4 Methods to build muscle and strength (part 2)
In this blog series I’m talking about building muscle and strength simultaneously. When you’re a busy person you need to make sure you’re getting the best from your time in the gym and these four methods are absolutely designed to give you the very most from your sixty minutes.
If you missed the first post in the series you can read it HERE. I talked about two methods of building strength and size called the super-set method and the eccentric method.
Let’s get straight into it:
Method 3: The Cluster Method
This is an advanced protocol for more experiences trainees. It hurts but it works! Cluster training is where you take a normal set and break it up into mini sets. For example if you were doing a set of eight reps you might do two mini sets of four reps with a little break in the middle. It will allow you to lift more weight or tolerate more volume with the same weight.
In this method there are two options.
I generally use four sets for both options.
Cluster Option 1: Strength Clusters
The first method is to take your standard eight rep load for the exercise in question. Somewhere around 80% of your max is a good starting point.
– Begin by completing an eight rep set of any given strength movement
– Rest for two minutes and add around 2-3% additional load
– The next set split it into 3 mini clusters of 3 reps, 3 reps and 2 reps (totalling 8) with a 20s rest between each one. This includes racking and unracking of the bar.
– Make sure you get the full eight reps out and adjust the load for the next set. With the break in the middle you should be able to handle higher loads.
-Rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat for 4 total sets. At the end of the 4 sets you should have done 4 sets of 8 reps with a higher load than you have ever done before using this method.
Cluster Option 2: Size Clusters
The second option is to use an initial loading of around 80% or an 8RM. You will use 3 clusters with this format.
– Using this load, complete 4 reps and rack the bar.
– Rest for 20s
– Perform a further 4 reps and rest for 20s again.
– Attempt a further 3-4 reps for a total of 11-12 reps.
– Rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat for 4 sets
– Increase the loading if you are completing more than 12 reps. You should be able to complete more reps with the same load than you have ever done before using this cluster option..
Use caution with these methods if your coming from a tough phase of training. Not all of your programme needs to revolve around them you can kind of drip feed them into your programme for the key movements as shown above.
Cluster training is pretty stressful in general, irrespective of which option you go for. My advise is start with the hypertrophy supersets from part one of this series for 2-3 weeks. Then you can go to the eccentric method for another 2-3 weeks. That way you will have trained for 4-6 weeks before you get to the cluster method and be ready for the change in stimulus.
Method 4: The Volume Method
This is essentially a session design that allows for extra volume to be included at the end of the session which I call the 6 in 6 method.
Quite simply, you complete 6 exercises in 6 minutes targeted around the key musculature that you want to develop.
The advantage of this method is that you can complete a strength session beforehand and use this method for 1,2 or 3 rounds for a total of 6/12/18 minutes to complete your workout thus emphasising the volume component of hypertrophy development after your strength training. This works well as an add on to any of the other methods where you simply pick out an area to focus on for a round or 2, or you can put a little more time into it for 3 or more rounds for 20-30 minutes.
With my rugby players, I tend to give them sheets of this stuff to do in their own time outside of scheduled gym sessions so they can get some additional hypertrophy work in.
Each exercise you will do for 40s and rest for 20 whilst you prepare for the next exercise.
The goal with this is not to pick up a light weight and blast crazy speed reps. Pick a weight that you will hit 10 reps at a push!
I like to alternate bigger, more traditional strength exercises with more supplementary exercises with this method.
An example for the pushing muscles would be:
- DB Bench
- DB Flyes
- Military Press
- Narrow Grip Push-Ups
- Single Arm Cable Press
- Swiss Ball Push-ups
Here’s one for the lower body:
- Trap Bar Deadlifts
- Clock Lunges
- Walking Lunges
- Goblet Squats
- 10. Swiss Ball Leg Curls
- 11. Glute Ham Raises
So you have 40s of tension per set, and 6 sets of work. And if you really have the pain threshold you can repeat for 2 or 3 sets or do a pulling version to finish!
Thats the end of the series. You now have four proven strategies to get more strength and size from your sessions. As I suggested earlier, work through each one for 2-3 weeks before moving on to the next one. The goal is to introduce the stimulus, adapt to it, and then move on. You can then come back round to the start and go again which will give you a years worth of training easily.
Enjoy the pain!
My best to you as always,