Friday, February 5, 2016

GZCL Applications & Adaptations

Programs included in the download: 
The Rippler, GZCL UHF 5&9Wk, Deadlift Wave Forms, and the Blank Template for personal use.
Donate to the right. Pay what you like. 
A buck, ten or even twenty big ones... All is greatly appreciated. Thank you. 

A quick review of this will improve understanding of the text.
May serve as reference material for those new
to my training method. Maybe open it in a new tab.

Recommended prior reading for those new to my training method. 


For nearly two years I have been experimenting with training concepts as part of my programming and the programming for my clients. Some of these concepts were proven by lifters and coaches of past eras and different schools of thought. Most notably this resulted in my popular Jacked & Tan program that has since made lifters around the world stronger. I have read and analyzed countless write-ups from lifters who have successfully used my method to personalize their training.

Those detailed here first began serious implementation in my training between the 2014 IPL Worlds leading up to the 2015 USPA American Cup at theLA FitExpo. Going into IPL Worlds I utilized a more ‘Jacked & Tan’ approach and small changes were made to that heading into the American Cup. The difference in total between the two meets was 1,432/648.7 (LB/KGS) at 165/75 at IPL Worlds to 1,466/664.1 at 166/75.5 at the American Cup; I had missed weight at the FitExpo. Not a huge improvement and nothing to brag about at the time. A modest increase of 7/3.2, 17/7.7, and 10/4.5 pounds on my squat, bench, and deadlift, respectively. The improvement of 34/15.4 on my total in less than three months showed that I was in fact on to something with those changes to my training between those two meets.

2014 IPL Worlds

A point of clarification: The 17/7.7 gained on bench was due to a no-lift attempt at 347/157.2 at Worlds and a successful attempt of the same weight at the American Cup. The most notable difference was the ease of which I completed the lift in competition the second time around. On second thought I should have gone for 352.5/160 but hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

2015 USPA American Cup at the LA FitExpo

Fast-forward from January to June 2015 and I had bulked to 191/86.5 bodyweight and was feeling strong. But by no means shredded, as evidenced by my Instagram. A trial cut on the earliest version of The Rippler and Deadlift Wave Forms had me down to 185/83.8. I have always cut heading into meets and this particular one was attempted to see if the program concepts could remain effective while doing so. Because of the T1 rep or volume goal approach, utilizing both T1/T2 rep outs, and T3 max rep set progression, I was able to make sure my effort was matching my recovery, thereby managing recovery debt effectively.

After Rippler & Wave Forms beta I set a bench personal record of 380/172 in my garage gym then 15 hours later set a new personal record in the deadlift of 635/287.7 the following morning. This I jokingly liken to taking a nap in the middle of a poorly run powerlifting meet.

1,015 lb. / 460 kg Push Pull Total

At the time I was injured and could not squat seriously. I tried to grind through The Rippler beta but chose to stop squatting, see a doctor, and rehab my knee instead. My experiences through that beta version highlighted some issues with volume expectations and my own tolerances. Stopping squatting and adjusting the program was a great decision as I am now a stronger than I was before. Much of it because of the heavy emphasis placed on my posterior chain by Deadlift Wave Forms' concept program. That experience was the wake up call that application matters.

Since the American Cup I have included in my client’s training a range of approaches based on my method. This was done to prove or disprove training concepts to gain a better understanding of why something worked for some but not others while using a GZCL approach. These concepts were also coached to my clients through the structure of their programs that were built around their existing reps maxes and training history.  Our combined results show trends in various forms that I use to continuously improve training for myself and my lifters. (A recent training video from one of them.) These improvements ranged from exercise selection to program structure and means of progression.

Two lifters each peaking for meets.
Each got 39 lb./ 17 kg PR's on their totals using
a GZCL Method approach.

Experimenting in this way lead me to the conclusion that the original GZCL Method guidelines and principles were true but approach was certainly of the highest importance. Learning and analyzing why training has been successful is a nonstop effort and a one based upon testing protocols and adopting those most effective.

The following chapters detail the approach and theory behind successful implementation of GZCL Method principals to strength training. The Rippler, GZCL UHF, and Deadlift Wave Forms are also discussed. The concepts in those programs were roughed out by me then tested, refined, and proven by my clients and were the primary strategies suggested to strangers as responses to personal messages on social media; random feedback showing success in some:

General Programming Recommendations

Rest Guidelines

Rest is best implemented as:

T1= 3-5 Minutes
T2 = 2-3 Minutes
T3 = 60-90 seconds

Using these rest guidelines I could repeat rep performances almost 1:1 with near five minutes rest between sets of five for 85-90% when repeating up to three sets. After the fourth set rep quality tends to decline. Having rest periods as low as 3 minutes in the T1 was a means to push the effort even harder. Rest periods are important modes of effort control. Keep them in mind while training. If something seems unusually fatiguing first begin tracking in-session rest. Making sure to not rush through the tiers but also being aware that training is not 50% rest either.

Building the Training Blocks

Note: “+” Dictates last set as many reps as possible (AMRAP) with the goal that the minimum number of reps achieved matches preceding sets. AKA a “rep out.”

Three-week blocks seem to be the best. They can be stacked without significant deloads for both T1 and T2. Simple three-week linear increase in weight and decrease in reps allows the lifter to build a volume base within the associated tier. Example: 5x5 is a volume base of 25. A second mode of effort control is AMRAPS. Placed at the end of a fixed rep x set structure these allow lifters set fatigued rep maxes (RM) and push the effort a bit harder. These set a baseline level of performance in that relative intensity range. The RM could be used as a gauge of what could be lifted on any given “off day” due to the fatigue from sets prior to the RM. Both the volume base and fatigued rep maxes can be improved throughout a single or multiple cycles and would be considered as “volume personal records” (volume base) or “rep personal records” (RM), each a unique measure of improvement.

While linear three-week blocks with minor resets seem to be the most effective and sustainable, other means of sustainability can be accomplished through use of week-to-week or workout-to-workout undulation in work. This is commonly practiced as Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) where a lifter could perform the same lift type multiple times per week but to varying degrees of volume and intensity to control fatigue and accumulated training stress while practicing a high level of frequency. Use of AMRAPS in an undulating fashion across T1 and T2 sets are also a successful means of progressing fatigue sustainably without risking burnout. This held especially true for The Rippler whereas GZCL UHF utilizes more T1 AMRAPs, with T2 AMRAP sets being used to increase fatigue when T1 volumes, intensities, or both, are considered low.  Deadlift Wave Forms also uses three-week blocks and similar controls for sustainable progression with additional means specific to the deadlift.

Continued linear progression beyond three weeks becomes less and less consistent with a larger amount of training variables to be controlled for. This is especially true for more advanced athletes, myself included. Progression slows and thus necessitates less of an intensity increase week-to-week, more rest, lower volumes, as well as sparing the use of AMRAPS, all in an effort to mitigate accumulated training stress. As weeks pass and progression slows the need for a significant deload becomes more noticeable due to poor lifter performance. For this reason three week training blocks with smaller intensity and volume resets are recommended as a means to eliminate need for large deloads.

Repeats of 3-Week cycles tends to keep lifters in the 
sweet spot longer without plateau or regression.
Image credit (gracias amigos)

T1 Movements, Structure and Progression

T1 Defined

The first tier is where our competition movements and foundational lifts reside. These are a lifter’s primary means of measuring improvement in limit strength and as such are at the top of the GZCL pyramid∆ The first tier can also include other movements that the lifter determines to be of equal personal importance. An example of this would be the front squat or overhead press. Many lifters see these as tools to measure their strength and for that reason the T1 can include lifts other than “the big three.”

Note: They should still remain compound barbell or dumbbell lifts.

Training Max Use

It is recommended that when programming use a Training Max (TM) of a recent or reasonably estimated 2-rep max (RM) that could be lifted any given day at the start of the program. Known as a “Goal Weight” in the original GZCL Method the concept is to turn a known rep max (RM) into a higher rep max with the same weight.

Example: Taking a 2RM of 225-lb./102 kg and making it a new 3RM, or, increasing the amount of weight lifted for the given RM, which would make that same 2RM of 225-lb./102 kg now 235/106.

Either approach works.

Seeking rep max improvement has been a means of progression for a very long time. It is the fundamental basis of traditional western periodization and that concept when applied to the GZCL Method continues to show success. The closer the RM is to limit strength the greater the transfer of skill (strength is also a skill.) This explains the use of a recent 2RM as a choice TM in sustainably improving a projected or known 1RM while working nearer a technical max. More on that later.

Training Maxes are used for all T1 and T2 movements with a specific weight being tied to a specific movement. Meaning, lifters should not base their T2 OHP weights off a TM of their T1 Bench Press.

Note: T3 movements are not based on a training max but instead should be programmed and progressed separately, which will be explained below.

