T Nation

Layers: Clusters



Would there be any benefit in cycling in paused movements like pause bench/squat at say 50% for 4 seconds instead of the typical Rest pause from pins style for 4-6 weeks?

If not, would there be a good way to incorporate them into the layer for a cycle?


CT advocates that as a fourth layer, providing your nutrition is in order, and calls them 'max pump layers'...

like the descending HDL, except you pause between mini sets rather than rest.

as for using them in place of clusters, its a terrible idea because the whole point of clusters is to allow you to get some volume in with very heavy weights, further stimulating your CNS.


I know about the MAX pump layers, but a true "Paused rep" is different.
The point is pausing on your chest, in the hole, ect. for x amount of time to dissipate the stretch reflex at the turn around point to work on maximal acceleration out of the hole. I've always found even with light weight it is pretty demanding on the CNS hence wondering where it would best be used in the layer system without over taxing the nervous system.


I like paused lifts, but not on all movements. To me the pause has to serve a purpose. I like to use it on front squats for example to really work on perfect body position. Pausing at the bottom while focusing on lifting the chest up as much as possible and keeping the torso as upright as you can.

I also personally like it on back squats because I'm so efficient at utilizing the stretch reflex that I get a better muscle stimulation for paused squats.

But reallym, the layer approach is not about using specific methods. But in using a sequence of different methods or loading scheme on an exercise to create a greater training effect.

For example one could do:

LAYER 1 - Paused back squat, ramping to a 2RM

LAYER 2 - Back squat, start where you finished layer 1 and ramp up to a 2RM on a normal squat

LAYER 3 - Bottom half squat: go all way down. That is the starting position. Rapidly go up to the half squat position, lower back down slowly, do 8-10 reps like that, never going above the half squat, always going up fast and going down slow. 3 sets of 8-10

LAYER 4 - Barbell jump squats with 20-30% of the 2RM: dip down into a half squat and jump up as high as possible. Reset before every rep. 2 sets of 5

That is an amazingly effective lower body session for size, strength and power.


Thanks a ton coach!
The layer systems have completely changed the way I train, and the way I look at training.


I'm guessing Layer 1 is a paused Front Squat?
Also, for Layer 3 is there a recommended % of the Layer 2 2RM to use?



  1. No, in that example it's a paused back squat

  2. It is highly variable but 50% is a good place to start.


Magic, trying that tonight.

Cheers CT


CT, i'm strangely drawn to this workout where size is my goal!

if its not too much to ask, how would you lay out this kind of workout for pressing and SGHP's?

i suppose Pressing could take the same form as the squat workout you've outlined? not to sure about high pulls!

many thanks in advance!


The bench press would be done exactly the same way.

For high pulls I would do this:

  1. High pull from the hang ramp to a 3RM
  2. High pull from blocks ramp to a 1RM starting where you ended the pull from the hang
  3. Snatch-grip low pull from the hang with shrug hold (basically hold the peak contraction of the low pull for 2 seconds per rep)
  4. High pull from the hang, 80% of 3RM for sets of 3 reps EMOM for 5 minutes


thank you CT, i think i'm going to adopt this for my next Layer Phase!

-still using the original layers at the moment; still gaining dense size whilst leaning up thanks to fast/feast dieting!

last question if i may; how would you compare SG High Pulls, to SG Low Pulls if Lateral Deltoid development is the goal?

thanks again CT.


Low pulls are mostly a trap/upper back movement


The paused back squat is quite humbling. And then to go into a normal squat ramping up was also tough.
But the lactic acid build up on the bottom half squats is rather nasty! lol
Jump squats I started too light on I think but better to be safe than sorry.

Cheers CT, I like this modified layer setup.


You don't have to go heavy on the jump squats. I see tons of athletes go way too heavy. SURE you can still lift of the ground with a fairly heavy weight. But do not see it as a squat where you jump at the end, but rather as a loaded vertical jump. I often use as low as 20% of bodyweight for many individuals.

The goal is to be as explosive as possible with some external loading, not to be somewhat explosive against a heavy weight.


yes I agree. I learnt that a few years ago on some training courses I attended. I started at 20% of the 2RM, so will add 5kg next session, and would look at only another 5kg after that (if I do at all). I videoed it and form was good as was explosiveness. It's also a bad one to do too heavy if you are not technically sound as the bar can damage the cervical vertebrae.