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Three of the Best Training Methods Adapted to Each Neurotype

Ever since man has started to lift weights to become bigger and stronger we’ve been looking for the “best” and “most effective” training methods. While building muscle and getting stronger is easy on the surface … lift … eat … recover … lift a bit more… eat … recover, etc., optimizing the process has been the meatheads’ quest since the dawn of the lifting age. Through experimenting we have indeed found ways that are more effective than simply lifting, eating and recovering, but for some reason, these “best methods” don’t seem to deliver equal results for everybody. It is our belief that this is because to work optimally, these great methods need to be adjusted to fit each individual’s own profile, neurological and physical. In this article, we will present three of the most popular training methods for size and strength; clusters, rest/pause and drop sets, as well as how to adapt them to fit each specific profile so that everybody can reap the maximum benefits from them without crashing.

CLUSTERS

Clusters have been part of my own training and that of my clients since 1998. I have been using them for close to twenty years! I would safely assume that over my training and coaching career, clusters have been the special method that I have used the most, and with good reasons: they work! Clusters have never failed to deliver the goods, whether it is gaining strength or muscle mass.

I will say one thing though: Some of my clients responded amazingly well to clusters while others either got a decent but not excellent response, or got solid gains but burned out after 3 weeks.

From all my work on neurotyping and training, I have come to the conclusion that clusters will work for everybody BUT that they need to be adjusted to fit each neurotype optimally.

Clusters refer to doing several single repetitions with a short rest period between eachof these, which allows you to do more repetitions with a specific load. For example, you would bench press 1 rep / rack the bar and rest 15 sec / do 1 rep / rack and rest 15 sec / do 1 rep / rack the bar and rest 15 sec / do 1 rep / rack and rest 15 sec / do 1 rep / rack and rest 15 sec / end of set.

Clusters can vary in the intensity used, the number of reps to shoot for, the rest period between reps within a set, and the number of sets done.

Here are the best cluster applications for each neurotype:

Type 1A cluster

Type 1A are very competitive, vocal and intense people. They are binary: it’s either all out or nothing! They like to be the leader and the center of attention. Training-wise it’s the same thing: intense, all-out… but they can’t stay on for too long or they will burn out.

Intensity zone: 92-98%

Number of reps: 2 – 4

Rest between reps: 20 – 25 seconds

Number of sets: 1 – 2

 

Type 1B cluster

Type 1B are also competitive but they don’t need to take over each conversation. They have an explosive personality though: they are impatient and are prone to outbursts but quickly return to normal afterwards. They are naturally explosive and skilled. Training-wise they also thrive on intense work, but they will tend to use acceleration and the stretch reflex to overcome the resistance.

Intensity zone: 90-95%

Number of reps: 3 – 5

Rest between reps: 15 – 20 seconds

Number of sets: 2 – 3

Type 2A clusters

Type 2A are highly potentiated by adrenaline. When they are at rest they are almost introverted and self-conscious, but when adrenalin increases they become a different person. They are generally fun to be with. They try to avoid conflicts and are good at adapting their behavior to the person they are talking to. They don’t like to make decisions. To be motivated, the activity must be fun. If it’s not fun or not motivating to them they will have a hard time doing it. Training-wise everything works for them, but nothing works for a long time. They need a combination of neural and muscular to get the best training effect.

Intensity zone: 86-91%

Number of reps: 4 – 6

Rest between reps: 10 – 15 seconds

Number of sets: 3 – 4

Type 2B clusters

Type 2B are all about sensation, feeling. This is true for their life, their training and their nutrition. They are emotional and easily build strong connections with people they are close to. They need to feel a strong mind-muscle connection and get a good pump or increase in muscle tone when training to feel satisfied and motivated. While they can lift heavy from time to time, it is not what they like to do the most. They only like to do it to get recognition and respect from others since they build their own self-esteem by how others perceive them.

Intensity zone: 82-87%

Number of reps: 5 – 8

Rest between reps: 10 – 15 seconds

Number of sets: 3 – 4

Type 3 clusters

Type 3 individuals need to feel in control. They have an increased perception of pain and danger as well as more developed self-preservation capacities. As such they don’t like to take risks. They are great at building and following plans. They are meticulous and focused. In training, they are more technique oriented because they cannot push hard if they don’t feel in control of the movement. For them clusters are more a way to get more quality reps than to stimulate strength gains.

Intensity zone: 70-80%

Number of reps: 6 – 10

Rest between reps: 5-10 seconds

Number of sets: 4 – 5 

 

REST/PAUSE 

Rest/pause is to hypertrophy what clusters are to strength: the best method! Ask around the bodybuilding world and you will see tons of reputable experts swearing by rest/pause. Paul Carter, Dante Trudel, Dr. Scott Stevenson, John Meadows and myself are all huge fans, among many others.

It works a little bit like clusters: by increasing the amount of work you can do in a set with a given weight. This leads to more muscle fiber fatigue without having to increase volume too much. This will lead to more muscle growth and strength gains. But we can optimize rest/pause for each neurotype to get even better gains.

Just so that we understand each other, rest/pause consists of doing each set in the form of 2 or more micro-sets. You do your first bout/micro-set to failure or close to it. Rest a certain period (10-25 sec depending on neurotype) and then try to get more reps in with the same weight. You can do two or several micro-sets depending on your total repetition target.

Rest/pause can vary in the following parameters:

Initial reps: This is the number of reps you shoot for in the first micro-set of each set. This, of course, also determines the load you will use.

