Most people never give much thought to the variables in their workouts. After all, there are tons of articles in popular fitness magazines that tell us the best new exercises, but rarely do they divulge from the standard 3 sets of 10 reps. Most people go to the gym, do their upper body workout of triceps extensions, 3 different kinds of biceps curls and maybe some shoulder stuff that the magazines tell them will "tone" their arms.
But the truth is that you can do the same workout for months on end and still get no where because the body adapts to the stress you put on it. You have to change something. And most people think it must be the exercises. When they aren't seeing change, they swear that they just aren't doing the right exercises. Or that there is some new fancy trick exercise that they haven't tried yet.
However, you can use the same exercises and just change some of the other variables and get mind boggling changes in strength, flexibility. So that is what we've done with this round of the Hi-5 FitCamp. Usually we stay somewhat based in 3-4 sets of 5-12 repetitions, with each set having the same number of repetitions. However, this time around we are doing a bit more density training, trying to add more volume of exercise within each set.
For this round of the Hi-5 FitCamp we are doing a form of cluster sets. A cluster set is basically a longer repetition set (14 reps in this case) broken into smaller sets within the set. Cluster sets have been shown to be more effective in highly trained individuals and just as effective as traditional training formats in untrained people. This makes it a great system to use for our current crop of Hi-5 FitCamp members as many of them have been regular attendees for between 1-4 years, while others are brand new or have only been here for a month or two.
Cluster sets have been shown to increase strength in both experienced and novice weight lifters. However, cluster sets have been shown to be more effective than traditional training when performing power exercises such as medicine ball throws, squat jumps, medicine ball chest passes and split jumps. Why? Well with the rest afforded between smaller sets, the person is able to give more effort in subsequent reps. Here's an example.
Lets compare a traditional set of 12 squat jumps to a cluster set of 12 in which the set is broken into 4 clusters of 3 with :30 rest between sets. The person doing the traditional set will decrease power output with each subsequent jump because each jump uses available energy and there is no time for recovery. However, the cluster set person is able to recover a little bit after every 3rd jump. So if person A has his percentage of effort decrease by 10% every 3 jumps, then at his final jump he'll only be jumping at 66% of his max effort. But if person B decreased 10% every 3 jumps, but was able to recover 5% after each rest interval, his 12th jump would be at 82% of max effort. Basically he would be declining only 5% with each subsequent cluster set. See the difference a litte rest makes?
In summary, the benefit of doing cluster sets is increased time under tension (which results in more muscle gain) as well as increased strength. These are two of the major components to fat-loss! So why wouldn't we do this? Plus, it's a nice little change up for everybody!