VERY IMPORTANT: Weight x Reps x Sets

Building Base Volume Progression 

Week 1: 85% 4 x 3+

If the last set yielded a fatigued 7RM a total base volume of 15 (4+4+7=15) is established and this lifter would be considered to have very good T1 abilities because their performance in the T1 yielded upper range volume requirements. T1 total rep range being base 10 peak 15 at 85-100% of a training max.

Prior to programming known ability and fitness should be assessed through examining the training history, technical ability, and prior injuries. These first weeks are not a testament to the current programming, but rather a means test to establish T1 range ability established by prior training. A range of 12-14 total in the T1 the first week is possible for those new to the method. Although, to varying degrees of difficulty. Exceptional athletes may see 15 reps or higher.

Poor levels of technical ability and fitness would mean fewer than 10 to 11 reps total at 85% intensity. In most cases this should result in a reduction of TM. If base volume goal was established but effort was deemed unsustainable for weekly progression (meaning it was a brutal workout that was barely finished) then a TM deload should be considered. Exception being an explained “off day.” A trend in off days for two weeks on the same movement requires reducing future workout’s T1 weight by 5-10%, depending on severity of performance. Higher percentages would be recommended if the movement quality were abysmal.

Week 2: 90% x 3 x 4+

The base volume here is 12, with a potential goal of getting a 4 to 6-rep max (RM) on the final set. If the sets achieved were: 3+3+3+5 then a base volume of 14 has been established at 90% and so has a 5RM in a fatigued state. The lifter can preform near T1 volume limits at 90% intensity. This is an exceptional lifter. Average performance for those new to the GZCL approach would be 10-11 total. Poor performance would be less than 10 reps.

Of course the number of reps per set dictates success in the total volume goal approach. The first two weeks each called for a minimum of 12 reps, but the reps per set had been decreased and as a result fatigue is lessened during the training session due to less time under tension per set. Had it been built at 5x2+ then the in-set fatigue would be greater and the final set AMRAP attempt is likely to result in fewer total reps overall because the effort was too high for the first two sets.

Week 3: 95% x 2 x 5+

Simple linear progression continues for the 3rd week and leads to five attempted doubles at 95% of TM. This increase of intensity is only possible through two means: Decreasing reps per set and decreasing total base volume. The reduction in each of these terms results a heavier weight being moved, ideally without sacrificing movement quality. Here is an opportunity to establish baseline consistency at near max intensity. By repeating doubles at 95% for five sets it can be reasoned that the TM has been increased without necessitating an actual test of abilities. The AMRAP at the end opens the possibility to confirm progress through finding a fatigued RM. If the lifter were to get 3-4 reps on that final set then improvement has been proven indirectly. After a few training cycles lifters regularly set fatigued rep maxes that match or beat their prior “fresh” rep maxes.

By this time if the lifter were not capable of performing base volume at the intensity standard they should have already deloaded the lift. Three weeks of simple linear progression resulted in our theoretical lifter executing par or better total volumes in the T1. Continued linear approach would require singles.

Note: AMRAP use in the 2nd tier can also be used, but rep maxes there carry less importance for measuring strength and are instead better indicators of technical consistency and movement quality as well as stamina and general fitness. T2 AMRAPS are a great means to produce effort with lighter weights when T1 efforts are low.

Three weeks drafted in the Blank Template.

Additional T1 Progression Structures

The preceding example showed a ‘straight set’ approach to building base volumes in the T1. This is the preferred means to build consistent ability in the T1. Other progression structures can be effective by different avenues. Each model can be used repeatedly for three-week cycles or alternated with other means of progression for specific purposes. 

Examples of non-straight set progression and reasons for application:

Ascending T1 Sets
Week 1: 85%x3x2, 90%x2x2, 95%x1x1+
Week 2: 87.55%x3x1, 92.5%x2x2, 97.5%x1x2+
Week 3: 90%x3x1, 95%x2x1, 100%x1x3+

Benefit: Each week affords the lifter an opportunity to touch 90% or greater intensities. Even if a 2.5% set-to-set increase were used the lifter would still reach 90% intensity the first week. This type of progression is more specific than the previous straight sets approach and is best used after a straight set approach for one to three, three-week blocks as a sustainable means to begin introduction of singles use and RM testing to the lifter. This is a great means to begin increasing training specificity to the lifter. 

Week 1: 85%x1x10+
Week 2: 92.5%x1x6+
Week 3: 100%x1x3+

Benefit: Greater focus on individual reps and multiple chances for dialing in set up an analysis of individual rep quality. This is the most specific means to approach RM testing and progression in the T1. A downside of this approach is decline in work capacity if used for too long a period of time.

Additional benefits to each of these progression models are discussed below.

Retesting a Training Max and Effective use of Singles

In past examples of GZCL inspired programs a common rep and set progression theme was established. This is because the original method showed a 3, 2, 1+ approach (as an example from my own programming leading to IPL Worlds 2012.) Using triples, doubles, and singles to fatigue, followed by a test of RM ability. The number of reps done before the RM test is lifter dependent, but it is recommended that more be used nearer a volume focused phase, or a transition out of one, and less used in intensity focused phases or when approaching 1RM testing events.  

Example: 90%x3x1, 95%x2x1, 100%x1x3+

This is the preferred way to retest TM when planning the training next cycle. By using a low fatigue approach the lifter guarantees their new TM is representative of a 2RM they could actually lift any day of the week. This results in a sustainable model of progression.

Progressing Training Max

Progression model is based upon the 3/2/1+ pre fatigue example above.

1-2 reps at 100% of TM: Do not add weight. This is because performance was on par or less than TM at cycle start. We are seeking improvement. Consider starting next cycle at 80% intensity for T1 movements focus building T2 work capacity and T1 base volume ability. Do not retest TM until 12-15 reps can be done with reasonable quality in 85-90% intensity at next cycle start. This is best accomplished by performing straight sets with last set AMRAPS in the low end T1 range.

3-4 reps at 100% of TM: Add 5 lb./2.5kg to TM for next cycle. This volume would equal one to two reps more in total than the TM at cycle start in a fatigued state. If two reps were completed on the third set of 1x3+ (1+1+2) then the lifter also matched their TM in reps-per-set as well. They have improved base volume and rep ability at their former TM weight. A modest increase in rep ability and base volume while fatigued should match a modest increase in weight. This allows for sustainable TM increase across training cycles.

5-6 reps at 100% of TM: Add 10 lb./4.5kg to TM for next cycle. A total of five reps here would mean the lifter had completed a triple of their recent 2RM used as the TM at cycle start. (1+1+3) This shows an improvement in both base volume and RM ability.

7+ reps at 100% of TM: Add 15 lb./7kg to TM for next cycle. Improvement of this caliber is most often seen when increasing TM is delayed across multiple 3-week cycles in favor of establishing greater amounts of base volume in the T1 range. Training focus for the following cycles would emphasize building base volume in the T1 with total rep goals of 15+@85%, 12+@90%, and 8+@95%. This is best accomplished without ever reaching 100% (or perhaps even crossing 97.5%) of TM until a retest of TM is desired.

Novice lifters can retest training maxes more often than advanced lifters. It is suggested that TM tests not be conducted more frequently than every three weeks, and in that case the lifter should have a relatively young training age. Intermediate and advanced lifters, or lifters struggling with a plateau should delay their TM test for a minimum of nine weeks.

Delaying Training Max Increase in Favor of 
Building Base Volumes

She wanted to retest her training max, but coach said "nahhh."

By focusing on building volume within the T1 across a longer timeline the 100% TM test yields higher rep performances when finally reached.


[Cycle 1]
            (Weight x Reps x Sets)
Week 1: 80% x 4 x 4+
Week 2: 85% x 3 x 4+
Week 3: 90% x 2 x 5+

If no additional reps for Week 2 or Week 3 were accomplished then the next cycle would continue to build intensity by a modest amount on the same volume structure. This is an attempt to make the lifter stronger at that same base volume. Notice that rep ability has not been tested at 95% and additional sub TM training cycles are needed to build ability nearer that intensity range.

[Cycle 2]
Week 4: 82.5% x 4 x 3+
Week 5: 87.5% x 3 x 4+
Week 6: 92.5% x 2 x 5+

The 7.5% drop in intensity from [Cycle 1](Wk3) to the start of [Cycle 2] is less a deload than a means to sustainable progression because the training will remain difficult. If the lifter can repeat like total volumes, within 1 to 2 reps, but at 2.5% higher intensity their T1 base ability has increased.  By Week 5 the lifter may have reached the total base volume goal of 15+@85% or greater by means of a successful last set AMRAP. Week 6 tests their volume capacity at intensities greater than 90%. A volume base of 10 at 92.5% is short two reps of the 12+ desired, as recommended above. If no additional reps were earned on the AMRAP in Week 6 that would mean low intensity T1 ability is improving, but work capacity at 90% or greater of TM is needed. The 95% intensity has yet to be tested but performance is near ideal ranges for progressing TM.

