An in Depth look at Cluster Medley’s | Body Composition Protocol

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Snapshot of Takeaway Points

  • This protocol is great if you want lose body fat or gain muscle mass
  • It’s a high volume workout that will make you question why you started it!
  • 4 exercises in a circuit, three times round…it’s that simple!


This protocol is a high volume option. With that in mind the protocol is great if you want to lose body fat, increase muscle mass or improve and enhance work capacity. As the most challenging ones always are, it’s a simple concept but when applied it is unforgiving! Prepare to be left in a sweaty mess if using the full body routines or a skin splitting pump with the split options.

I’ve utilised it for many years now with fantastic feedback and results. In fact, the only challenge is having to explain it at the beginning of the session! Often I’ll just show the circuit then yell at the client to go around again twice more once they’ve done one round! This can be difficult for most trainers who love the sound of their own voice. Sometimes less is more and short and concise is king.

The Protocol

Choose 4 exercises and perform them in a circuit/giant set fashion, one after the other, with no more than ten seconds rest as you move from one exercise to the next. Then repeat this twice more before you get you well-earned rest period.

That’s right, 3 x complete circuits on the four exercises before you get to rest. For the mathematicians out there that’s 12 sets before a rest. Three circuits equals one set and you’ll perform 3-5 sets.

I hope I have explained it thoroughly enough but every single time I explain this to a client and even coaches, they are immediately lost! So due to this continual experience I am going to lay it out:

  • A1) Exercise #1, 10s rest
  • A2) Exercise #2, 10s rest
  • A3) Exercise #3, 10s rest
  • A4) Exercise #4, 10s rest
  • A5) Exercise #1, 10s rest
  • A6) Exercise #2, 10s rest
  • A7) Exercise #3, 10s rest
  • A8) Exercise #4, 10s rest
  • A9) Exercise #1, 10s rest
  • A10) Exercise #2, 10s rest
  • A11) Exercise #3, 10s rest
  • A12) Exercise #4, 180s-240s rest

Cluster Medley Applied

Fat Loss options

For full body workouts I love utilising the Death Circuits exercise options for reasons elaborated on in the article:

  • A1) Quads
  • A2) Back
  • A3) Hamstrings
  • A4) Press

You can make the neurological complexity of the exercise fit the ability level of the client. For example this would be quite an advanced protocol:

  • A1) Back Squat | Oly Style | Barbell | High Bar: 10-12 reps, 3110
  • A2) Lat/Cable Pulldown | 2” Thick | Semi-Supinated, Wide: 10-12 reps, 3011
  • A3) Romanian Deadlift | Snatch Grip Barbell: 10-12 reps, 3110
  • A4) Flat Press | 2.5” Barbell | Biacromial: 10-12 reps, 3110
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 3 sets total

Then this would be an alternative ‘easier’ protocol for a relative newbie to the gym:

  • A1) Leg Press | Shoulder Width Stance: 10-12 reps, 3010
  • A2) Seated Cable Row | To Belly | Supinated, Shoulder Width: 10-12 reps, 3010
  • A3) Low Cable Pull Through: 10-12 reps, 3010
  • A4) 30° Incline Fly | T-Shape | Pronated: 10-12 reps, 3010
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 3 sets total

Should you like modified strongman training then here are two of my favourite routines utilising the cluster medley protocol:

Option 1
  • A1) Viking Push Press | Facing In | Pronated: 8-12 reps, 12X2
  • A2) Seated Rope Row | Bilateral: 10m, X0X0
  • A3) Prowler Sprint | High Handlebars: 10m, X0X0
    • Use A2 implement
  • A4) Sled Power Walk | Harness: 40m, X0X0
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 5 sets total
Option 2
  • A1) Log Power Clean: 6-8 reps, X0X0
  • A2) Sandbag Carry | Shoulder: 20m each, 1010
  • A3) Yoke: 15m, X0X0
  • A4) Rope Battle | External Rotations: 10-15 each arm, X0X0
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 5 sets total

If hypertrophy/bodybuilding or increasing muscle mass if more your goal then have a go on these split routines:

Biceps & Triceps
  • A1) 30° Incline Prone/Spider Curl | Dumbbell, Bilateral | Supinated: 6-8 reps, 3012
  • A2) Flat Extension | Dumbbell | Neutral: 6-8 reps, 3210
  • A3) 30° Incline Curl | Dumbbell, Bilateral | Hammer to Shoulder: 6-8 reps, 5010
  • A4) Floor Press | Dumbbell | Elbows tucked to sides: 6-8 reps 3210
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 4 sets total
Chest & Back
  • A1) Flat Fly | Dumbbell | T-Shape | Pronating: 10-12 reps, 3210
  • A2) Lat/Cable Pulldown | Pronated, Wide: 8-10 reps, 3011
  • A3) 15° Decline Press | Dumbbell | Pronated: 10-12 reps, 3110
  • A4) Seated Cable Row | To belly | Semi-Supinated, Narrow: 8-10 reps, 2012
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 4 sets total
Quads & Hams
  • A1) Pendulum Squat | Petersen Style: 10-12 reps, 4010
  • A2) Glute Ham Raise | Dumbbell Across Collarbone: 6-8 reps, 4010
  • A3) Walking Lunge | Dumbbell: 8-10 reps, 2010
  • A4) 70° Incline Back Extension | Dumbbell Across Collarbone: 8-10 reps, 2012
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 3 sets total
  • A1) Standing Calf Raise | Bilateral, Toes Outwards: 10-12 reps, 2210
  • A2) Donkey Calf Raise | Bilateral, Toes Neutral: 12-15 reps, 2011
  • A3) Seated Calf Raise | Bilateral, Toes Inwards: 15-20 reps, 2110
  • A4) Seated Tibia Dorsi Raise | Bilateral, Toes Neutral: 10-12 reps, 2011
  • 3 x rounds for each set and 5 sets total

3 week volume change

Here is how I often program it for client’s in a 3 week phase:

  • Week 1: 10-12 reps, 3 x rounds for each set and 3 sets total
  • Week 2: 8-10 reps, 3 x rounds for each set and 4 sets total
  • Week 3: 6-8 reps, 3 x rounds for each set and 5 sets total
  • Even though week 3 is 5 rounds due to the drop in repetitions it’s lower volume


I hope you enjoy applying the protocol and trying your own variations of this volume/accumulation protocol. If you are a coach remember to utilise it first on yourself before your client’s! This is a big rule of mine. This allows improved learning on your part and therefore improved understanding and application for your clientele.

Another insight into my program design vault, of which there is literally hundreds of protocols and programs. Should you wish to learn more you can find the templates here: Click here

Article written by: Tom Hibbert

Published on: 6/1/2020

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