velocity relationship in postmenopausal women. Sport Sci for Health. 2019;16:257–65.
Davies TB, Halaki M, Orr R, Mitchell L, Helms ER, Clarke J, et al. Effect of set-structure on upper-body muscular hypertrophy and performance in recreationally-trained males and females. J Strength Cond Res. 2020. (Epub ahead of print).
Fariñas J, Mayo X, Giraldez-García MA, Carballeira E, Fernandez-Del-Olmo M, Rial-Vazquez J, et al. Set configuration in strength training programs modulates the cross education phenomenon. J Strength Cond Res. 2019. (Epud ahead of print).
Folland JP, Irish C, Roberts J, Tarr J, Jones DA. Fatigue is not a necessary stimulus for strength gains during resistance training. Br J Sports Med. 2002;36(5):370–3.
Giessing J, Fisher J, Steele J, Rothe F, Raubold K, Eichmann B. The effects of low volume resistance training with and without advanced techniques in trained participants. J Sport Med Phys Fit. 2016;56(3):249–58.
Iglesias-Soler E, Fernández-del-Olmo M, Mayo X, Fariñas J, Río-Rodríguez D, Carballeira E, et al. Changes in the force-velocity mechanical profile after short resistance training programs differing in set configurations. J Appl Biomech. 2017;33(2):144–52.
Prestes J, Tibana RA, de Araujo SE, da Cunha ND, de Oliveira RP, Camarço NF, et al. Strength and muscular adaptations after 6 weeks of rest–pause vs. traditional multiple-sets resistance training in trained subjects. J Strength Cond Res. 2019;33:S113–21.
Rial-Vázquez J, Mayo X, Tufano JJ, Fariñas J, Rúa-Alonso M, Iglesias-Soler E. Cluster vs. traditional training programmes: changes in the force–velocity relationship. Sport Biomech. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1080/14763141.2020.1718197
Stragier S, Baudry S, Carpentier A, Duchateau J. Efficacy of a new strength training design: the 3/7 method. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(5):1093–104.
Oliver JM, Kreutzer A, Jenke S, Phillips MD, Mitchell JB, Jones MT. Acute response to cluster sets in trained and untrained men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;115(11):2383–93.
Vieira J, Dias MR, Lacio M, Schimitz G, Nascimento G, Panza P, et al. Resistance training with repetition to failure or not on muscle strength and perceptual responses. J Exerc Physiol Online. 2019;22:165–75.
Gabbett TJ. The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med. 2016;50(5):273–80.
Jukic I, Tufano JJ. Shorter but more frequent rest periods: no effect on velocity and power compared to traditional sets not performed to failure. J Hum Kinet. 2019;66(1):257–68.
Vasconcelos GC, Costa BDDV, Damorim IR, Santos TM, Cyrino ES, Junior DDL, et al. Do traditional and cluster-set resistance training systems alter the pleasure and effort perception in trained men? J Phys Educ Sport. 2019;19:823–8.
Tufano JJ, Conlon JA, Nimphius S, Oliver JM, Kreutzer A, Haff GG. Different cluster sets result in similar metabolic, endocrine, and perceptual responses in trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2019;33(2):346–54.
Cormie P, McGuigan MR, Newton RU. Developing maximal neuromuscular power. Sports Med. 2011;41(1):17–38.
Alcazar J, Guadalupe-Grau A, García-García FJ, Ara I, Alegre LM. Skeletal muscle power measurement in older people: a systematic review of testing protocols and adverse events. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018;73(7):914–24.
Morrissey MC, Harman EA, Johnson MJ. Resistance training modes: specificity and effectiveness. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1995;27(5):648–60.
Pereira MI, Gomes PS. Movement velocity in resistance training. Sports Med. 2003;33(6):427–38.
Crewther B, Keogh J, Cronin J, Cook C. Possible stimuli for strength and power adaptation. Sports Med. 2006;36(3):215–38.
Hardee JP, Lawrence MM, Utter AC, Triplett NT, Zwetsloot KA, McBride JM. Effect of inter-repetition rest on ratings of perceived exertion during multiple sets of the power clean. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012;112(8):3141–7.
Taber C, Bellon C, Abbott H, Bingham GE. Roles of maximal strength and rate of force development in maximizing muscular power. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;38(1):71–8.