[Cycle 3]
Week 7: 85% x 4 x 3+
Week 8: 90% x 2 x 5+
Week 9: 95% x 2 x 3+

In this third cycle without increasing TM the lifter tests their 85%, 90%, and 95% of TM ability. With base volumes of 12, 10, and 6 the last set AMRAP requirements would be:

7 on Week 7 to equal the 15+@85% goal
4 on Week 8 to equal the 12+@90% goal
4 on Week 9 to equal the 8+@95% goal

Barney Style:
Week 7: 85% x 4+4+7=15 total reps (Volume goal reached)
Week 8: 90% x 2+2+2+2+4=12 total reps (Volume goal reached)
Week 9: 95% x 2+2+4=8 total reps (Volume goal reached)

The decrease in total sets from Week 8 to Week 9 allows for continued use of doubles. Some would consider the Week 8 base volume test to be more difficult than Week 9 because of the greater number of sets. Also consider that after nine weeks of training at intensities based off a 2RM the ability to do doubles at 95% is within reason. At this point the lifter has established desired ability within the T1 and a retest of TM can performed with results likely falling within that 5-7+ reps total at 100% of TM when using the recommended TM retest approach. This would mean a multiple rep increase of prior 2RM ability.

Remember, the above is an example and the ascending T1 set progression structure or use of singles could instead be applied in [Cycle 3] as each prepare the lifter for a TM test event because those structures are more specific to the upcoming task due to the use of singles.

After nine weeks of sub max training with an emphasis on building volumes at graduating T1 intensities the lifter has undoubtedly increased 1RM strength without actually having to test their max because the transfer of strength between a known 2 or 3RM to projected 1RM is significant. Rep max calculators are increasingly inaccurate beyond five reps, especially so for advanced lifters. Training in the way outlined above allows for consistent and sustainable progress to be achieved with progress being measured by total volume goals and rep goals, each accomplished week-to-week.

Welcome to PR City... which is Denver?

Singles to Control Quality & Progress Rep Ability at Intensity

Singles at sub-maximal intensities allow for a focus on training the technical ability of the lifter at T1 intensities. By distributing the volume load across multiple sets of one, and controlling rest, the quality of each rep within the tier is under greater scrutiny and thus emphasis is placed on movement quality above all. The principal of specificity in training requires that equipment, movements, loads, and reps closely match the in-contest performance of the lifter. Singles in the T1 decrease the training variables of each set to just one, the intensity. This means the specificity of training is high and thus use of singles is best practiced when preparing for a test (either in a meet or for TM increase) or when the desired training focus is to build movement quality.

Although anecdotal, most would agree that as the weights get heavier the quality of the movement declines. This is also true if the reps-per-set is high, because of the fatiguing nature of sustained effort under load. Movement quality decline is a reality in all but the most advanced lifters who tend to stop performances before quality becomes questionable. These lifters have reached their supreme level of technical ability through years of repeatedly high training specificity and as a result their max looks like a warm up; the prime example of consistent lift quality across intensities being Andre Malanichev’s world record squat. Using singles provides lifters the opportunity to build more specific training blocks with the primary goal of improving technical ability at intensity.

Dibs on Andre being my spirit Animal.

Singles seek to improve the lifter’s “Technical Max,” the point at which form breaks but the lift can still be completed. A technical max is important and adds to the reason why using a recent 2RM as a training max is a good choice. The intensity remains fairly specific but the movement quality from a 1RM to a 2RM is typically distinctive. Most lifters have noticeable form breakdown when reaching for a 1RM attempt, whereas their 2RM is usually of much higher quality. This could be summarized as having more brawn than brains and wanting to lift “X” weight versus improve ability through emphasis on quality. Who can be of blame when that next plate is just so close?

When using singles be sure to never exceed a technical max because then the purpose of refining and reproducing multiple sets of high quality lifts is defeated.

In the above progression example, should the lifter reach base volume goals but perform an undesired amount of poor quality reps then a cycle of sub-maximal singles may be used as a means to regain focus on movement quality while sustainably progressing intensity. So in Week 9 the 95%x2x3+ may instead be replaced with 1x6+ because the base volume is equal, but due to the use of singles individual rep quality can be of greater focus. In the rest periods between each set the lifter can analyze what specific improvements can be made set-to-set and it is often noticed that a few singles into such a workout the lifter finds the groove and experiences a eureka moment regarding their set up, form, and overall completion of the lift.

Another benefit of singles, that is often overlooked, is that using singles as a mode of accomplishing T1 base volumes allows for many more opportunities to practice the set up for a lift. This is important because it establishes how well the movement will begin. A poor set up in the squat could mean an unstable bar or a mis-groove. In the bench press a poor set up could result in an unstable position on the bench and a suboptimal landing position for the bar on the chest. Poor set up on the deadlift is the #1 cause of missed lockouts, in my opinion. If a lift doesn’t start right with a proper set up it likely wont go right.

Some dummy made this video about stuff that may
help improve how to set up for lifts.

Deadlift “weak point” mini-rant: Most lifters aren’t weaker once the bar reaches their knees. Rather, they have ran out of gas fighting poor lift geometry and improper bracing during the first half of the lift and simply do not have the required strength needed to complete the lockout. If the lifter has difficulty breaking the bar off the floor they could be weak in that position and perform training directed to improve that muscular weakness, however an equally likely culprit is a potentially poor set up and it is recommended that both be targeted for improvement.

Singles help improve lift quality that ultimately leads to greater progression sustainability due to the reduced chance of injury caused by poor form. The closer a lifter’s technical max is to their limit ability the lower the chance of injury- the space between the two is called the “injury gap.”  

Examples: If form breaks at 15 reps but the lifter pushes to 20, that’s a gap of five reps. If form breaks at 93% that’s a gap of at least 7%, when considering training max, not limit strength.

However, for singles to be successfully implemented they must be done at T1 intensities with strict adherence to quality controls and a technical max. Otherwise their purpose is defeated. A disadvantage of using singles is a reduction in rep ability across multiple sets, which eventually results in poor base volumes in T1 intensities. Always doing singles means a set of three to five reps will eventually become difficult and without rep ability retesting a TM in a fatigued state results in underwhelming performance.

Although fun and a great tool for improving rep quality, singles can also be used improperly so be sure their execution is as directed and include them for a specific and justifiable reason.

Defining Rep Quality

Rep quality can be determined through observation (and if available measurement) of the speed and positioning of the lifter while executing the lift. Other aspects of rep quality would be movement consistency across a number of reps at a single intensity as well as movement consistency across various intensities. Rep quality is how a technical max is determined.

This is one benefit to keeping a video log of training. The lifter and their coach can review increases or decreases in rep quality and once reps begin to get ugly then using singles can be implemented properly; either in that training session or future ones. When breakdown occurs the use of singles in that intensity range permits the lifter to regain their rep quality.

Rep quality does not require a lifter stick to a “textbook” form. Form is dependent upon many variables. Their height, weight, limb length, muscle activation, and injuries are just a few factors to consider before labeling a lifter as having “bad” rep quality or the dreaded poor form. An example of this would be Layne Norton’s squat. Although ugly to some it remains consistent and is one of the best in his class in competitive powerlifting today. His rep quality is good. Poor rep quality would be an example of a lifter going from Andre Malanichev’s squat to Layne Norton’s in a single workout, or across multiple weeks with relatively little increase in rep ability without any perceived or measurable increase in strength.

A training video where I discuss movement quality and using singles
and demonstrating how I implement that concept.

T2 Accessories, Structure and Progression

The 2nd tier is ultimately the base our strength. Without it the T1 has nothing to rest on in terms of muscular endurance or general strength. The T2 can be built with either competition movements or related accessories. If the lifter is already very proficient in the competition lifts then making that movement a T2 accessory will typically result in less progress than opting for an accessory that specifically targets the individual's weakness on that lift.

For example, if a lifter has a weak lockout on the bench then a good T2 accessory would be the close grip bench press, if weak off the chest long pause benches or wide grip bench are great options. A weakness in the hole during the squat would mean pause squats could benefit the lifter and if their squat weakness were torso collapse then front squats would help remedy the issue. Deadlift weaknesses tend to revolve around poor start positions and lack of strength off the floor. Both of these could be targeted with deficit deadlifting, paused deadlifts, front squats, and more deadlifting in general- because most lifters new to GZCL methodology come from a lack of deadlift volume altogether.

