The alteration of individual sets during resistance training (RT) is often used to allow for greater velocity and power outputs, reduce metabolite accumulation such as lactate and also reduce perceived exertion which can ultimately affect the resultant training adaptations. However, there are inconsistencies in the current body of evidence regarding the magnitude of the effects of alternative set structures (i.e., cluster sets and rest redistribution) on these acute mechanical, metabolic, and perceptual responses during and after RT.
This study aimed to systematically review and meta-analyse current evidence on the differences between traditional and alternative (cluster and rest redistribution) set structures on acute mechanical, metabolic, and perceptual responses during and after RT, and to discuss potential reasons for the disparities noted in the literature.
The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed, and five databases were searched until June 2019. Studies were included when they were written in English and compared at least one acute mechanical, metabolic, or perceptual response between traditional, cluster or traditional and rest redistribution set structures in healthy adults. Random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions were performed where possible.
Thirty-two studies were included. Pooled results revealed that alternative set structures allowed for greater absolute mean [standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.60] and peak velocity (SMD = 0.41), and mean (SMD = 0.33) and peak power (SMD = 0.38) during RT. In addition, alternative set structures were also highly effective at mitigating a decline in velocity and power variables during (SMD = 0.83–1.97) and after RT (SMD = 0.58) as well as reducing lactate accumulation (SMD = 1.61) and perceived exertion (SMD = 0.81). These effects of alternative set structures on velocity and power decline and maintenance during RT were considerably larger than for absolute velocity and power variables. Sub-group analyses controlling for each alternative set structure independently showed that cluster sets were generally more effective than rest redistribution in alleviating mechanical, metabolic, and perceptual markers of fatigue.
Alternative set structures can reduce mechanical fatigue, perceptual exertion, and metabolic stress during and after RT. However, fundamental differences in the amount of total rest time results in cluster sets generally being more effective than rest redistribution in alleviating fatigue-induced changes during RT, which highlights the importance of classifying them independently in research and in practice. Additionally, absolute values (i.e., mean session velocity or power), as well as decline and maintenance of the mechanical outcomes during RT, and residual mechanical fatigue after RT, are all affected differently by alternative set structures, suggesting that these variables may provide distinct information that can inform future training decisions.
The original protocol was prospectively registered (CRD42019138954) with the PROSPERO (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews).
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IJ performed the meta-analysis and meta-regression and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors edited and revised the manuscript and approved the final version of the manuscript.
No external sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.
Conflict of interest
Ivan Jukic, Amador García Ramos, Eric Helms, Michael McGuigan and James Tufano declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.
Availability of data and material
The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current review are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
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Jukic, I., Ramos, A.G., Helms, E.R. et al. Acute Effects of Cluster and Rest Redistribution Set Structures on Mechanical, Metabolic, and Perceptual Fatigue During and After Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med 50, 2209–2236 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01344-2