T Nation

Number Of Exercises in Layer System Block?


Hello CT,

I would have a short question regarding the number of total exercises in the layer system. I know you once said that one shouldn’t use too many different movements since one couldn’t become efficient at the movements (this is not the exact quote , it is my interpretation from my memories).
I would like to know what are the maximum number of movements in a layer system Training block ?

Thanks In advance CT !


5… which would have you hitting each main movement once a week. Not optimal from a motor learning standpoint, but the high number of sets per session kinda makes up for it a bit.

The ideal structure would be 6 workouts, 3 main movements per week (so each movement getting trained twice per week).


Thank you CT !


Speaking of layer can we revisit this? Is there any reason why the layer system would fail to deliver results after the first time? Does it become less effective after a block?

Recent article on thib army (training in the strongest gym in the world) you mentioned they would ramp to a 3RM (training max), then back off and do sets of 5. The strongest and most muscular people in the world do that system.

And it got me thinking about 5x5 & layers (the two are quite similar in my mind, with the clusters really just a pause between reps).

Do you still see the layer system, using ideal structure (6 workouts, 3 main movements per week) as one of if not the most effective training style for rapid muscle gains? And can it be used long term or just in blocks (with ample deload time in between). Are assitance exercise, 50 ring chins/dips/rows still prescribed following the main movement?

Thank you


Hey Sigil,

One could use the layer system year round however you need to use different phases. Especially after one block you should something like opposite training and then a layer “series” block that is less draining , 2 weeks opposite training , demanding layer system block , 2 weeks opposite training , layer series block which is less demanding and then 2 weeks opposite training and then layer system…

The layer system is still very effective, I mean CT once said his old methods are still effective even when he has changed his mind.


Thanks akidara. Yeah I go back to layers, or at least a layers style workout time and time again.

You can modulate intensity at any one of the layers level (doing a 5rm, 3rm, 1rm ramp, one or two sets of clusters instead of 3-5, no HDL or switch HDL with assistance exercise) etc.

Also layering only 1-2 movmenets (and doing more traditional 5x5 style for the other exercises in week) is also a nice compromise.
I currently do SGHP layers (with zercher squat/holds afterwards) & a bench press variation.

What are you doing with layers currently ?


Hey Sigil,

first here the post what CT once explained to me about layer series:

These are all things you need to consider when planning your training week/cycle. I normally recommend using a low neural stress day after a very demanding one. If you do too many very neurally demanding sessions during a week you will quickly plateau and start to regress.
I mentioned this in the past, the heavy/strength layers will work for 3 to 4 weeks. During that time you will have rapid gains in strength, but after that 90% of the people will hit a wall. It is a very intense system which provided instant results but can’t be used for long. After 3-4 weeks it has to be followed by 3-4 weeks of less demanding training. This is hard to do because the gains are so rapid at first that they can be addictive!

You can keep the layer “format” of training one main lift per day. You can keep the same lifts, or use variations of the same lifts (e.g. close grip bench instead of bench).

I would recommend a “layer series” format… it goes as follow:

Method 1 for main lift
2-3 minutes of rest

Method 2 for main lift
2-3 minutes of rest

Method 3 for main lift
2-3 minutes of rest

Method 4 for main lift
3-4 minutes of rest

Sets 1 to 4 are a “series”, perform a second series for a total of 8 work sets

Here are the methods I recommend:

Method 1: 3 “cluster” reps with 85-87.5% of your max. Take 20 seconds between reps. Perform the eccentric (lowering) phase in 5 seconds

Method 2: Iso-dynamic contrast (paused lifting)… hold a 2 seconds pause during the concentric (lifting) phase of the movement, then complete the lift. Use 70% of your max and perform 4-6 reps. The pause should be:

Squat: mid-way point (knees about 100 degrees) on the way up
Deadlift: just below knees on the way up
Bench press: 2" from chest on the way up
Overhead press: eyes level on the way up
For example

Method 3: Isometric hold. Using 60% of your maximum hold a static position for 20-30 seconds. The position of the hold is the same as the position of the pause in method 2

Method 4: Speed reps. Using 50% of your maximum, perform 4-6 reps performed with the fasted concentric (lifting) phase as possible. Still control the weight during the eccentric

Method 1: From blocks 3 reps at 87-90%
Method 2: From hang 3 reps at 70-75% with 2 second holds at the knees prior to explosion
Method 3: Shrug hold …with a snatch grip, shrug and hold for 30 seconds at 60-65%
Method 4: From hang 6 reps perform as fast as possible at 60-65%

That looks fine, but after 9-12 weeks of layers you might want to give yourself 7-10 days of “easy training” to deload. It will help you gain more in the future.

To your question:

I use four different layer movements ( front squat, behind neck press, sumo dl, bench press) and use the ‘old’ layers called ’ max muscle layering’. There you ramp up to a 3 or 2 or 1 RM and after that heavy cluster sets and after that HDL lifting (There is this one thread where everything is explained about it. Sometimes I add another exercises for 2-3 sets when I feel fresh and normally I end my training workout with a bodyweight exercise for reps ( like chin ups 50 as fast as possible).


Wow great write up thanks. Was it you or aragorn that had incredible poundages (i like your posts & you seem very experienced in the iron game/disciple of CTs training philosophy)

Behind neck press layers? Hmmn nice…


Behind the neck press layers are very nice.

CT, a short question :

When I do this layer in week 4 , before that I was ramping to a 3RM, 2RM, 1 RM increasing heavy cluster work and reducing high density work, up to now week 4 where one cuts the heavy work out and does the most HDL lifting.

Ramp to 1 RM
3 HDL sets 5-4-3-2-1 70%
2 Extreme HDL sets 50% 5-4-3-2-1 with holds 5 sec-4sec…

I can’t really complete the extreme HDL sets. Should I lower the weight or do a break till I can finish the set ?


Take longer rest during the set or do more rest/pauses until you did all the reps… e.g. 5-4-2-2-1-1


Okay thank you !