T Nation

Layer System - Speed Layer?

Ive been reading a lot of the older posts about the layer system and it’s variations and one aspect I didn’t see covered much is the use of a speed layer. In one post I found CT recommends 8 sets of 3 with max speed at 45-50% at the very end of the workout. Does anybody have any experience with using this layer at the end? Been using the layer system for incline bench for 3 weeks now using clusters then HDL and have had significant strength increases already (started at 255 1RM and hit 275 for 1 last week). Just wanted to hear some current thoughts on the speed layer for strength purposes. Thanks

Well, first . ask yourself if you will really benefit from speed work. Here is something about speed work from my recent article on chains. The logic still applies to regular speed work.

"But the dynamic effort method won’t work for everybody. From my experience, it’s effective at increasing maximal strength mostly in lifters who rely on their natural acceleration and velocity to overcome their sticking points. But lifters who are natural grinders won’t get much out of it. Dave Tate makes the distinction and notes that there are explosive lifters and strong lifters.

It seems counterintuitive though. If you’re a grinder, it’s easy to believe that doing speed work would allow you to become faster. But the body will always rely on what it’s best at and programmed to do. Someone who’s a grinder will remain a grinder even if he does speed work. In his case, the speed work may actually detrain his grinding capacity.

Jim Wendler came to the same conclusion. Jim is a “strong lifter” and his barbell speed wasn’t as high as someone like Tate, an explosive lifter. Despite being a former Westsider, Wendler moved away from doing speed work as he found that, for him, it did more harm than good.

In his own words:

“…using the dynamic bench press in my training did nothing for my bar speed and really pushed my bench press poundages back. It wasn’t until I slowed down the eccentric portion, took the bands off, and eventually took the whole movement out of my training that I saw results.”

Note that when he writes “took the bands off” you could just as easily say “took the chains off.”

Doing speed work will help if your natural lifting strategy is to use velocity to overcome a weak point. It’ll make you even more explosive, enhancing your natural strategy.

Think of a weak point like a mud pit on the road. If you drive through the mud pit it will slow down your vehicle significantly. If it slows your vehicle down so much that you come to a halt, you won’t be able to start again (you miss the lift).

The first way of driving through a mud pit is to approach it so fast that even if it decelerates you, you still maintain enough speed to pass through. The second way is to actually slow down, put yourself in slow gear, and gradually force your way through.

You can’t use the first strategy with a tractor, nor can you use the second strategy with a Lamborghini! To use one of my favorite analogies: a Saint Bernard will always be a Saint Bernard; it can’t become a Greyhound.

Those who will benefit the most from barbell speed work with chains (or bands) are fairly advanced lifters with a high level of technical mastery, and who naturally use acceleration and velocity to overcome sticking points.

If a “grinder” wants to become more explosive, the best approach is to do jumps and throws, or maybe power variations of the Olympic lifts. Doing basic barbell lifting with a high level of acceleration will have limited benefits for him."

In fact, I believe that most powerlifters wrongfully attribute strength gains from the dynamic effort work to the speed work whereas it is likely simply due to practicing the lift more often without tanking the nervous system.


Awesome answer. Does the inverse hold true as well? Like would a 1B or 2A actor not benefit much from pause lifting because it doesn’t let you be explosive?

We started doing pause lifts at my box and I’m finding them crazy difficult (1B)

Sorry I tried posting this as a response earlier and hit the wrong button

Well you can still use acceleration and the stretch reflex even with paused lifting. You just must do the pauses a bit higher so that you can still get the stretch reflex.

For example, on a squat you would pause at parallel instead of in the bottom so that you can still trigger the stretch reflex.

But yeah, a pause in the bottom will kill the performance of a primarily explosive lifter

JM Blakley came to the same conclusion, and he’s a pure Westside

I’m sorry I deleted my last post by mistake.

Thank you for answering. Now that you mention it, parallel v bottom makes perfect sense! I started stopped at parallel instinctively the last few times I had to pause.

The head coach is also big on programming 2-5 seconds on eccentrics which I hate. I think he’s a 2A passionate judging by personality.