CrossFit is a popular sport that combines beginner-friendly movements like air squats, shoulder presses, and kettlebell swings with more demanding exercises such as rope climbs, pig flips, and Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk and snatch. CrossFit workouts, or WODs, typically consist of circuits that combine two or more movements. The CrossFit cluster takes this a step further, merging the thruster with the clean into a single exercise. The thruster is a combination of two exercises – the front squat and the push press – and adding the clean to the mix makes the cluster a blend of three compound (multi-joint) movements. In this article, we will delve into the fundamentals of the CrossFit cluster, including its benefits, correct form, common mistakes, variations, and the muscles worked during this exercise.
A CrossFit cluster is a compound exercise that combines the clean and the thruster. The exercise works your entire body, making it an effective compound exercise. Most WODs have just the right amount of clusters as chippers or in a circuit to exhaust you by the end of the workout. Each cluster begins from the ground. You must lift the bar to your hip height and catch it in the front rack position at the bottom of a squat. The rest of the movement is the same as the thruster. From the bottom of the front squat, stand up by extending your knees and driving through your midfoot. As you’re about to achieve full knee extension, use the momentum to drive the bar overhead and lock out your elbows. Return the bar to the front rack position. In the thruster, you would go right into a squat after catching the bar and repeat for the recommended reps. However, you will return the bar to the floor with each rep while doing the cluster. Adding the cleans makes the cluster much more demanding than the thrusters.
To perform the cluster with perfect form, you must follow a few steps. First, place a barbell against your shins and stand upright with a shoulder-wide stance. Grab the bar using a shoulder-wide hook grip. Your hip crease should be below your knees crease, which will help you use your quads in the initial phase of the lift. Your chest should be open, and you should look straight ahead. Begin the clean by extending your hips and knees, shrugging your shoulders, and pulling the barbell upward. As the barbell passes your chest, drop into a squat and catch the barbell in the front rack position. From here, perform the thruster by standing up and pressing the barbell overhead. Lower the barbell to the front rack position and then to the ground to complete one rep.
While performing the cluster, it is essential to maintain perfect form to avoid unnecessary strain on your lower back. Lifting with a rounded back is one of the most common mistakes while doing this exercise. The CrossFit cluster is a full-body exercise that recruits almost every muscle fiber in your body. It is such an effective compound exercise that we think this section should be titled “Muscles not worked in a CrossFit Cluster.” Nonetheless, here are the muscles stimulated in this exercise:
– Legs: The cluster works your quads during the initial lift off the floor; your glutes and hamstrings are activated as you get into the squat after catching the bar. This exercise is a complete leg builder that will help you add strength and size to your lower body.
– Back: While performing the cluster, you’ll experience latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres major and minor, and trapezius muscle engagement. Since this is a hip-hinge movement, you’ll also feel lower back stimulation.
– Shoulders: From pulling the bar off the floor and pressing it overhead, you’ll experience shoulder engagement. Cycle through the cluster reps, and you’ll feel a sick anterior and lateral deltoid pump.
– Arms: The first half of the movement involves pulling the bar to the front rack, resulting in biceps engagement. The second half requires you to press the bar overhead, which will fire up your triceps.
– Core: Performing a clean, especially while lifting heavier, requires a strong core. Your midriff and stabilizers will also be in action as you press the bar overhead and complete a lockout. Folks that lack a solid core will have trouble completing a heavy overhead lockout.
Adding the cluster to your exercise arsenal entails several benefits. First, it boosts your skills. CrossFit involves a lot of skills, including high-skill weightlifting moves such as the Olympic lifts and gymnastics moves like handstand walks and ring muscle-ups. The cluster helps you improve at Olympic lifts by incorporating the clean, front squat, and overhead press into a single movement. It will aid in improving your technique and get you better results faster. Second, the cluster is a full-body exercise that will help you build overall strength and muscle mass. This compound exercise will improve your functionality, making you better at other exercises and day-to-day activities. The cluster will also improve your metabolic conditioning, boosting your performance in demanding workouts. Third, the compound exercise will boost your strength and muscle mass. You must, however, program your workouts accordingly. Stay in the 1-5 rep range to focus on strength. On the other hand, the 8-12 range is optimal for hypertrophy. Finally, perform high-rep sets of clusters, and you’d be gasping for breath. Adding cluster ladders to your WODs will help you build stamina and endurance, translating to better performance in demanding workouts.
In conclusion, the CrossFit cluster is a complex lift that requires perfect form to get the best results. It is a full-body exercise that recruits almost every muscle fiber in your body. Adding the cluster to your exercise arsenal entails several benefits, including boosting your skills, building overall strength and muscle mass, and improving your endurance and stamina. To perform the cluster with perfect form, follow the steps outlined above, and avoid common mistakes like lifting with a rounded back. Incorporate the cluster into your WODs, and you’ll see significant improvements in your performance and physique.