Crossfit Clusters are one of the most identifiable exercises in the CrossFit community. Using movements from Olympic Weightlifting, the Cluster is actually a combination of two pretty popular exercises in the community that is very effective at working your entire body.
This full body exercise has many benefits if done correctly, so be sure to start slow and learn the movement before loading a ton of weight on the bar.
Make sure you read this blog post to the very end because you’re going to discover how to perform this powerful full body exercise, what muscles it works, and a few example workouts you can start right away to start building more strength over your entire body.
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2 Powerful Exercises that Combine to Form CrossFit Clusters
As I mentioned earlier, the Crossfit Cluster pulls from Olympic Weightlifting movements known as the Clean and the Thruster.
- A clean is when a lifter pulls a barbell from the floor and settles it into a “racked” position as they drop into a squat.
- The thruster is an exercise where the lifter will hold the barbell across their deltoids again in a “racked” position. They will drop into a squat and as soon as they hit the height of their squat, they press the barbell above their head before bringing it down for another repetition.
The Cluster combines each of these movements to create an insane full body exercise that can be added to almost any muscle-building workout.
How to Prevent Serious Injury with These Step-By-Step Instructions
Like most barbell movements, you can cause serious injury if you don’t perform the exercises correctly and with good form. Here are are the step-by-step instructions for properly executing this lift.
- Each movement starts with a barbell on the floor and the lifter’s knees faced forward comfortably.
- Pull the barbell up to the hips and immediately thrust the barbell upwards so it lands comfortable in your hands directly underneath your chin.
- As the barbell settles at shoulder height, still underneath the chin, proceed with a front squat.
- At the height of the squat, press the weight above your head being sure to lock out your elbows.
- To finish the lift, lower the barbell back underneath your chin, drop to the hip level and then rest on the ground before the next rep begins.
This exercise can be done for many reps at a lower rate if the lifter decides to focus more on cardio and conditioning.
If you’d rather focus on strength, then you may decide to perform this exercise for less reps at a higher weight. It is completely customizable and should be used effectively based off of your individual goals.
Additionally, to ensure that you complete each rep with stellar form, you should make sure you’re wearing some high quality CrossFit shoes to improve stability and balance.
7 Muscle Groups Worked When Performing Crossfit Clusters
One of the many reasons this exercise is so well known and so loved is its ability to truly work the entire body with one exercise. Here’s a rundown of the six muscle groups worked when performing this movement.
Here’s another explanation of all the muscles worked as you’re actually going through the motions of the exercise.
- At the base of the lift, the back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads fire to lift the weight from the floor.
- The back and glutes then fire again to help the lifter bring the barbell underneath the chin. Using almost all of the leg muscles, the lifter deepens into a squat while using their back and core to stabilize the lift.
- When the barbell is pressed above the head, the shoulders and triceps assist the lifter while the back and core once again stay tight to stabilize the lifter.
It’s pretty easy to see just how many muscles this exercise utilizes which is why it’s a great exercise to build strength and tone the entire body while also increasing the heart rate. This would be a fantastic exercise to add to a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session or other fat burning workout.
When just learning how to do this exercise, start at a low weight and focus on your mind to muscle connections. It can be easy to sloppily throw the weight around during this type of lift, but that can easily result in injury.
Instead, start light with barely any weight on the bar and focus on firing the right muscles throughout each part of the lift. As your muscles learn how to complete this lift, you can move faster and add weight according to your needs.
— CrossFit Red Beard (@RedBeardCF) October 6, 2015
3 WODs that Use CrossFit Clusters
For the Crossfit Cluster, you’ll need a barbell, enough plates to challenge you (without injury) and barbell clamps. Be sure to use bumper plates (rubber plates) as this exercise will be hitting the gym floor repeatedly and could damage it if using metal plates.
You can use metal plates for this exercise if you don’t have bumper plates available, but head to a deadlift platform if your gym has one to minimize damages. If this also isn’t an option for you, then simply be extra careful about dropping the weight during this exercise.
Here are three popular CrossFit WODs that use integrate this exercise.
1. CrossFit Novem Conditioning WOD
This WOD is a concoction from the Philadelphia gym, CrossFit Novem and it simply involves two exercises:
- 10 Clusters
- 15 Hand release push-ups
* This WOD should be performd for 10 rounds with men using 135 lbs and women using 95 lbs.
2. CLUSTER F*&K!
This is a WOD was posted by CrossFit Durham and is sure to give you a run for your money.
- Ring dips x 4 (max reps)
- Single Round – 5 clusters
- Single Round – 7 box jumps/steps
* You should start with 4 sets of ring dips performing max reps on each set. Then, take a quick breather before jumping into 7 rounds of clusters and box jumps. Clusters should be performed using 135 lbs for men and 95 lbs for women.
3. CrossFit Monrovia OTM WOD
This WOD posted by CrossFit Monrovia features clusters performed OTM (on the minute) at the beginning of the workout before jumping into an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) section.
OTM for 10 Minutes
- Cluster x 2
AMRAP for 10 Minutes
- DB hang power clean x 10
- Push-ups x 10
- Lateral plate jumps x 20
* For the db hang power cleans, men should start with 35 lbs and women should start with 20 lbs.
So, as you can tell Crossfit Clusters are an incredible, full-body exercise that can really hit a ton of muscles in a few swift movements while also rapidly accelerating the heart rate. These can be added to almost any gym session for a little added HIIT cardio or as a burnout.
Be sure to be safe and effective while doing this exercise for maximum results. Adding a ton of weight on the bar won’t do you any good at all if you injure yourself. So, start slow and increase the weight as the exercise becomes more fluid.