Team Sustains last strength training block was more of an accumulation phase with some solid volume in the wave loading sets.  As the weeks unfolded we gradually lowered the volume and increase the intensity (load).  This was in preparation for the maximal and repeatable strength sets in this new block, say hello to Cluster Training.


Testing week begins on 26/08/2018.  We will be using these numbers for the 4 weeks of training ahead.

Team Sustain Strength

The Cluster training method is probably one of the best methods to build strength without putting on too much size.  This method of training was popularised by Carl Miller in The Sport of Olympic-Style Weightlifting, Training for Connoisseur.

Cluster training is very effective for improving power and speed and is typically used to increase athletic performance.  This style of training is very demanding, exactly what we like at Team Sustain, and also very effective.

The majority of strength coaches agree that to achieve significant strength gains in an athletic population the load must be greater than 70% of 1RM, anything less is a waste of time. Cluster training is typically low volume (15-20reps total) performed at intensities of 90%+ of 1RM.  The devil is in the details of intra-set rest intervals.  Cluster training is typically done in 3-5sets of [] (five single reps) with 10-15sec rest between each repetition allowing the high-threshold fast-twitch fibres to recover slightly between reps.

The high intensity (the load) prevents the athlete from expressing maximum velocity in the lift, but the intent is to lift the weight with speed to ensures maximum strength development.  The short but frequent time under tension (TUT) assists in maximal strength development without muscle hypertrophy becoming an issue for the athlete.  Cluster training is time efficient as an increasing amount of high-intensity work completed in a short timeframe.

The success or failure of cluster training is measured by the quality and quantity of successful repetitions. It is better to initially use a weight that is too light than to use a weight that is too heavy.  If you are failing repetitions you will not make solid progress in this block of training, as awakes quality of quantity is more valuable than your penis extension.

In summary, the main benefits of cluster training are maximal strength development, greater neurological adaptation, and an increase in fast-twitch fibre recruitment.

An example of a 4 week Cluster block could look like:

W1: Front Squat 3 x [], 40x0, rest 15sec btwn reps, rest :120 btwn sets @85% of 1RM

W2: Front Squat 4 x [], 40x0, 40x0, rest 15sec btwn reps, rest :120 btwn sets @88% of 1RM

W3: Front Squat 4 x [], 40x0, 40x0, rest 15sec btwn reps, rest :120 btwn sets @91% of 1RM

W4: Front Squat 5 x [], 40x0, 40x0, rest 15sec btwn reps, rest :120 btwn sets @94% of 1RM

After completing a Cluster Training Block it is highly recommended that the following training block places far less stress on CNS.  The high-intensity demands of Cluster Training will significantly overload the athletes CNS and it would be irresponsible of a coach not to recognise this.

Team Sustain Olympic Lifting

It's time to shine and put you Olympic lifting to the test.  This block is all about the intensification and the Olympic lifting is no different. 1RM testing is on the cards for both the clean and the snatch.  

In the build-up to the clean testing, we will be focusing on a strong pull in the power cleans and speed under the bar in the hand cleans.

In the build-up to the snatch testing, we will be focusing on a strong pull in the power snatch, quality snatch reps, and speed under the bar with snatch balance.

Just to keep things spicy we will also be working on preparing the posterior chain for the volume to come in the next block.  The snatch grip slow eccentric deadlifts are going to be the building blocks you need to prepare for the future.

Team Sustain Gymnastics

This block had a strong focus on the vertical push and pull with Cluster chin-ups and Cluster Push-Press at the start of the week.  This weighted work will carry over to the gymnastics strength.  Later in the week, we will work on handstand balance, hamstring mobility and L-sits.  This arm pump will continue with ring chin’s and dips, followed with some essential horizontal pulling and pushing for shoulder health and injury prevention.

Team Sustain Conditioning

This block will see the introduction of Metabolic Breathing Ladders as a tool to improve aerobic capacity.  Try to inhale through the nose and deep into the diaphragm, your exhale can be either through the mouth or nose. You can breathe as much as you would like during the repetitions, but between the reps schemes, or rest period, you need to CONTROL your breath and try to keep them slow and full.  Full inhale and full exhale.

One factor to focus on during the ladders is the clearing of CO2 from the lungs to make room for more (useful) oxygen to be taken on board. Often, especially during the shallow, panic-breathing period immediately after stopping work, we are only recycling the "top" level of air in the lungs and throat, while in the deeper recesses of the lungs, the air/gas is not changed. This simple emphasis on adequate exhalation will improve several factors affecting performance both in and out of the gym.

Our Aerobic Interval continues in this block, but now we switch to a 3min work interval and a 2min rest between intervals.  Your goal is to move well, focus on sustainable pacing and learning how to pace the 3min efforts for maximal aerobic conditioning. 

We start to introduce some Anaerobic Internal sprints to target the glycogenic energy system and improve power output.  I strongly recommend you eat your carbohydrates the night before these sessions as this will make the difference in your ability to push hard.  FACT: The glycogenic energy system runs on glucose!

Dynamic Energy Control is such an important concept in the world of CrossFit.  The more you tap into the anaerobic side of the equation the more power you can produce, but the sooner you will fatigue.  Athletes must learn how to manage energy systems and know how hard they can push in the WOD.   At this point in time, we are asking you to increase your output in each successive round.  The skill is learning how to pace the early rounds and knowing what you have left in the tank for the final round that must be the fastest.

Last but no lease are the aerobic gymnastics WOD that is designed to focus more on the quality of your gymnastics skills and not speed.   Be smart, know your strength and know your weaknesses here.  The aim is not to go to failure on each exercise but learn to break down the repetitions into sustainable sets.

Team Sustain Recovery

Rest days are important, you don't get stronger and fitter in the gym, this only happens when you rest and allow the body to recover.  Mindful practices have been shown to improve recovery and increase athletic performance.  At the end of each training session, we request you take 3minutes to complete the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.  This simple, but effective, breathing exercise has the power to change the autonomous nervous system state from sympathetic to parasympathetic, switching the body into a recovery state faster.

Athletes should practice meditation every single day, even if it's just for 5-10minutes. Many athletes are constantly in a state of "fight of flight" and not spending enough time in "rest and digest."  Recovery is a parasympathetic activity and if you want to train harder, you must learn to recover harder. 

The art of practising presence is also very useful for athletic performance (we will talk more about this in the future).

I look forward to seeing the result of this Cluster block. We have put in a lot of heavy lifting in preparation, I have a good feeling about where we are heading and the progress we will make in the coming months.

Happy Training