CrossFit Cluster: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 19, 2023

Crossfit is a high-intensity workout routine that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio into a variety of challenging workouts. One of the exercises often included in CrossFit programming is the cluster, which combines the clean and thruster movements into a single exercise.

The cluster is a demanding exercise that requires a combination of strength, power, and endurance. It is a popular exercise in Crossfit programming and is often used to test an athlete's overall fitness and strength. The cluster can be particularly effective for developing full-body strength and power, as it involves multiple muscle groups and movements.

It is essential to have proper form and technique when performing the cluster, as it can be a challenging exercise that puts a lot of strain on the body. In this article, the benefits of the CrossFit cluster will be explored, as well as tips and techniques for performing the exercise safely and effectively. Whether an athlete is seasoned in CrossFit or just starting out, learning how to properly perform the cluster can help them take their fitness to the next level.

What is a CrossFit Cluster? 

The Crossfit cluster is a compound exercise that combines the clean and thruster movements into a single workout. The clean is a weightlifting move in which the barbell is lifted from the ground to the shoulders, or "rack," in one smooth motion. The thruster is a compound exercise combining a front squat with a push press. To perform a cluster, the athlete will typically perform a series of clean and thruster repetitions that always start from the ground.

crossfit cluster

To perform the cluster safely and effectively, it is vital to have proper form and technique. This includes maintaining a strong and stable core, using the legs to drive the barbell up during the clean and thruster movements, and keeping the bar close to the body throughout the exercise. It is also essential to warm up properly before attempting the cluster, as it may be a difficult activity that places the body under a significant amount of stress.

Overall, the CrossFit cluster is a challenging exercise requiring a mix of strength, power, and endurance, making it an effective way to develop full-body strength and a rewarding addition to any CrossFit workout.

How to Perform the CrossFit Cluster

Before attempting the cluster, it is crucial to warm up properly to avoid injury. This may include dynamic stretches, foam rolling, and lighter exercises to get the muscles warmed up and ready for the cluster.

The cluster begins with the barbell on the ground, set up in a position similar to a deadlift. An overhand grip on the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width should be taken, and the core and glutes should be engaged to maintain a strong and stable base.

cluster starting position

Next, the heels should be driven through, and the barbell should be lifted off the ground, pulling it towards the hips and the hips towards the bar in one smooth motion. 

cluster second position

Once the bar reaches knee level, extend the hips and knees explosively to build momentum for lifting the bar, and then engage the upper back and traps to produce a forceful shrug to complete the lift.

cluster third position

Next, swivel the elbows forward and turn the wrist beneath the bar while bending the knees and hips into a complete squat posture; This is the clean portion of the cluster.

cluster fourth position

At the midpoint of the squat, the bar should be at the shoulders, and the wrists should be bent nearly to a right angle. Once the barbell is in the rack position, the thruster can be performed next.

cluster fifth position

As the athlete rises out of the squat, the power from the legs should be used to drive the barbell overhead in a push press movement.

cluster ending position

Upon reaching the top of the movement, the barbell should then be lowered back to the starting position, and the sequence should be repeated for the desired number of repetitions.

Proper form and technique must be maintained throughout the exercise. It is also essential to use a weight appropriate for the athlete's current fitness level and to listen to their bodies to avoid overdoing it and risking injury.

Benefits of CrossFit Cluster

There are several benefits to incorporating the CrossFit cluster into an athlete's training routine. First, it can be a challenging and rewarding addition to any CrossFit workout.

One of the benefits of the cluster is that it is an effective way to develop full-body strength and power. The clean and thruster movements involve multiple muscle groups, and by performing them in quick succession, the athlete can challenge their overall strength and power. 

The clean movement, in particular, requires a stable base and the ability to generate power from the legs and hips to lift the barbell off the ground. The thruster movement requires the athlete to use their legs and upper body to press the barbell overhead, which can help to develop upper body strength and power. By performing both movements back-to-back, the athlete can challenge their full-body strength and power uniquely and effectively.

Another benefit of the CrossFit cluster is that it is an excellent exercise for improving cardiovascular endurance. The continuous nature of the training, combined with the high intensity of the clean and thruster movements, can elevate the heart rate and enhance the athlete's endurance over time.

This has been supported by a study conducted by Oliveira et al., in a recent randomized controlled trial, which found that high-intensity interval training, which includes exercises similar to the CrossFit cluster, can improve cardiovascular endurance and other health markers in individuals with obesity.

In addition to its physical benefits, the cluster can also be a great mental challenge. The exercise requires focus and determination, as the athlete must maintain proper form and technique while quickly performing multiple repetitions.

This can be a great way to develop mental toughness and improve overall performance. Performing the cluster can be a mentally and physically demanding experience, and being able to push through the fatigue and discomfort can be a valuable skill in both training and competition.

Mistakes to Avoid in the Crossfit Cluster

While it can be a challenging and rewarding addition to any Crossfit workout, it is important to avoid common mistakes in order to perform the exercise safely and effectively.

Improper Form and Technique

One mistake to avoid when performing the CrossFit cluster is improper form and technique. Not only can bad form make an exercise less effective, but it can also make it more likely to increase the risk of injury. To ensure proper form and technique, seeking guidance from a qualified coach or trainer may be helpful. Watching instructional videos or practicing with a lighter weight is also beneficial to get a feel for the proper form.

Inappropriate or Excessive Weight Used

Another mistake to avoid when performing the CrossFit cluster is using too much weight. Using a weight appropriate for the athlete's current fitness level is essential, as using too much weight can lead to poor form and increase the risk of injury.

It is better to start with a lighter weight and gradually increase the load as the athlete's strength and technique improve. It is also crucial to listen to the body and avoid pushing too hard, as the cluster can be a physically demanding exercise that puts a lot of strain on the body.

Neglecting to Warm Up

When doing the Crossfit cluster, another common mistake is not warming up enough before starting. The cluster is a high-impact exercise that requires the muscles to be properly prepared, and failing to warm up can increase the risk of injury. Therefore, it is important to include dynamic stretches, foam rolling, and lighter exercises in the warm-up to prepare the body for the cluster.

Final Thoughts

When incorporating the cluster into an athlete's training routine, there are a few things to consider. First, it is vital to have a good foundation of strength and technique before attempting the cluster. This includes being able to perform both the clean and thruster movements with proper form and using a weight that is appropriate for the athlete's current fitness level. 

Overall, the CrossFit cluster is an effective way to develop full-body strength and power. By following proper form and technique, listening to the body, and warming up properly, athletes can safely and effectively incorporate the cluster into their training routine to help take their fitness to the next level.

References

1. Oliveira, J., Carvalho, T., Lira, F., Andrade, D., Martins, R., & Gomes, P. (2020). High-intensity interval training reduces cardiovascular risk factors in obese individuals: a randomized controlled trial. BMC obesity, 7(1), 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40608-020-00277-1

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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