T Nation

Optimal Layer System Set Up?


Hi CT. I was hoping when you had 5 mins you could answer a few questions for me. Im looking to start your layer system programme next week. My first priority is to get stronger in the 3 Powerlifting lifts ready for my first meet in january. However packing on some decent size in the process would also be great.

I was going to cycle between the hypertrophy focussed scheme (ramp, clusters, HDL sets) and the strength scheme (ramp 1RM, clusters, ramp 2RM, etc.) as youve reccomended before hand. But i just had a few questions i was hoping you could help with:

1 - Im fairly new to snatch grip high pulls (2 months or so). I can manage around 70kg for 5 reps but i was wondering if i am proficient enough to warrant it having a whole training day designated to it? Otherwise my split would likely be: comp style bench, back squat, decline bench, deadlift, accessory day (complexes, arm, ab work etc.)

2 - If I was to do the split outlined above where would it be best to add in some overhead and lat work? I was thinking once ive had a few weeks to adjust to the programme i would add in one of your barbell complexes to the end of the workouts and maybe pull-ups etc. on an off day

3 - I know you dont like regular squats for the layer system but i really need to spend time under the bar and get my squat improving. I was going to do sets of 3 instead of clusters and stick to a HDL scheme like hard 5 for squats to save lots of re-racking etc. Do you think this is do-able?

Thats all I can think of right now. If you get chance to give me your 2 cents that would be great. Any help is much appreciated.



Any one else perhaps have any input on this? All advice is appreciated :slight_smile:


Why don't you use squats from the pins for your clusters?


Take my advice with a large dose of salt;

1 - The high pull isn't "that" advanced, so it's do-able. If not stick it on at the start of every day to practise & instead do Military Press or Push Press

2 - Lat work as advised can be done on an off day if needed. Shoulder work can be done on the "easier" Day 6-10, I have mine in with the High Pull Snatch's. (3 sets of 8)

3 - To save me posting my entire program click below. See Day 6 ?


Something to consider anyways.

FYI: Day 2 on that program is HELL for your quads.



Set it up somewhere near the bottom (depending on your flexibility); and start from deadstop.


Thanks for the ideas guys. I was thinking about doing clusters that way but ive also seen CT suggest simply doing sets of 3 with full ROM movements aswell so I was unsure which to do.

Voluminous - thank you for the link. Quite like the look of your set-up. Would likely need to sub in deadlifts for front squats or something along those lines. But thanks for giving me some extra options.



I believe CT was against Deadlifts due to all the different variants past No1.

Be very worried about your form doing clusters !

If I recall, someone posted something about dead launches - so perhaps try find what they are.


Really? Ive copied and pasted a few of his suggest layer layouts (including the powerlifting and 10 day split) and most seem to have deadlifts on there.

With regards to clusters thats why i was going to follow his reccomendation and go for sets of 3 instead OR do full ROM deadlifts for the ramp and then switch to rack pull or DL from small blocks for the clusters and HDL sets


I think ive found the layer systems flaw... its too flexible lol. Can not decide on a set-up so need to stop messing around and just get stuck in i think.

My first block with be a more hypertrophy orientated block (im alternating between that and strength blocks) using clusters and HDLs but i do need to powerlifting moves in there to grease the groove yada yada. My main problem at the moment is having no blocks to do SGHPs from so they will just have to be done from a hang for now but since im not handling any serious weight yet i dont see it being a massive issue.

Anyway heres what I was thinking:

Day 1
Bench (full ROM) - ramp
Bench clusters + hdl from pins
overhead OR lat work

Day 2
Squat (full ROM) - ramp
Squat clusters + hdl (from pins @ bottom position) - not looking forward to that!

Day 3
Slight declince bench - ramp, clusters + hdl (all from pins)
overhead or lat work

Day 4
Deadlift - ramp
Rack pull clusters + hdl (from pins below knees)

Day 5
SGHP from hang (for now) - ramp
Clean grip high pull from safety bars - clusters + hdl (again only for the first few weeks)
Overhead or lat work

Im moving back to uni in a few weeks. There ill have access to blocks for SGHP, better power racks and also a trap bar for deadlifts if people think it would be better to swap that in for regular deadlift.

My main concern here is lack of quad work. Id really like to get some front squats in there unless in a few weeks i sub in Trap bar deadlifts for regular deadlifts (if that would be enough quad work on its own im not sure though).

Excited to start this but oh so confused with the world of options lol. Thank you in advance for any advice :slightly_smiling:



Where are the other 5 days ?

It goes in 10 day cycles.

As you typed, need to pick 1 set selection and run it for 3 months; can then review.


I wasnt following the 10 day set up. I was going to do the weekly split set up and then follow his periodisation plans which goes like:

Week 1 - Ramp to 3RM, 3 clusters, 3 HDL sets
Week 2 - Ramp to 2RM, 4 clusters, 2 HDL sets
Week 3 - Ramp to 1RM, 4 clusters, 1 HDL set
Week 4 - Rampt to 1RM, 3 HDL sets, 2 max pumps sets

Then after this block alternate it with a strength block as CT reccomended as he thought doing too much HDL work consistently inhibits gains. So the next block would look like:

All weeks:
1 - Ramp to 1RM
2 - 3 cluster sets @ 90% of 1.
3 - Lower to 70% of 1., ramp to 2RM
4 - 2 cluster sets @ 90% of 3.
5 - Lower to 70% 1., ramp to 3RM
6 - 1 cluster set with 90% of 5.
7 - Lower to 70% for one max reps sets.

These are both scheme ive pulled straight from CTs posts so i hope ive got this down right. There was a long thread (cant remember which) in which he talked about it being best to alternate between strength and more hypertrophy schemes for long term progress.