The best T2 accessories, besides more of the T1 lift for those lacking technical proficiency and practice, are the following:

1. Front Squat (or SSB Squat)
2. Pause Squats
3. Single Leg Work

1. Close Grip Bench.
2. Long Pause or Sling Shot Bench (If available.)
3. OHP or Incline Bench

1. Deficit deadlifts
2. Paused Deadlifts
3. Front Squats (or SSB Squat)

T2 movement options could range from cleans to good mornings for squat and deadlift. For bench other pressing options, to include OHP or dumbbells, work well.  The thing to remember about the T2 is that the degree of separation from the T1 movement should not be by much. If a lifter were doing flat bench T1 then a T2 option of incline bench would make sense because it changes one thing, the degree of press angle from the body, likewise for back squat to T2 front squat with the bar position being the only significant change in the movement.

Generally the best T2 movements are something that would make sense if placed in the T1; a common example being the Overhead Press.

The larger the separation from T1 movement to T2 movement the greater the degree of unknown transferability is. An exception to this would be unilateral leg movements, recommended in the form of back step lunges and single leg press. These prove to be especially helpful because 1. Most lifters neglect unilateral work, which doesn’t make sense since that’s the primary function of our legs- to work unilaterally. 2. Single leg training is a murderously effective means to target the vastus medials, hamstrings, and glutes. Unilateral lifts also build proprioception and coordination. All contribute to squat and deadlift progression.

The intent of the T2 accessory is to build the T1 main movement. If the accessory differs too much then the risk of unknown transferability is high. Take that for what it’s worth. That being said, the T2 is a wonderful place to practice other lift varieties and hone technical abilities. If the lifter is considering switching from conventional to sumo deadlifting a great option is to make the sumo deadlift a T2 movement until their movement proficiency and strength increases with the sumo deadlift. Soon the lifter can opt to make the sumo deadlift their T1 movement and shift conventional pulling to the T2, or disregard it altogether and opt for more sumo pulling as a means to continue practicing and building the sumo deadlift as a priority.

T2 Back Work Exception

All back work such as pull-ups or row varieties can be T2 options if weighted accordingly. Heavy rows and pull-ups or lat pull downs are great tools for improving general strength that is used across all three lifts. It is for this reason that direct back work is recommended to be paired up with either Bench days (if the T1, aka upper) or Squat and Deadlift days (if the T1, aka lower) this keeps back training frequency high. I have tried both approaches, each with great success. There are logical justifications for either approach, but ultimately the decision rests with the lifter.

When performed heavier keep the reps-per-set and total volume in the T2 range, a T1 approach to rows and pull-ups tends to not go so well with most lifters- especially their shoulders. These movement types are usually more effective if done for 6-8 or more reps per set, so T2 and near T3 range intensities. An exception being the Pendlay row, which can be trained heavier for fewer reps per set due to its eccentric-less nature. Best bet in regards to training the muscles of the back is to mimic frequency, structure, and progression similar to other T2 or T3 movements.

The implementation and execution of back isolation exercises through means of rows or vertical pulling movements is of very high importance and should not be neglected. The musculature of the back ties the shoulders to the hips and without a strong back it will be hard to be a strong lifter. Think of the back as the foundation to a house.

Using more than one T2 accessory per days is an option but requires that one be programmed lighter than the other, and thus can make the second T2 movement more of a “heavy” T3; especially early in training cycles. This is fine, but keep in mind the concept of sustained effort in regards to progression. Having more than one T2 movement per T1 requires a higher degree of effort per workout and that ultimately leads to a decreased progression timeline. It is suggested that most lifters using the GZCL Method opt for one T2 movement per T1 in a given block until they require extra effort to progress a specific lift. In that case it is recommended they first change their T2 movement to a new one and attempt to progress that versus keep the old one and add a second. Understand that strengths and weaknesses change and the T2 is the ideal location to keep those two shifting targets forever in focus. The T2 necessitates variety in all but the most advanced lifters so do not be discouraged from cycling accessories every three to six weeks. Possibly longer if the movement continues to improve cycle to cycle.

A good example of two T2 lifts for a single T1 lift would be deficit deadlifts (T2a) followed by block pulls (T2b), these two couple together well for a sustainable and logical approach to deadlift progression. The deficit work at the start helps strengthen movement off the floor and highlight the importance of start positioning while the block pulls help increase grip, hip, and upper back strength through overload due to reduced ROM. A few things to keep in mind regarding block pulls, first do them with the bar at knee height or lower. Second they are best done with higher than usual volumes because the reduced ROM undercuts time under tension. (TuT) The load would have to be well beyond sustainable to make up for that difference, thus higher reps per set done with T2 (or even T1) range weights help regain the difference back into the lifters favor. Many people use block pulls to help their lockout, but that is only possible if a lot of time is spent in ROM near lockout. Block pulls reduce TuT so volume must be increased to sustainably close that time gap.

This is a similar concept to pause squatting, which requires more time spent in a compromising position- the hole. TuT is less of an issue here because time is emphasized in the pause squat. 

A quick piece of clarifying guidance on pause work: Whether squat, bench, or deadlift, keep the reps-per-set lower than usual for that intensity because pauses increase TuT so more paused reps would mean too much time relative to the intensity. Quality of pause work is paramount because the time spent in pause work helps build or destroy movement quality. Forsaking quality for a longer pause is working against progression for nothing other than bragging rights. Should a lifter want to pause a weight for a long time it is best they approach it linearly adding a second at a time while never forgetting the purpose of the pause work to begin with- improving rep quality through maintaining ideal positioning in the most compromising positions of our main movements: The hole of the squat, on the chest (or 1” off of it for the Spoto Press) and just off the floor in the paused deadlift.

A tutorial on one of my favorite T2 back movements,
the Paused Row.

T2 Structure and Progression

The T2 can progress for a longer timeline linearly than the T1. This is because it is lighter. It is recommended that modest increases of 5-10% from week to week be used, beyond three weeks it needs to be observed closely for quality control. After four weeks of progression from 65% (base T2 intensity) the intensity still reaches 85% if using an increase of 5% each week. That’s pretty heavy work after doing T1 lifts beforehand.

Lifters new to GZCL style training should start their T2 just below recommended T2 intensities, somewhere in that 55-60% range and improve from there. Reps per set should fall within 6-12 with a total rep base of 20-30 reps being accomplished per movement, depending on where the lifter is at in the training cycle. Linear increases, weekly undulation, and bi-weekly linear increase all work well within the T2.

Examples of effective T2 progression:

Week 1: 65% x 10 x 3
Week 2: 70% x 8 x 3
Week 3: 75% x 6 x 4
Week 4: 80% x 4 x 5+

Options to push T2 effort during the cycle would be to include AMRAP sets, as shown with the Week 4 example, or limit rest. Be aware that over use of T2 AMRAPS is likely to cause a decline in T1 ability later that week if recovery is an issue. This is especially true if the T1 is also utilizing AMRAP sets.

Bi Weekly Undulation (2 Up, 1 Down)
Week 1: 60% x 12 x 3
Week 2: 70% x 8 x 3
Week 3: 65% x 10 x 3
Week 4: 75% x 6 x 4

The undulation model is effective at maintaining recoverability from T2 volumes and removing need for a deload across longer cycle lengths. This allows for a longer progression timeline and once 75% is reached week-to-week increase/decrease in weight can be shifted from 10% up / 5% down to 5% up / 2.5% down, thereby lengthening the week-to-week undulation progression of T2 intensity. Bear in mind that once T2 weights reach mid range T2 intensity then volume should near base recommendations as fatigue from the T1 progression is likely to impact T2 performance and vice versa for future workouts.

Bi-weekly Linear
Week 1: 60% x 12 x 3
Week 2: 60% x 12 x 3+
Week 3: 70% x 10 x 3
Week 4: 70% x 10 x 3+

Notice here the bi-weekly AMRAP sets for the 2nd and 4th week; those being the progression means. Lifters opting for this kind of T2 progression have the benefit of a longer timeline and thus more predictable recovery requirements, because if the reps go down that second week something is wrong. The AMRAP sets push the volume every 2nd week and show improvement at that intensity. If the lifter can beat their prior weeks volume then they know what increase of intensity for the next two weeks is reasonable. The negative side of this type of T2 progression is a longer timeline leads to training boredom in some lifters; otherwise bi-weekly T2 progression is a fantastic tool to hone movement quality, sustainably build strength and work capacity, while keeping tabs on recovery.

The three-week blocks recommended for the T1 above can still be applied to the T2. But because the T2 is lighter the progression can extend beyond three weeks as demonstrated in the above examples. However, controls to limit fatigue so as to not impact future T1 lifts must always be in place when programming the second tier.

Now the T2 has been added to the Blank Template.

Experimental Concept: 
Max Rep Sets Implementation

Use of max rep sets (MRS) can be implemented across all tiers, each to their own positive and negative effect. I have found that while a few of my lifters showed sustainable progression beyond three week blocks, most would rather not progress with “Max Rep” guidance on T1 or T2 range weights beyond eight weeks. More advanced lifters tend to shine more with this approach. This same approach fostered success for all lifters in the T3 range for weeks on end.

