The Ultimate Cluster Sets Arm Workout!

Cluster Sets Arm Workout

Cluster sets training is easily one of the best training methods in the world for developing brute strength. If you want a pair of arms strong enough to bend frying pans then give this cluster sets arm workout a try!


  • Part 1: Overview of Cluster Sets
  • Part 2: Cluster Set Arm Routine #1
  • Part 3: Cluster Set Arm Routine #2
  • Part 4: Cluster Set Arm Routine #3
  • Part 5: Routine Notes
  • Part 6: Conclusion

In this article I’m going to give you a brief overview on cluster sets and why they are so incredibly effective for developing strength and functional hypertrophy.

However, the heart and soul of this article (and the reason you are here!) is the 3 separate cluster sets arm workouts!

That’s right – I’m giving you not 1, not 2, but 3 kick-ass cluster sets arm workouts that you can start using today to blast through your previous strength plateaus.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Overview Of Cluster Sets

Absolutely nothing beats a properly designed cluster sets workout when it comes to training for pure strength gains. It is one of the best intensification methods there is!

This isn’t just my opinion though – Christian Thibadeau, Josh Bryant, and Charles Poliquin have all used cluster sets extensively with their strength athletes to destroy their old personal bests.

The idea behind cluster sets is simple: you are going to do 5 reps with your 3 rep max. As they say, the devil is in the details!

The secret to pulling this off is that you will take a 10-15 second rest break in between each repetition on the set of five.

For example:

  • Perform your 1st rep
    • Rest 10 seconds
  • Perform your 2nd rep
    • Rest 10 seconds
  • Perform your 3rd rep
    • Rest 10 seconds
  • Perform your 4th rep
    • Rest 10 seconds
  • Perform your 5th rep
    • DONE!!

After the fifth rep you are done for that set. Keep in mind a typical cluster sets workout will involve 3-5 cluster sets performed on 1-2 major exercises.

These short intra-set rest intervals will allow you to further recruit and fatigue the highest-threshold motor units in the arms.

The first research supporting cluster sets was conducted in 2008 – the title was “Cluster Training: A Novel Method for Introducing Training Program Variation.”

This is quite an ironic title for a training study, as cluster sets were used by Olympic-caliber athletes sense at least the 1950’s! There is a reason exercise scientists are often called “exercise historians” – they are usually late to the party!

This is one of the many reasons I care more about real-world results than scientific studies. But I digress…

Part 2: Cluster Set Arm Routine #1

Check it out:

  • A1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 3-5 x 5***, 3/2/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curls (wide / overhand grip), 3-5 x 5***, 3/2/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Dead skulls (close grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Incline cable curls, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest

***Performed as a cluster sets workout as described above (10-15 sec rest break in between each of the five reps)

NOTE: if you are having any trouble reading this routine then you need to read the following article:

How To Read A Workout Routine

It will answer all of your questions! 🙂

The triceps exercises selected for this routine are absolutely excellent for targeting all three heads of the triceps.

The biceps portion of this workout, on the other hand, is primarily designed to target the brachialis and the long head of the biceps.

In my experience coaching hundreds of clients the brachialis and the long head of the biceps tend to be quite underdeveloped in most people.

This routine uses some unique exercises that you probably haven’t tried before. If you are willing to take on some new exercise variations then you will be highly rewarded!

Part 3: Cluster Set Arm Routine #2

Check it out:

  • A1: Shoulder-width bench press, 3-5 x 5***, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher zottman curls (offset grip), 3-5 x 5***, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated ez-bar french press (close grip), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree incline curls (supinated grip), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

***Performed as a cluster sets workout as described above (10-15 sec rest break in between each of the five reps)

This workout is guaranteed to smash the long head of your triceps into submission! Both the close grip bench presses and french presses are excellent for targeting the meaty backside of the triceps.

I guarantee the morning after this workout it will feel like someone took a bamboo stick and started beating on your triceps for an hour while you weren’t looking!

The biceps portion of this workout, on the other hand, is fantastic for overloading all of the elbow flexors: the biceps brachii, the brachialis, the brachioradialis, and the pronator teres.

Consider this workout a fantastic “jack-of-all-trades” cluster sets arm workout!

I think you will be quite surprised at how well this routine works!

Part 4: Cluster Set Arm Routine #3

Check it out:

  • A1: Decline shoulder-width bench press, 3-5 x 5***, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: 30 degree incline curls (supinating grip), 3-5 x 5***, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extensions (close grip to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated hammer curls, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

***Performed as a cluster sets workout as described above (10-15 sec rest break in between each of the five reps)

If you are looking for a routine that maximally recruits the lateral head of the triceps, then look no more! This routine accomplishes that goal in spades.

I find that most people have severely underdeveloped lateral heads relative to their long and medial heads.

Once you correct this muscular imbalance strength and size gains in the triceps often shoot through the roof!

The biceps portion of this workout is more geared towards developing the long head.

Training the long head of the biceps brachii has many benefits, including a bigger biceps “peak” and a much healthier and stronger shoulder joint.


Part 5: Routine Notes

Cluster sets are a very demanding routine, more so on your central nervous system than your muscular system. On this type of routine you may find that you have a hard time calming down after a workout.

If this is the case then you may want to consider meditating or doing some deep breathing following the workout to help manage the cortisol response to the workout.

You may also find that you need slightly more sleep than normal on this routine. This is relatively normal, just listen to your body. If it needs more sleep then you know what to do.

As a general rule of thumb I recommend performing 3-5 sets of cluster sets per major exercise in each routine.

Most of you reading this will do best starting out with only 3 sets of cluster sets on the first workout.

If you find that you recovered pretty well then go ahead and try 4 cluster sets on the second workout and 5 cluster sets on the third workout.

On the other hand, if you found 3 cluster sets to be all you could handle then stick with just 3 sets total. This is necessary to prevent overtraining from too much training volume.

Picking the correct training loads is also very important on this routine.

I recommend you select a weight that lets you complete all three sets of cluster sets on your first workout without having to reduce the weight.

For example, if you use 200 pounds on your first set of cluster sets then this weight should be “easy” enough that you can do all three sets with it.

Of course easy is relative here – this will still be very challenging!

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Part 6: Conclusion

There you have it – three of the most effective cluster sets routines for arm training that the world has ever seen!

I guarantee you that if you apply yourself on one of these routines that you will see some of the best strength gains of your life!

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself in the gym and pump those arms up!

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!


Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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