Total reps: Here I’m talking about the total number of repetitions done for the whole set (adding up the 2+ micro-sets being done). I use a multiplying factor of the initial reps to prescribe this. For example, if I say that the total reps are 1.5x the initial reps and you get 8 reps in the first micro-set it means that you are shooting for a total of 12 reps. If you do 8 reps / rest 15 sec / 4 reps you can end the set there because you reached your reps goal. If you do 8 reps / 15 reps / 3 reps, you will have to do a 3rd micro-set because you are 1 rep short.

Rest between micro-sets: This is pretty simple. After each micro-set, you rack the back (or weight) and rest X seconds before attempting to get more reps.

Number of sets: This is how many work sets you do (not micro-set). If you do a set of 8 reps / rest 15 sec / 4 reps that counts as only one set.

Rest/pause for Type 1A

Initial reps:2 – 4

Total reps: 1.5 x initial reps

Rest between micro-sets: 20 – 25 sec

Number of sets: 1 – 2

Rest/pause for Type 1B

Initial reps:3 – 5

Total reps: 1.5 x initial reps

Rest between micro-sets: 15 – 20 sec

Number of sets: 2 – 3

Rest/pause for Type 2A

Initial reps:4 – 6

Total reps: 1.5 – 2 x initial reps

Rest between micro-sets: 10 – 15 sec

Number of sets: 3 – 4

Rest/pause for Type 2B

Initial reps: 5 – 8

Total reps: 2 x initial reps

Rest between micro-sets: 10 – 15 sec

Number of sets: 3 – 4

Rest/pause for Type 3

Initial reps: 6 – 10

Total reps: 2.5 x initial reps

Rest between micro-sets: 10-15 sec

Number of sets: 4 – 5

 

DROP SETS

Ever since bodybuilding became popular, drop sets have been a big part of bodybuilders’ arsenal. Larry Scott was doing them a lot in the early 1960s and I’m pretty sure that even back then it wasn’t anything new.

When something has been around for so long it tells me one thing: it works! When a method doesn’t work it seems to disappear really quickly. In training the test of time is in fact pretty accurate.

Drop sets are similar to rest/pause in that when you hit failure with a weight (or close to it) you use a strategy that will allow you to continue to impose fatigue on the muscle fibers and to increase lactic acid accumulation which will lead to the release of local growth factors. These two elements will trigger more muscle growth. The strategy you use with drop set is to reduce the weight so that you can continue doing more reps.

Drop-sets can vary depending on:

Initial reps: Same thing as for rest/pause. This is how many reps you do in the first micro-set, normally reaching the point of failure or close to it.

Number of drops: Drop sets are a pure muscle fatigue method, so for every micro-set you go to failure. In contrast, rest/pause has a performance element to it. This is why with drop sets we set the number of drops, assuming that you will go to failure on each micro-set. With rest/pause we give a total rep number of shoot for, slightly different. Clusters are almost purely a neural method, rest/pause a neuromuscular method and drop sets a muscular method.

Magnitude of the drop: This is how much you reduce the weight on each of your drops. For example, if you drop by 25% on each drop, you drop by 25% of the weight you just did. Let’s stay that you start with 225lbs for your initial micro-set, if you do two drops with a 25% drop on each it will be:

First micro-set: 225lbs

Second micro-set (225 – 25%): 170lbs

Third micro-set (170 – 25%) = 130lbs

*numbers are rounded up

Rest between micro-sets: How much time you rest between two micro-sets, includes the time it takes you to reduce the weight

Volume: How many sets you do

Type 1A drop sets

Initial reps: 2 – 4

Number of drops: 1 (so 2 micro-sets)

Magnitude of the drops: (10 – 15%)

Rest between drops: 15 – 20 seconds

Volume: 1 – 2 sets

Type 1B drop sets

Initial reps: 3 – 5

Number of drops: 1 (so 2 micro-sets)

Magnitude of the drops: (25 – 30% so that second micro-set can be done more explosively)

Rest between drops: 10 – 15 seconds

Volume: 2 – 3 sets

Type 2A drop sets

Initial reps: 4 – 6

Number of drops: 2 (so 3 micro-sets)

Magnitude of the drops: (10 – 15% for first / 40-50% for second so that third set can be done more explosively)

Rest between drops: 5 – 10 seconds

Volume: 3 – 4 sets

Type 2B drop sets

Initial reps: 6 – 8

Number of drops: 2 (so 3 micro-sets)

Magnitude of the drops: (20 – 25% always doing slow, mind-muscle connection reps)

Rest between drops: 5 – 10 seconds

Volume: 3 – 4 sets

Type 3 drop sets

Initial reps: 8 – 12

Number of drops: 2 – 3 (so 3 – 4 micro-sets)

Magnitude of the drops: (10 – 15% their drop-off is low)

Rest between drops: As little as possible

Volume: 3 – 4 sets

 

Conclusion

I first would like to thank my friend Matthieu Jeandel for his contribution to this article. Every time that Matt and I brainstorm some magic always happens! He is one of the best coaches that you don’t know about!

Hopefully this article will have showed you how to adapt these amazing methods to your own nature. This will give a lot more gains in the future as well as minimize the chances of crashing your nervous system. It is exciting stuff! We already know about the best methods, now it’s all about optimizing them to each individual. THAT is the secret to rapid progress.

-by Christian Thibaudeau & Matthieu Jeandel

Christian Thibaudeau

Written by Christian Thibaudeau

Christian Thibaudeau has been involved in the business of training for over the last 16 years. During this period, he worked with athletes from 28 different sports. He has been “Head Strength Coach” for the Central Institute for Human Performance (of…