A similar concept to RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion, using Max Rep Sets (MRS) allowed others and myself to gauge where our performance was at a given intensity.  But rather than lift up to a weight that feels like an RPE8 for a given number of reps, instead the lifter seeks to set either weekly rep or total volume PRs. Use weights that can already be handled, but with one single rule: Always stop with one to two reps left in the tank. (This rule is also used for guidance on AMRAPS in general.) Rest guidelines must be implemented during use for MRS in all tiers. Otherwise unlimited rest could result in excessive volume in any tier and too little rest results in too little volume and too much fatigue.

MRS eliminates what a weight feels like and instead perceived exertion is based on lifter abilities to sustain rep effort. Progress is based on how many reps were done at a specified weight, with annotations of additional reps being an indicator of effort.  By always leaving reps in the tank and never reaching actual failure MRS can be sustainable. If more recovery is needed due to excessive accumulated training fatigue then more reps could be left in the tank. MRS allows for aggressive pursuit of rep and volume PRs but with aggressive progression so comes required deloads, whether planned or not, which ultimately hinder training. That is unless the lifter has great self-control and understanding of their rep ability. The latter can be learned through training, the former is more instinctual and harder to coach.

Example MRS journal annotation:

85%x6/4/4+2 would mean the lifter performed three MRS at 85% with the first set being six reps and the second and third sets being four. They left two reps in the tank on the last MRS.

An example MRS progression for T1 range movements:

Week 1: 85% x Max Reps x 3 Sets (Goal was to see 12-15 reps total, or 4-5 average.)
Week 2: 90% x Max Reps x 4 Sets (Goal was to see 10-12 reps total, or 3-4 average.)
Week 3: 95% x Max Reps x 5 Sets (Goal was to see 10 reps total, or 2 reps average.)
Week 4: 100% x Max Reps x 1 Set (Goal was to see improvement on Training Max.)

On Week 4 if the lifter performed 3 reps it would be shown as a +1 increase in TM. They would also be sure to notate how many reps were left in the tank. After a few weeks of this approach most lifters quickly learn what 1-2 more reps feels like. Another benefit of this approach over RPE is that weight progression is more rigidly planned and lifters can visualize and prepare to lift that weight weeks in advance. The progression and control mechanism here is volume rather than perception of what a weight feels like on a given day.

The above linear style and structure showed to be sustainable and effective for up to eight weeks with a reset around 87.5% on Week 5 for those who I’ve coached using MRS guidance. Smaller increases in percentage (For example dropping from 5% increases to 2.5% increases) would result in longer progression timelines, which could mean improved MRS understanding in individual lifters. Since it is a new means of progression it does have a learning curve.

Beyond the Week 4 Training Max Test most clients who ran this T1 progression opted for other more fixed rep/set structure and progression with a single set AMRAP as a single variable. The common cause was that mental preparedness and reps per set expectations were hard to fulfill or predict, and while some weeks yielded personal rep records, others would not, and this lack of improvement consistency is difficult to sustain in less advanced lifters.

When base volume is not reached by means of MRS a higher base volume is recommended for the following cycle, thus necessitating a reduction of intensity. Attempting to continue pushing intensity beyond MRS means will produce sub par results. When failing to reach base volume goals in a single workout opt to reduce load and increase base volume requirements for the following workout. If that next workout results in accomplishing base volume through MRS then intensity would be increased and base volume would be returned as planned originally.

My hypotheses regarding the inability to sustain MRS is the unknown nature of reps per set as it adds stress to an already stressful movement range- the T1. For this reason I decided that utilizing max reps for multiple sets was not a good option for T1 movement progression due to its lack of sustainability, Likewise for the T2, which saw similar effect but with less control on in-set fatigue management. Beyond 10 reps most lifters want to push to 15 or 20 reps and movement quality suffers as they attempt an unplanned widow maker after T1 movements.  For that reason specifically T2 MRS is less recommended, especially to lifters with masochistic leanings.

To be clear, MRS is not too different than RPE, nor is it inherently better. It is simply another option to auto regulation, wherein that it auto regulates rep effort versus intensity effort. (And to be fair to RPE, MRS is a significantly less proved.)

If attempted it is recommended that MRS be used by more advanced lifters.

A MRS approach is however the most recommended means of progression for the T3 regardless of lifter ability. Most lifters took to T3 MRS guidance quickly and enjoyed it to a large degree. Which finally brings T3 into the spotlight. For further reading and to gain a better understanding of these kinds of training concepts check out Bayesian Bodybuilding's article "2 Autoregulation Methods to improve your training progress."

Lifters faces when trying to successfully 
implement MRS into their programming.

T3 Accessories, Structure and Progression

Accessories in the T3 are near limitless. Here rehabilitative and prehab movements sit beside isolation “bodybuilding type” movements for the purpose of injury prevention, movement correction, improving muscular endurance, and increasing the size and strength of specific muscles and muscle groups. The T3 is the base of all strength. It is where we identify and target problem areas regarding past and potential future injuries, as well as target which specific muscles need assistance in order to help progress T1 and T2 lifts.

A larger muscle has a greater potential for strength and the T3 is the most effective range of movements, regarding time spent, for doing so. Volume helps drive hypertrophy and while getting in lots of reps in the T1 and T2 may be fun it opens the door for reduced movement quality, lack of sustainability, and higher rates of injury. Not only that but it would require great amounts of rest between sets, which increases required time in the gym. Therefore T3 is a time effective means to a lifters hypertrophy goal.

The T3 resting at the bottom of the pyramid is an ideal location to drive volume sustainably.  It requires less rest time between sets and the recovery debt from T3 work is minimal if the lifter has implemented proper recovery means. In general 30-50 reps per T3 movement is recommended with the number of T3 movements being from 1-3 per workout. More bodybuilding centric programs could have higher T3 volumes but that would necessitate less T1 and T2 volume.

Two recommended T3 progressions:

Note: Remember to always leave 1-2 reps in the tank on AMRAP and MRS.

1. Keep weights the same and perform MRS until a base volume is reached: At that point increase the weight and restart rep progression. This could be done week to week or across a number of weeks. Set a goal volume for that movement; reach it, then increase the weight used and attempt to reach goal volume again.

Example: Lat Pull Down

120 x Max Reps x 4 Sets

Once a total of 50 reps is reached (average of 12.5 reps per set) then increase weight by 10 lb. The volume goal is dependent upon the lifter needs, as well as the weight increase once total rep goal is reached. If desiring to progress a T3 movements weight the progression can continue for longer by lowering the volume goal little by little. This would mean fewer reps per set are needed to reach that goal and fewer reps per set mean an increase of intensity is possible.

2. Work up in weight to a given “first set” at a fixed number of reps and from there perform a prescribed number of MRS: This allows the lifter to plan the T3 progress of weight week to week, or even workout to workout, for a given movement while also pushing effort through use of MRS.

Example: EZ Bar Curl

Week 1: In 3-4 sets work up to heaviest 12-15 reps. Once reached that's the first set. Perform four more MRS at same weight.
Week 2: In 3-4 sets work up to heaviest 10-12 reps. Once reached that's the first set. Perform three more MRS at same weight.
Week 3: In 3-4 sets work up to heaviest 8-10 reps. Once reached that's the first set. Perform two more MRS at same weight.
Week 4: In 3-4 sets work up to heaviest 6-8 reps. Once reached that's the first set. Perform one more MRS at same weight.

This 2nd option has proven to be popular not only for my lifters, but for myself as well. This keeps the T3 intensity progressing within reason while also building base volumes. As the weight increases via means of a lower “first set” rep limit more sets are needed to equal T3 base volumes. An additional benefit of this 2nd approach is that it can be paired up with a T1 and T2 taper so that T3 volumes decline while intensity rises. A third benefit is that it can take an unknown movement and progress it from T3 range to T2 range in order to make it a primary accessory. An example would be a lifter new to the incline bench starting with T3 range intensity, say just the bar, and over a course of a few weeks moving it up to be their primary T2 accessory for their bench day. This is a great way to learn a lift, get stronger at it, and then use it to effectively drive the strength for the T1, or eventually make it a T1 movement.

Some T3 movements can be held at a given weight and progressed in a fashion like the first example while others can progress like the second. The benefit of a mixed T3 progression in the same program is that some T3 movement types provide no additional benefit when done heavier, such an example is dumbbell pec flyes. Beyond 25-30 pounds they tend to do more harm than good so it may be best to use the first example for movements like that and for others use the second example.

Sticking to one type of T3 progression is not required. The T3 requires volume and effort. Both approaches produce that from lifters. 

Lastly, some say prehab and rehab type movements should be placed in a T4. This I argue against on the basis that most people utilizing the GZCL Method principals already have a laundry list of excuses for not doing the needed T3 work. Shifting prehab and rehab work to a “T4” is akin to putting it on Mars. No one who lifts weights seriously will ever make it to Mars, except Matt Damon, and his efforts in the gym are under scrutiny.

