Week 4/52: Three Week Bench Cluster Cycle and Super Smoothies

52 week2







This week, I bring an entire training session to you. Cluster sets are great for keeping in some dynamic (speed/explosive work… are you slow off the chest on bench?) but for building some volume and muscle mass. The short rest periods cause some muscular fatigue, which really forces you to continue to contract hard and fire up.

A bench cluster works like this:  You’ll perform 3 dynamic reps, rack the bar, rest 15 seconds, do 3 reps again, rack the bar, rest 15 seconds, do 3 reps again. This equals one cluster. See how it’s 3 sets of 3 reps? After each cluster, rest a full 90 seconds before moving on to the next cluster.

So why not just do 9 straight explosive reps? Well, it’s difficult to maintain the same amount of force over all 9 reps in a row. Your speed will slow down, fatigue sets in too much and form usually breaks as well.


3 Clusters of 3×3 @ ~60% of your max


3 clusters of 4×3 @ ~60% of your max (notice how we up the volume to be 4 sets of 3 in each cluster)


4 clusters of 4×3 @ ~60% of your max (notice how are also flat loading the weight but increasing the volume each week)

****(for some, it may be 65-70%… but start light. This isn’t a max day. Your speed should stay explosive. The first cluster always seems easy, so be patient.)


I’ve been utilizing clusters in my physique prep training. It fits in well with my chest day but also allows me to maintain explosiveness for my bench, so when I return to max training/powerlifting, I have still maintained that attribute.

Give this 3 week cycle a try and let me know what you think!


bench cluster



I hear a few common arguments from my clients when they choose fast food or sweet things in place of a better option:

“I just can’t break this sweet tooth… I have to have something sweet after dinner!”

“I was in a rush… didn’t have time to make or pack anything.”

Well, if you continue to make those excuses habit (see above quote), then you’ll never take a step forward to break them.

Here are a few smoothie  recipes I’ve given my clients to help them stay on track.  (Note: There are times when “sticking to your macros” just won’t happen. And for many of my clients I would much rather them get 25g of carbs from a banana than to eat an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers… yes, it has happened.)

APPLE PIE SUPER SHAKE – makes 2 servings (or 1 large serving)
(adapted from Precision Nutrition)

1 cup almond milk

2 scoops vanilla protein

1 apple

1 Tbsp flax meal

10-15 almonds

Cinnamon to taste (~1 tsp)

Ice to desired consistency

Blend in a blender on high for 1 minute.

Calories: 555 (278 for 2 servings)
Protein: 61g (30g for 2 servings)
Fat: 16g (8g for 2 servings)
Carbs: 44g (22g for 2 servings)



½ frozen banana (remember to unpeel first before freezing)

½ cup almond milk

1 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter (all natural)

1 scoop chocolate protein

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s dark)

A few ice cubes.  Blend well

Calories: 318

Protein: 33g

Fat: 11g

Carbs: 24g


Enjoy! And have a great week.


About Julia Ladewski

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