T Nation



When it comes to producing a high level of strength, I see four main applications:

MUSCLE STRENGTH: the amount of force that a specific muscle can produce; this is highly correlated with the muscle's cross-section (muscle mass or volume)

MOVEMENT STRENGTH: the capacity to lift a lot of weight going from point A to point B in a specific movement pattern. This is dependent on the coordination between the muscles involved in the movement and the individual strength of the muscles as well as technical efficiency.

POSITIONAL STRENGTH: the capacity to maintain a certain posture under load. For example, a powerlifter might be able to deadlift 700lbs but even with 400 he loses his lower back arch. He has a high level of movement strength but relatively poor positional strength.

EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH: the capacity to perform a high speed, explosive motion under a significant load.

The layer approach can be very effective to develop all of these:

LAYER 1. Movement strength
LAYER 2. Positional strength
LAYER 3. Explosive strength
LAYER 4. Muscle strength

Let's use those 4 exercises for the sake of comprehension: Front squat, push press, deadlift, snatch-grip high pull from hang... obviously other movements can be used, but this is just to explain the concept.

Movement strength: ramping to a 2 or 1 RM

Positional strength: double pause front squat (bottom and mid-range for 2 seconds) focusing on perfectly upright torso and chest high, 3-4 sets of 3 reps

Explosive strength: Jump squat (bar like a back squat) 4-5 set of 3 reps with 30% of max front squat

Muscle strength: bottom half front squats pump reps (only going from the bottom position to the half squat, then back down... fast up, slow down) for 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Movement strength: ramping to 2 or 1 RM

Positional strength: double pause push press (pause at the bottom of the "dip" and with the barbell overhead, behind the ears, chest and head pushed forward, for 2 seconds) 3-4 sets of 3 reps

Explosive strength: Medicine ball throw overhead 4-5 sets of 3 reps using a push press motion

Muscle strength: top half military press pump reps (only doing the movement from the top of the head to the lockout behind the ears, slow down, fast up) 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Movement strength: ramping to 2 or 1 RM

Positional strength: double pause deadlift (2" from floor, just above knees focusing on maintaining an arched lower back and the chest up, for 2 seconds) 3-4 sets of 3 reps

Explosive strength: Power clean from the hang 4-5 sets of 3 reps

Muscle strength: bottom-half deadlift pump reps (only going from floor to knees, fast up slow down) 3x 8-10 reps

SGHP from hang
Movement strength: ramping to 2 or 1 RM

Positional strength: double pause pull (in the hip crease, then at the knee, chest up, lats contracted, for 2 seconds) 3-4 sets of 3 reps

Explosive strength: Snatch-grip jump from the hang position with 50% of max high pull 4-5 sets of 3 reps

Muscle strength: Bottom-half romanian deadlift pump reps (from the lowest position you can take to the position where your torso is about 45 degrees) for 3 sets of 8-10 reps


So ideally within the layer these would be Day 1- 4/5 depending on chosen exercises, and then the next 3-4 days are more focused on high(er) sets & reps.

Will try it out on Deadlift strength day tomorrow, and see how it goes.



Hi CT,

I was looking to shift my lower body training focus towards the deadlift for a period of time. Would this method be optimal for increasing deadlift strength over your 4xweek deadlift capacity protocol?

Also could the deadlift workout be performed 2 x week if performed on the 1st day and 5th of the training week. (Deadlift would be the sole lower body lift)

Many thanks CT



What load do you recommend for the positional strength layer?


  1. This is not a program. It is not an exercise recommendation. It is just to show how to apply the concept to some exercises.

  2. You would not follow this by several days of higher reps since all your bases are covered by the 4 layers.


Seems like it would make a fairly complete "size AND strength" plan, especially combined with ring pull-ups/dips at the end, correct?


This is HIGHLY individualized. Some people have a very large difference between their positional strength and their movement strength.

For example I train a girl who has a 250lbs front squat max, but even at 215 he tends to round the upper back. So her positional strength is low compared to her movement strength. This morning she used 145 for the front squat double pause and during the ramp up she went up to 245. So she used about 60%.

Another girl ramped up to 200 on the deadlift (at a bodyweight of 105... weird thing is that she front squat the same amount!) and used 155 for the double pause work which is about 77%.

I would say that starting at 50-55% of the max in the ramp is a good place to start, and adjust the weight from set to set. You want to use more weight... BUT the most important thing is to emphasize perfect positions and tension.


Size, strength, power and posture/muscle balance to be precision


Would a following application be suitable for the bench pattern?

Movement strength: ramping to a 2 or 1 RM
Positional strength: double pause bench (bottom and mid-range for 2 seconds)
Explosive strength: medicine ball pushes laying on floor
Muscle strength: bottom half bench pump reps like on the front squat


1) Understood

2) So this potentially cuts a 10 day layer in half ? Or am I mis-understanding the purpose of Day 6-10 in my current layer(ed) program.


Would this be a good fit for the 4 week "strength" cycles in the "4 weeks hypertrophy / 4 weeks strength" for 24 weeks plan you discussed a while ago?

I really liked the ramp-cluster-HDL in the first 4 weeks, but now that I've started the ramp-clusters-ramp-clusters-ramp-cluster-max, I feel like I run out of steam (neurally, not physically) roughly halfway through the third ramp. I'm planning to do it as-is for 2 weeks total to see how I do over a couple more days, but I've been thinking about cutting the last ramp-cluster out after that if this trend continues. But now that you've posted this I'm wondering if this might be a better fit, especially since it seems to me like the position strength portions might help improve my high pull technique.

So I'd be switching between this and ramp-cluster-HDL every 4 weeks, changing HDL style and keeping the main exercises the same for all 24 weeks (high pull, trap bar, slight incline pins, slight decline pins), plus dips/pull-ups.


The 10 day program is just one option for the layers.


CT--You have many tools in your toolbox, where do you see quad layers best fitting within the spectrum of all the layer methods (reg. layer, strength focused, 10 day, etc. etc)?

do you see them best fitting a certain transition phase from one method of layers to another, or for a specific primary focus (lift focus or training result focus)?

I suppose I am asking what the big picture fit for them is.


  1. For the double pause bench, the emphasis is not on the hold itself, but on maintaining a super tight upper back

  2. Explosive strength, I would prefer a speed bench press 6 x 3 @ 50-60% as explosively as possible, ideally with chains


Just a quick thank you CT. I've been doing the 10 day strength cycle and loving it. I have incorporated power snatches and really want to improve this. I was thinking I am weak in my first pull position ( floor to below the knees) and I need to strength this position. Then you post this and it's exactly what I need! Thank you



Thank you for your time! A similar question: What kind of load do you recommend for the muscular strength layer? I realize it is individualized, shoul start around the same weight as layer 2 and see how it feels or what?


I very very very very rarely see anybody weak in the first pull in a power snatch. It is always a balance issue or a coordinatio. issue or a technique issue. I will all but guarantee you are not weak in the first pull. I don't want to steal CT's thunder but it's next to a zero probability.


producing a high level of strength.
can this be used for the "weak movement" in the 10 day cycle?
in other words, since my squat is by far the weakest link, can this 4 layer squat pattern be used on squat days in the current 10 day cycle?


That is correct... under the best circumstances your power snatch will be about 30-50% of your deadlift... there is no way that you are "weak" off the floor.

HOWEVER what can happen is that you have a low positional strength. You are not setting up properly in the starting position and are either not executing the first pull properly or are losing proper body position.


Wonderful, thank you!