Cigar smoking is a T3 option when filming Commando.

(GZCL Linear Progression for new lifters)

Novice lifters and coaches are familiar with traditional, popular models of linear progression programs. Starting Strength, Greyskull, etc. are all the top performers in this class of programming for a person new to strength training. As an option, these lifters can use GZCLP to transfer into a progression scheme with a GZCL format that eventually morphs into their own personalized GZCL program.

GZCLP utilizes the below T1 progression scheme:

Again: Weight x Reps x Sets

Take the last weight from previous LP program (or start new with GZCLP!) and perform these workouts:

Workout A1
T1: Squat x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 3 x 5+
T2: Bench x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 10 x 3
T3: Lat Pull Down x Weight x 15 x 3+

Workout B1
T1: OHP x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 3 x 5+
T2: Deadlift x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 10 x 3
T3: DB Row x Weight x 15 x 3+

Workout A2
T1: Bench x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 3 x 5+
T2: Squat x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 10 x 3
T3: Lat Pull Down x Weight x 15 x 3+

Workout B2
T1: Deadlift x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 3 x 5+
T2: OHP x Bar (or Last LP Weight) x 10 x 3
T3: DB Row x Weight x 15 x 3+

The only difference between workouts A1 and B1 versus A2 and B2 are the T1 and T2 movements flip flopping in order. The second time through the A workout bench is now heavier than squat, likewise for deadlift over OHP. This rotation helps keep each movement trained across both tiers. 

Example Monthly Schedule for 3x Per Week
Week 1: A1, B1, A2
Week 2: B2, A1, B1
Week 3: A2, B2, A1
Week 4: B1, A2, B2

This does have the negative aspect of slower progression (at least when reading, but in practice definitely not) than something like Starting Strength where all movements are performed each movement and weight is added each workout. A second negative aspect is the lower lift frequency since the lifter is not performing the squat, bench, and deadlift each workout. However, the benefit of GZCLP over other linear progression programs is the added volume per workout for each lift through AMRAP sets on the T1 lifts for the day, as well as the 10 rep sets when that movement becomes a T2 a few days later. The effort required to continuously push the T1 and T3 progressions via AMRAPS is what sets GZCLP apart from other linear progressions; for this reason lifters should push their AMRAPS every workout to 1-2 reps until failure. (As always recommended with AMRAPS and MRS.)

Many common LP programs follow an extremely low volume approach with moderate frequency. This is disagreeable because new lifters need practice, and that requires reps. It is important to understand that when coming from no base of fitness or strength training history this higher volume and effort may require a significant deload of bar weight (“intensity” for those new to strength training) and it is recommended that recovery means be of the highest importance when making a transition to lifting, in particular when choosing to use GZCLP as your ticket aboard the Gains Train.

When needing more recovery while on GZCLP more reps can be left in the tank, thus lowering the overall effort of that workout. This then reduces training stress and lessens the recovery debt of that workout.

GZCLP T1 Progression

Start with three reps for five sets, last set AMRAP (3x5+) adding weight workout to workout and when base volume of 15 is missed (because the lifter did not think they could do 1-2 more, not because of actual failure) then the lifter would use that same weight they missed at and continue progression by dropping to 2 reps per set, for 6 sets, last set AMRAP (2x6+). This would then start progression again, adding weight workout to workout until they failure to achieve base volume of 12. Once failure with 2x6+ occurs then the reps would drop a third step to one rep per set for 10 sets, last set AMRAP. (1x10+) Continue to add weight workout to workout with the ten singles. When failure to reach base volume of 10 occurs rest for 2-3 days and test for a 5RM.  Use 85% of this new 5RM to start the next cycle of 3x5+ and progress in similar fashion to the previous cycle. Each successive repeat through 3x5+ will be shorter due to the lifter now being stronger.

GZCLP T1 Progression Table (Cheat Sheet)
- Add weight workout to workout.
- Progress from base volume 15 to 10. Only dropping bases when weight can no longer be added to the current one.
       Means don't drop bases if you're still getting extra reps on the AMRAPs.  
- Retest 5RM after failure to achieve base volume 10 (1x10+) 
            Base Volume Reps Sets
                       15          3      5+ (+ means last set is AMRAP)            
                       12          2      6+ 
                       10          1      10+  

It is recommended that no more than 5/2.5 to 10/4.5 (LB/KG) be added workout to workout for novices and early intermediates. Do not push AMRAP sets beyond 10 reps even if there’s enough gas in the tank to do so.

Do not add weight set to set for any of the workouts. These are to be done at a fixed weight across all sets. Weight is only added when repeating the workout with that movement as a T1.

Recommended 5RM Testing Approach

The best way for this to happen is to follow a back plan from where you'd like to end at (a ball park range of weight.) This can be estimated pretty easily by using the lifter performance on their last workout of the base volume 10 (1x10+.) 

Example Lifter: 295 lb. x 1 x 10 was their last workout. They assume if any more weight were to be added then failure to achieve base volume 10 would occur. They determine to retest for a new 5RM. 

The 295 lb. lifted in their last 1x10+ workout would be a conservative starting point for a new 5RM. Back planning from here the ideal way to not overly fatigue before testing for a new 5RM would be a warm-up along these lines: 

    Bar x 10 x 3 
     95  x  5  x 3
    135 x  3  x 1 
    185 x  2  x 1
    225 x  1  x 1
    255 x  1  x 1
    275 x  1  x 1
    295 x  5  x 1

Using this method the lifter can get a good specific warm up for the movement their testing. Amassing many reps in a non-fatiguing intensity and volume range; commonly referred to as "greasing the groove" this approach is ideal way to approach a testing event. For lifters in the four-plate plus range of weights jumps from 95-135-185-225-275-315-365-405 are recommended, with singles starting at 275.

If the lifter above got the 295x5 and felt like they had more in the tank then 5-10 lb. increases can be completed from this point, each for 5 reps per increase. Again, starting at the last 1x10+ workout's weight is an intentionally conservative choice. If the lifter were to get 295x5 and feel confident about a 20-25 lb. increase for their next attempt then I could endorse that. Risk is an element of progress and it is important for the lifter to learn how their mind estimates their abilities. The earlier they can do so, the better. By taking calculated risks the lifter can become more adept at estimating their abilities more accurately; an investment in the long term. 

GZCLP T2 Progression

Progress ten reps for three sets (10x3) adding weight workout to workout until the failure to reach base volume of 30 reps. When failure to reach base volume of 30 reps occurs drop to eight reps for three sets (8x3) and continue to add weight, this too will eventually end with failure to reach base volume of 24. Once 8x3 ceases to improve drop to six reps for three sets (6x3). Once failure to reach base volume of 18 restart the process for two to three cycles more, each cycle resetting at 10x3, but at a slightly heavier weight than previously used- no more than 20/9. (LB/KG)

Continue attempting to progress a core T1 lift (Squat, Bench, Deadlift, or OHP) in the T2 until comfortable moving into a more traditional GZCL method structure using an optional variety in the T2; incline from OHP as an example. This will help introduce variety, a staple of the GZCL Method, to newer lifters.

GZCLP T3 Progression

Progress by using the last set AMRAP. Once the weight can be lifted for 25 reps on that last set an in increase in weight should occur. A back isolation movement such as a row or lat pull down (or pull up if possible) should be used as the initial T3 movements for Workouts A &B. Be modest in this progression because T3 movements will have lower thresholds of weight increases. Eventually these T3 movements will build intensity and volume to match requirements needed for a potential T2b movement in a full scale GZCL program, if necessary or desired. (Since back isolations can be T2 movements as explained earlier.)

Once GZCLP recovery is stabilized and progression through two to three cycles is complete adding volume from the bottom up in order to more completely transfer to a truer GZCL approach is recommended. This approach is detailed below.

Transferring to and Going from Novice to Intermediate on GZCL
When first considering switching to a GZCL Method style of training understand that the workload is typically more than what’s expected. This can be mitigated by accepting that going full steam into a new training program is likely to result in disaster and a better decision is to get the feet wet first. Start with a single movement per tier, per workout, and keep volume at base levels for each tier. (T1: 10/ T2: 20/ T3: 30) By doing so the initial stress of switching to a GZCL Method approach can be recoverable. From there it is suggested that as an individual’s adaptation occurs the volume then increase from the T3 up.

Start increasing the volume of the T3 by adding a second movement (T3b) for a single set of 8-10 reps. This can be done for just one day or multiple days. If that is manageable increase that T3b by one set again the next workout while also adding a few reps to the existing T2 movement. These additional T2 reps can be tacked onto existing sets or by adding a whole new set to that tier. By doing so the volume base increases from the bottom up, just as a pyramid should. Each time the new T3 movement is performed another set should be added until it has reached a base volume level of 30. Do not add more than three movements; stop adding reps when each movement has a base volume of 30.