McBride JM, Kirby TJ, Haines TL, Skinner J. Relationship between relative net vertical impulse and jump height in jump squats performed to various squat depths and with various loads. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010;5(4):484–96.
Morin JB, Jiménez-Reyes P, Brughelli M, Samozino P. When jump height is not a good indicator of lower limb maximal power output: theoretical demonstration, experimental evidence and practical solutions. Sports Med. 2019;49(7):999–1006.
Jenkins ND, Housh TJ, Buckner SL, Bergstrom HC, Cochrane KC, Hill EC, et al. Neuromuscular adaptations after 2 and 4 weeks of 80% versus 30% 1 repetition maximum resistance training to failure. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(8):2174–85.
Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Krieger J, Grgic J, Delcastillo K, Belliard R, et al. Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(1):94.
Schoenfeld BJ, Peterson MD, Ogborn D, Contreras B, Sonmez GT. Effects of low-vs. high-load resistance training on muscle strength and hypertrophy in well-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(10):2954–63.
Naclerio FJ, Colado JC, Rhea MR, Bunker D, Triplett NT. The influence of strength and power on muscle endurance test performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(5):1482–8.
Assuncao AR, Bottaro M, Ferreira-Junior JB, Izquierdo M, Cadore EL, Gentil P. The chronic effects of low-and high-intensity resistance training on muscular fitness in adolescents. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(8):e0160650.
Schoenfeld BJ, Ratamess NA, Peterson MD, Contreras B, Sonmez G, Alvar BA. Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(10):2909–18.
Zanchi NE, Lancha AH. Mechanical stimuli of skeletal muscle: Implications on mTOR/p70s6k and protein synthesis. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;102(3):253–63.
McCormick R, Vasilaki A. Age-related changes in skeletal muscle: changes to life-style as a therapy. Biogerontology. 2018;19(6):519–36.
Rier HN, Jager A, Sleijfer S, Maier AB, Levin M-D. The prevalence and prognostic value of low muscle mass in cancer patients: a review of the literature. Oncologist. 2016;21(11):1396.
Suchomel TJ, Comfort P. Technical demands of strength training. In: Turner A, Comfort P, editors. Advanced strength and conditioning: an evidence-based approach. New York: Routledge; 2018. p. 249–73.
Gong H, Jiang Q, Shen D, Gao J. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation improves exercise capacity in adult patients with chronic lung disease: a meta-analysis of English studies. J Thorac Dis. 2018;10(12):6722–32.
Jones LW, Eves ND, Haykowsky M, Freedland SJ, Mackey JR. Exercise intolerance in cancer and the role of exercise therapy to reverse dysfunction. Lancet Oncol. 2009;10(6):598–605.
Iglesias-Soler E, Boullosa DA, Carballeira E, Sánchez-Otero T, Mayo X, Castro-Gacio X, et al. Effect of set configuration on hemodynamics and cardiac autonomic modulation after high-intensity squat exercise. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2015;35(4):250–7.
Ribeiro-Torres O, de Sousa AFM, Iglesias-Soler E, Fontes-Villalba M, Zouhal H, Carré F, et al. Lower cardiovascular stress during resistance training performed with inter-repetition rests in elderly coronary patients. Medicina. 2020;56(6):264.
McLean BD, Coutts AJ, Kelly V, McGuigan MR, Cormack SJ. Neuromuscular, endocrine, and perceptual fatigue responses during different length between-match microcycles in professional rugby league players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010;5(3):367–83.
Doma K, Deakin GB, Bentley DJ. Implications of impaired endurance performance following single bouts of resistance training: an alternate concurrent training perspective. Sports Med. 2017;47(11):2187–200.
Branscheidt M, Kassavetis P, Anaya M, Rogers D, Huang HD, Lindquist MA, et al. Fatigue induces long-lasting detrimental changes in motor-skill learning. eLife. 2019;8:e40578.
No sources of funding were received to support this manuscript.
Conflict of interest
Timothy Davies, Derek Tran, Clorinda Hogan, Gregory Haff and Christopher Latella declare no conflicts of interest that may affect the results and the interpretation of results within this manuscript.
About this article
Cite this article
Davies, T.B., Tran, D.L., Hogan, C.M. et al. Chronic Effects of Altering Resistance Training Set Configurations Using Cluster Sets: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01408-3