T Nation

Layer System - Review


Long time no post, reviewing from 2013: jeez.

Anyways: I’m still doing the 1RM and 2RM layers: posted below - any additions or subtractions since this was posted while keeping the general theme? Or back into hibernation.

Can’t speak highly enough for this program, for me it’s the best methodology to suit my “type”.

I love swapping between them doing -

Bench, back squat, high Pull, off, bench, front squat, high Pull, off

(Swap first bench for push press every other week).


Layer 1: Ramp to 1RM
Layer 2: 5 x 1 @ 95% of ramp
Layer 3: Strength-density 10 total reps with 90% done in as little time as possible
Layer 4: Strength density 20 total reps with 80% done in as little time as possible

Layer 1: Ramp to 2RM
Layer 2: 10 x 1 @ 90% of 2RM
Layer 3: 5 x 3 @ 70% of 2RM concentric as explosive as possible
Layer 4: 3 sets @ 50%, as many reps as possible in 12 seconds

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Coach, I started the Layer system format you laid out in another recent thread.

LAYER 1: Ramp up to your 2RM (maximum weight you can lift for 2 reps)
LAYER 2: Perform 2-3 cluster sets of 4-6 reps with 90% of your 2RM… a cluster set is a set in which you rest 10-15 seconds between every repetition (re-rack the weight)
LAYER 3: Perform 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps with 70% of your 2RM using a slow eccentric/lowering (5 seconds)
LAYER 4: Perform 1 set of maximum reps with 60% of your 2RM

The layer system used for bench, front squat, military press, and deadlift. You mentioned isolation work could follow, I was wondering what sort of volume you would suggest with the assitance work and if you would be against a 5th day of low intensity Lat/Bicep work.

Hi @Voluminous
Thibs layer system has evolved quite a bit since 2013. Here’s the latest version, in case you’re not aware

Yeah my favorite program of all time as well.

Best way to train, hands down, lol.

With minor adjustments, it becomes a standard push/pull/legs ramp up to top weight, back off do work (double progression). Or it can become a deloadish/explosive workout like your performance layer.

Got any physique progress pics (pre/post layers?) or strength improvement?

Do you do any assistance work (bodyweight, dumbbells) in these layer workouts?

The recent layer, I have mixed feelings about. For one, a preacher curl layer day seems kind of funny. And it’s also lower frequency than the original (5-6 days).

I think the isometric layer is useful but I can’t be bothered to wait 2-3 minutes between isometrics (i end up only resting 30 seconds). Also the slow eccentric + constant tension layers seem redundant and I end up burning out and using really light weight on the constant tension. But I’m just one sample, and might try again, stick to it longer and get better results.

Holy sweet fck @ Layer 2. 101 is hard enough as is!

Thanks for the article though, most appreciated - have a great day!
LAYER 2: Perform 2-3 cluster sets of 4-6 reps with 90% of your 2RM… a cluster set is a set in which you rest 10-15 seconds between every repetition (re-rack the weight)

Here’s the thing with the layer system: you don’t have to use any specific method except the initial ramp. The layer philosophy is simply to use one main lift only and use up to 5different methods to train it. Normally its 4 methods. Now these methods can be pretty much anything that jas been shown to work. The only rule is tomgo from the method with the heaviest weights down to the method in which you are the “weakest”

Right, thanks CT.

What was the final verdict on assitance exercise/carries? Was it ok to do moderate sets (close to failure, extra volume) with dumbells or another barbell strength assistance. Or end a few workouts with loaded carries etc.

Was this beneficial or negatively impacted layers (pure 1 barbell exercise per workout, nothing more)?

Btw one technique I’ve done is use 3/2/1 waveloading clusters (3 reps, 10 seconds, 2 reps, 10 seconds, 1 rep…then up weight, do 3-4 waves). Pretty incredible as well

One, maaaaayyybe two muscle building exercises using more typical bodybuilding loading for 3 sets

No, no other strength can be done on a layer day

Not layers workouts. If you want to do them, do them on a different day

Sounds good, I’ll try that friday… back on the layers myself

Fantastic. Now with your timing (dialing down to contest ready shape), will layers be for lean mass gains, fat loss/muscle preservation, “hardening” of physique even more?

I know layers is tremendously powerful in caloric surplus, adding muscle overnight seemingly. In moderate/caloric tempered environment I’ve seen gains without fat, but recovery becomes more challenging (also progressing on poundages).

So eagerly see what your programming is like these next few weeks/months, take some tips out of playbook of the master himself for gains in shredded state

I actually increased carbs and calories significantly wanting now to fill out as much as possible while keeping the same BF.

I wouldnt do layers on a caloric deficit

Could there be a fat loss layer as well?

That’s an age-old query, ever since CT laid down the layers concept. Though CT has always refuted it

No. The layer system has to be done on a caloric surplus and losing fat requires a deficit. Putting a layer aimed at loosing fat when you are in a situation where you will not likely lose fat is a waste of time. You COULD add a conditioning or resistance layer.

I was just curious. No sense in bastardizing your programming.

I have been curious CT how have you done chinese row layers?


No, but I might do that sunday

When you think of clusters, and general rest pause work, is there a unique stimulation (hypertrophy/strength) that couldn’t be had with straight sets?

I notice the layers is very close to a 5x5 (if one ramps to a top 3RM, then backs off 10-20% for 5x5 work) but difference between the cluster setup (and subsequent density layers, vs. assistance work in a 5x5 program).

Basically, is there something unique about breaking up reps (as long as with heavy weight) that makes for more gains vs. doing them straight?

Well, on most exercises you can use more weight for the same volume.

And the short rest might allow the faster twitch fibers to recover and as a result they participate in more of the reps.

IMHO this means that clusters might provide for a bit more fast twitch specific hypertrophy but not necessarily more total hypertrophy.