After three T3 movements with 30 total reps each has been added, without any recovery issues, push the T3a movement up to 50 reps total each workout it is performed. This will expose the novice and intermediate lifter to very high rep sets and could act as an initial exposure to different effort increasing training methods, rest-pause as an example. This approach will finalize effort and work capacity needed to make a sustainable switch to a second T2 movement if desired. 

Once achieved the lifter is essentially running a personalized model of GZCL built around their means and abilities. From there they have a solid understanding of how to adjust training variables up or down to achieve training goals. These variables are most commonly recognized as intensity, volume, and effort.

Warning: If increasing volume from top to bottom were to occur the lifter would likely see an immediate positive impact from the added T1 volume, but they would quickly be adding too many reps (assuming it was done semi-intelligently with rep addition via singles to the T1) to the most intense tier and their work capacity could not maintain efforts, and recovery debt would require bankruptcy. Similarly, adding volume to each tier simultaneously results in like performance decline, just on a longer timeline. Building from the bottom up builds muscular endurance and work capacity, each of which are needed to successfully and sustainably progress all tiers.

Not my image but a good representation of 
what will not happen when running GZCLP

The Rippler, GZCL UHF
and Deadlift Wave Forms
The early versions of The Rippler, a four-day basic upper/lower split, had three-week T1 waves. But a more aggressive, yet sustainable progression model proved to be bi-weekly undulation in intensity and reps per set. Volume in the T1 and T2 still closely match GZCL guidelines but instead of weekly increases in weight it follows a “Two-Up, One-Down” model with 5% additions on up weeks and 2.5% decreases on down weeks. A longer progression timeline sure, but this affords the opportunity to amass greater volume at intensity, thereby building ability more sustainably with a longer and more consistent upward average slope.

Progression example:

Note: The intensity of each tier is based on the specific movement and its own Training Max (TM) with T1 set at 2RM and T2 movements set at 5RM.

Day One
T1 Movement: Bench Press
T2 Movement: Incline Bench

Week 1: T1: 85%x5x3, T2: 80%x6x5
Week 2: T1: 90%x3x4+, T2: 85%x5x5
Week 3: T1: 87.5%x4x3, T2: 90%x4x5+
Week 4: T1: 92.5%x2x5, T2: 82.5%x6x4

The above example shows the T1 “Two Up, One Down” model and the T2 three-week linear progression format. The fourth week acts as a break from extra fatigue because with low T1 volumes and without the use of an AMRAP in either tier the lifter rests from extended effort. This is not a deload because the T1 and T2 still match GZCL guidelines, but the reduced fatigue allows for better recovery from accumulated stress. This is especially helpful as the program continues without a significant deload for 12-weeks.


Disclaimer: This model has yet to see completion, as at the time of writing I am at the start of Week 4. It is however, awesome.

GZCL UHF (Ultra High Frequency) was created as a new test to my original method’s concepts. Like The Rippler and Deadlift Wave Forms the UHF model has had some of its parts and pieces tested by a few of my clients and myself in trial programs. So far the full GZCL UHF program is proving to be successful in adopting a DUP model of progression. Daily Undulating Periodization has been proven across a huge population of lifters not using the GZCL Method principles, but I questioned whether or not the two could be married and remain effective- or perhaps, more effective.

The difference, however minimal, is the progression structure and exercise variety being matched to existing GZCL Method protocols. The UHF model uses a more traditional approach to DUP than The Rippler. (Workout to workout versus weekly undulation in volume and intensity.) GZCL UHF is built around daily undulation of work across both upper and lower body movement types in the same workout, thus making each training session a “full body” one. UHF employs daily undulation in work while also implementing the GZCL principles of the three tiers, T1 movement specificity, and aggressive use of variety via accessories in the T2 and T3.

GZCL UHF is programmed as a five days per week program, but can be used with as little as four days and as high as six per week, using three-week blocks for both T1 and T2 movements. The T1 resets base intensities and volumes every fourth week. The T2 progresses in the same three-week blocks but with other controls in place to maintain progression sustainability from weeks four through nine. In the UHF model greater importance is placed on the effort of the T1, which is accomplished by AMRAP sets every workout. T2 movements experience AMRAP sets every fourth week because the decreased T1 intensity necessitates an increase in overall effort. Using an AMRAP in the T2 accomplishes this task.

Note: The intensity of each tier is based on the specific movement’s own (TM) with both T1 and T2 being set at a recent or conservative estimate 2RM. Like type movements could use the same TM but with adjusted working intensities. Ex: Sling Shot bench can be based on raw bench TM but programmed at modestly higher intensities and safety squat bar use would be adjusted to lower intensities than normal squat work.

Wherein I talk about this post while training with
the GZCL UHF program.

Progression example:

Day One
T1 Movement: Squat
T2 Movement: Incline Bench

Week 1: T1: 85%x4x3+, T2: 60%x10x4+
Week 2: T1: 90%x3x4+, T2: 65%x8x4
Week 3: T1: 95%x2x5+, T2: 70%x6x4
Week 4: T1: 87.5%x3x1, 90%x2x1, 92.5%x5x1+, T2: 75%x5x5+

The above UHF example shows the three-week block format for T1 movements and similar set up for T2 movements. The noticeable difference is the ascending rep structure shift of the T1 with intensity drop from Week-3 to Week-4. The T2 continued to increase by 5% into the fourth week, which marks the start of the next block.  The focus of that next block shifts to higher average intensities and specificity in the T1 (due to singles use.) Beyond Week 4 the T2 improves at a slower rate of 2.5% through the second and third blocks. The slower rate of T2 intensity progression allows for extension beyond the recommended three-week block length. Changes in T2 movement options also help align progression to the recommended three-week blocks.  

Second Tier intensity progression is made dually possible because of accessories use versus a competition lift. Most lifters, myself included, have an easier time with progressing intensity on accessories rather than main lifts, this is because of the lower maximal weight threshold of those accessories and a learning curve’s impact on lift improvement. The less familiar a lifter is with an accessory movement the easier it is to make progress on that lift simply by learning the mechanics and performance of the lift itself. This concept is similar in nature to beginner progress with the core lifts on LP programs. General strength and progressive overload are factors in increasing bar weight, but so is simply practicing and getting better at the lifts themselves.

GZCL UHF cycles through blocks of T1 progression of straight sets and ascending sets, then as it nears completion greater emphasis is set on training specificity through use of singles at higher T1 intensities with T2 movements shifting towards competition standards and intensities; themselves becoming more specific in nature. Non-competition movement accessories are still used towards the end in the T2 but their intensity and reduced reps per set boosts their training specificity also.

GZCL UHF was originally built as a 9-week program but after consideration it was determined that a 5-week UHF inspired model could be built as an introduction of sorts to the 9-week model. Those not wanting to work through 9-weeks of sub-maximal work can also use it.

Deadlift Wave Forms

Deadlifting requires a nuanced approach. Some people can train it infrequently and see progress. Perhaps reaping carryover from their intense squat training. Some may deadlift twice a month and feel like a car hit them, whereas others can manage to deadlift multiple times per week without suffering that often shouted warning of “Central Nervous System” apocalypse. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about deadlifting it is that everyone can be a better deadlifter if they manage to find a way to love training the deadlift.

Below is a nine-week progression on the deadlift that I found loving. Much like the beta versions of The Rippler, this deadlift specific program's beta version had positives and negatives to it. A few negatives were needlessly high deficits and too much time spent using them, too much sub-maximal “speed” work rather than any overload work at all, just to name a few. Deadlift Wave Forms is performed in a slightly unconventional means and thus could possibly spawn a different way of approaching deadlift training, likely for the better, and hopefully a means for some to finally enjoy deadlifting.

My first run through early versions of 
Deadlift Wave Forms

Note: This deadlift specific program is built to be part of a general training plan. Also keep in mind AMRAP and MRS guidelines to leave 1-2 reps left in the tank.

Weeks 1 to 3

The lifter finds a rep max from ascending deficit heights. Each day’s RM attempt is then followed by work based on a lower percentage of that max from the same deficit height. These lighter sets are based on the T1 volume guidelines, with an AMRAP at the end, which trains the lifter to strengthen their most compromising position- the start. These AMRAPS and the longer ROM pulls increases TuT, which increases fatigue in a low volume approach at the start of this deadlift cycle. By this means it mimics a traditional higher volume approach in traditional block periodization.

Weeks 4 to 6

The lifter returns to pulling from the floor with all weights being based on a deficit RM from the first block. These pulls from the floor will feel easier at the start and since they are based on deficit work the volume can be reasonably higher without significant negative impact on rep quality. The use of AMRAP sets in this 2nd block is primarily through the heavier pulls, whereas the 1st block used AMRAP sets on the lighter sub max work. This allows the lifter to push the effort hard on the day’s heavier weight and then use the lighter back off sets as a means to address rep quality and regain any ground lost there.

