T Nation

Layers for the Golden Age Look


I think I have a decent grasp of the layer system, after reading several threads here and trying it out myself with a few exercises.

I would describe "The Golden Age Look" as roughly the same as "The Power Look", but with less emphasis on the traps, more emphasis on the arms, and more emphasis on lat width. Strong upper back, wide shoulders, bigger arms, wide lats, broad high-arched chest. Examples being Don Howorth, Larry Scott, John Farbotnik, Steve Reeves and so on.

According to all the articles I've found, that look relied primarily on Behind-the-Neck Presses, regular Military Presses, weighted pullups/chinups and weighted dips. (And, of course, squats.)

For me, I like BTN Presses and wide-grip weighted chest dips. I think they've contributed more to that look on me than anything else. Granted, incline/Decline tilt bench will probably work just as well as the dips. I don't think there's an adequate substitute for the BTN press.

How would you incorporate layers to produce that look? What exercise selection would you use?

I'd really like to use the layer system, but "the power look" isn't quite what I'm looking for.

Mostly, I think the SGHPs will overdevelop the traps for that look. I'm also not sure that lat width and arm size are addressed enough with any of the exercise selections I've seen so far.


That's interesting, bump.


I'd like to keep my existing 2x week 20-rep squat + pullover superset but incorporate layers.

Is this a workable split?

Day 1 - 20-rep Back Squat/pullover superset
Day 2 - Behind the Neck Press (ramp, cluster, HDL, max pump)
Day 3 - BB Rows (ramp, cluster, HDL) + bicep curls
Day 4 - Decline Tilt Press (ramp, cluster, HDL, max pump)
Day 5 - 20-rep Back Squat/pullover superset + straight-arm pulldowns
Day 6 - Behind the Neck Press(ramp, cluster, HDL, max pump)
Day 7 - rest


I'm cringing at the thought of ramping BTN Presses to your 1 rep max.. i think you're asking for some serious joint issues!

why not do BTN Pressing as an accessory to you inc bench day?

as for Lats/Biceps, CT usually advocated a day of 'bodybuilding' type work for them, as they respond better to fatigue, rather than performance training -check his HP Mass articles for a decent lat + bicep routine.

lastly, how much do you weigh? your thoughts on SGHP's 'overdeveloping the traps' will only be an issue if you already have developed traps.

IMO, SGHP's are the bread and butter of the layer system. yes they will develop traps which is welcomed by most, but they will also make your upper back thick, and your delts nice and wide! as well as building up the thighs, calves and forearms for a more 'manly' look which is coveted by the golden age look you describe.

if i were you, i would hit the layer system the way its meant to be done. enjoy the delt/back growth of the SGHP's until you are happy with the trap growth, then maybe consider changing it up.


Yes, and that's exactly what concerns me. Everything about them sounds great, EXCEPT the trap development.

When I saw this picture, it gave me pause: http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_thibaudeau/layering_system_and_power_lifting?id=5578352&pageNo=3#5610266

Those results are very impressive, not something I want.

My traps already grow very easily from standing military press and lateral raises. I've gotten comments about them both from my girlfriend [what ARE those things?], and a short-term training partner. That's even after I made some form adjustments to minimize trap involvement.

Since I already have a narrow frame to begin with, I want to avoid any additional trap work and focus on width. When something like SGHPs promise to put meat on the traps (and there's pictures to prove it)... it leaves me hesitant.

On the other hand, BTN Press seems to hit my deltoids better, without hitting the traps nearly as much. Flat and incline bench bother my shoulders a little, BTN press doesn't. Of course it took some time to develop the shoulder mobility. I've been doing them pretty steadily (2-3x a week, for 3x8-12 reps) for the past 3 months.

There's my, possibly flawed, reasoning for why I'm using BTN press and would like to continue doing so. FWIW, when I tried using BTN press with layers, I stuck with a 3RM training max (of 110lbs), rather than a true max.

Current weight is low 150s at 5'10, from a starting point of 135 13 weeks ago. Total experience barbell training is right around 7 months, but was interrupted by GI issues and a bout of depression. I had gone from 135 - 158 before. Bodyweight, kettlebell, and distance running training before that.


5'11 and 155 lbs I doubt your traps are too big for you to do SGHPs. Trust me, you want to do this exercise. It will build your lower traps too, giving your back a 3rd look. I love how my upper back shows through my shirts now, it was never like that before. IMO being thick is better then being wide. Anyways, this exercise benefits don't stop at the sake of upper back hypertrophy, (which for me is more then enough to do this exercise) the benefits include improved explosiveness, greater work capacity, and all these things also leading to a leaner you.


So... reviewing earlier routines, is this a better option?

Day 1 - 20-rep Breathing Squats/Pullovers
Day 2 - Snatch Grip High Pull
Day 3 - Slight Decline Tilt Bench Press from Pins ~1-2 inches off chest
Day 4 - Deadlift (don't have a trap bar)
Day 5 - BTN Press (using no higher than 3RM)
Day 6 - Snatch Grip High Pull
Day 7 - Slight Incline Tilt Bench from Pins
Day 8 - Rest

I tried to keep a day of rest between the shoulder-centric movements, since bench-based pressing aggravates my shoulders a bit. BTN doesn't.

I'm not sure of squats before SGHP is a good idea though, but I wasn't sure where else to put them. Since I saw TBDL before SGHPs in other programs, I figured it might be ok to do it that way.

Is this a better variation?

I really want to keep the squat/pullovers in whatever I'm doing. BTN press could go, if the SGHPs actually stimulate the lateral delts enough.


155 lbs and your girlfriend's comment might suggest some postural problems, not overdeveloped muscles. You'd be wise to check this out with a specialist.


What kind of specialist? I literally don't know what kinds of people look at this, and I'm hesitant to go to my GP and ask.


the first picture is relaxed, second is shoulders shrugged up/together.

also, in answer to something else you wrote; yes, the SGHP's will stimulate the lateral deltoids as well as the rear deltoids (something BTN presses dont excel at).

by the sounds of things you've never done SGHP's with any regularity atleast, so the chances are that right now SGHP's will pack on more delt width and fullness than BTN presses.


Thanks to the push from this thread, I went out and bought myself some buckets to use a blocks, and did my first SGHP session tonight. That was... rough and different. I like the way I felt in the end, and I see what you mean about delt stimulation from it.

I haven't quite 100% figured out what I'll be doing, but I'll give these a chance and keep them in my rotation for the next couple weeks.

Thanks for your help.


In my experience, my first high pull session SUCKED! I barely managed 50kg, and did'nt feel it in the right muscles at all. After 2 weeks (4 pull sessions) I even asked CT if there was a substitute movement! But I tell you what, as I stuck with them, and learned proper form, my gains have been rapid to say the least! My high pulls are at 90kg, and chinese pulls at 110! And every session leave me a nice ache in my entire deltoid, trap, upper back, thigh, calf and forearm muscles! Hell even my quads have started getting in on the action lol!

What I'm saying is stick with it!! Force yourself to learn proper form and watch your strength and explosiveness sky rocket, along with welcomed muscle gains.

I, Like you, dislike mountain sized traps, but to be honest, my traps have grown quite a bit, and I'm so glad they have! They aren't huge are hide my neck etc but the have a much nicer shape, and have a 'peak' where they joing my clavicle/scapula region. It looks so much better from the front - with my wider delts, and from the back -with my thicker rhomboids etc.

All this from one exercise.. Magic.


Yep It can be a frustrating move to get down,but when you do It's magic time.