Weeks 7 to 9

Here in the third and final block the lifter will again find a RM, but this time from the floor. Work following that RM attempt is slightly heavier and from blocks rather than from a deficit. In this way the 3rd block very much resembles the 1st block, just backwards. The emphasis is developing the lockout specifically. This is executed by using slightly heavier weights than were lifted with the preceding RM. These block pulls are in line with recommendations made in the T2 section. So if that was skipped, go back and read it.

Their intensity is only slightly heavier than what can be moved, the height of the blocks are small, and the volume performed will be higher than what most lifters commonly perform with block pulls. (A second reference back to the T2 discussion and the importance of TuT in training adaptation.) The block pulls in this 3rd micro cycle are performed by means of MRS and are the best way to get the lifter moving heavy weights while sustainably pushing fatigue nearing the 1RM test at the end of the training cycle.

Each “Rep Max” in Deadlift Wave Forms should stop increasing in weight when the lifter feels they can only add 10 to 20 more pounds on their next attempted set. Save that effort to crush the AMRAPS/MRS in that workout. By doing so the lifter will maintain a higher level of rep quality across sets while accumulating more reps.

Accessories Use

While running Deadlift Wave Forms the lifter should include a T2 pulling movement, preferably Stiff Leg Deadlifts, on a separate day. This should be run as the T2 accessory to an existing squat day. Leg curls should also be included on that day. Deadlift day has no T2, but if the lifter has the work capacity it is suggested that the front squat be used as an optional T2 on deadlift day. Deadlift day has three T3 accessories. These three movements are one vertical pulling movement (either lat pull down or pull up varieties), one horizontal pulling movement (any row variety), and a single biceps curl movement.

The T3 progression is up to the lifter, it is recommended that the second T3 progression detailed above be used as it focuses on increasing T3 intensity week to week with volume tapering near the end of the nine week deadlift program.

Why This Works

Deficit deadlifts are the go to for improving speed from the floor and general back strength needed for strong pulling. By starting in a disadvantaged position the lifter has to stay tighter and work harder to complete the reps cleanly. Each week they are working to refine their position so that even as the deficit becomes greater- so does how well they can set up for that deficit and complete the lift with the best form possible.

From a high deficit the pull itself will look much different than one straight from the floor. But at this point in the training cycle specificity isn’t what we are after. The point of this is to spend more time under tension in a compromising position- and a heavy pull from a three-inch deficit will comparatively take forever and feel awful.
Following three weeks of deficits comes three more pulling from the floor. There the lifter returns to “standard” form deadlifting. This allows them to refine their normal position and get lots of quality volume in and sustainably train the deadlift for another three weeks, ideally improving their set up and rep quality bit by bit. The heavier AMRAP sets in the 2nd micro cycle push the fatigue and prepares the lifter for the 3rd micro cycle’s RM attempts from the floor and its MRS block pulls.

The first two blocks prepare the lifter for the third where RM finding from the floor and MRS block pulls prepare the lifter for a relatively easy new 1RM attempt. By the end of this deadlift cycle when the lifter attempts their new max it will be finished before the video even starts to roll.

Sorry Instagram followers.

Structure and Progression
Weight x Reps x Sets
[Cycle 1]
Week 1: Find a 3RM from a 1” deficit.
Then reduce weight by 20% from that 3RM for 3 x 5+  
(Recall that “+” means perform an AMRAP of the last set.)

Week 2: Find a 2RM from a 2” deficit.
Then reduce weight by 25% from that 2RM for 2 x 5+

Week 3: Find a 1RM from a 3” deficit.
Then reduce weight by 30% from that 1RM for 1 x 7+

[Cycle 2]
All reps performed from the floor!
Important: All Cycle 2 percentages are based off Week 1’s 3RM weight.

Week 4: 85% x 3 x 5+
Then reduce weight by an additional 20% and perform 5 x 4

Week 5: 90% x 2 x 5+
Then reduce weight by an additional 15% and perform 3 x 5

Week 6: Week 1’s 3RM weight x 1 x 7+
Then reduce weight by an additional 7.5% and perform a single max rep set. (MRS)

Note: If available to the lifter bands or chains can be added to the heavier pulls of this block. The weight at the top should not be more than 10-15% greater than the bar weight. Accommodating resistance should be removed for the lighter sets.

[Cycle 3]
Week 7: Find a 3RM from the floor.
Then add 5% to that weight and perform four MRS from a 1” block.

Week 8: Find a 2RM from the floor.
Then add 7.5% to that weight and perform four MRS from a 2” block.

Week 9: Find a 1RM from the floor.
Then add 10% to that weight and perform two MRS from a 3” block.

Note: The rep maxes found in Cycle 3 should be cut short of 100% effort by 10-20 pounds. Also keep in mind that the percent to add for block pulls in Cycle 3 are recommendations and can be higher or lower by 2.5% (recommended) dependent upon lifter ability. The weight of the block pulls should allow the lifter perform 12-15 reps on Week 7, 10-12 reps on week 8, and 8-10 reps on week 9. Do not go heavy too early, save that weight for test day.

Additional pulling experiment with Deadlift Wave Forms.
Lessons learned results in better programing.
(Bonus bench sesh with GZCL explanation.)

Deadlift Test Day

Perhaps the most stressful day of all, thus the reason why it wasn’t included in this training cycle. I’m just not that sadistic. Jokes aside, it is recommended that after completing Deadlift Wave Forms the lifter rest five to seven days. Start test day by warming up and then ascending in singles. Work up to a single at the recent 3RM attempt from the floor that was achieved in Week 7. From there an optional single at their 2RM, then finally a jump in weight that will best their old deadlift 1RM. 

Why Applications & Adaptations

Progressive overload is the basis of getting stronger and is the driving force behind all programming, no matter the way it is approached; one factor is pushed over another. Whether this is weight over reps, vice versa, or shifting the progression focus to qualitative factors versus quantitative ones; as discussed with singles use. Applications & Adaptations is a means to show lifters everywhere that getting stronger is simple and can provide a lifetime of effective training.

Strength training has been around for hundreds of years and we have fairly accurate documentation on how men in the 1910’s (and earlier!) could lift weights that are still impressive to this day. Most “benefits” of modern training principles, programs, equipment, and metrics are in my opinion, a branding tool hardly of any training significance when adjusted to the broad pool of lifters, both competitive and not. Some equipment may benefit one lifter over another, but 800 pound squats can be accomplished without monolifts, bands, chains, or any reference to Bulgarian anything, likewise with Sling Shots and 600 pound benches. Four hundred pounds was put overhead before RPE existed. And there were juggernauts before JTS, Cube, 5/3/1, Westside, and GZCL! Some lifters enjoy these things and implement them with success in their training because it adds to the joy and individualization of their training! The point is much can be done with less and there are infinite ways to skin the cat.

Industry “experts” tend to charge grotesque amounts for programming that is advertised as individual but is in reality- anything but. (Shamefully they tend to do the same for their “coaching.”) These individuals perpetuate the confusion of this truly simple pursuit as a means to ensure income. This is my attempt to show that with some basic understanding of a few simple means to control intensity, volume, fatigue, quality, and effort anybody could program strength training in a way that is truly individualized, progressive, effective and sustainable.

The first part of Applications &Adaptations detailed how an individual can use the blank template (provided in the excel file download) to build his or her own effective training program. Through my explanation of the tiers, potential progressions, and exercise selection the hope is readers of this can find a way that works best for them. Whether it is similar to a classic GZCL approach, an upper/lower split with biweekly undulation like The Rippler, or something more closely related to the GZCL UHF scheme. Potentially something not detailed specifically but within recommendations and yet totally unique- an individualized approach - as training should be.

If a reader can sustainably train for a long period using T1 and T2 MRS progression please pass that info along. Improvement requires knowledge, and this is knowledge shared so reciprocate the contribution to the lifter community.  

This lengthy, and likely verbose, training manual is hopefully a large piece of the puzzle that most will need to help make them stronger. It is admitted that a few training concepts may have been left out, but I am confident that besides some odds and ends this is a great resource to better programming for the masses.  Those concepts are truly important when considering special snowflakes and advanced athletes- things most of us are not, myself included. A good coach can address those populations appropriately. This is not a coaching manual, but a general guide to strength training using a GZCL Method approach to programming. Most of the lifting population can use these means to make long lasting progression; only needing to spend money when coaching and special equipment is needed or wanted. 

For a long time I have been trying to make the world a stronger place. Since writing the GZCL Method and Jacked & Tan I’ve received countless progress updates from people who have used those concepts to help improve themselves, their training partners, and clients. I await the eventual spread of Applications & Adaptations as well. Each continent has a lifter using my method, with maybe Antarctica’s stupid lazy penguins being an exception. This post and the accompanying downloadable excel file with pre-populated programs and an empty template, will give easier access and understanding to strength training for the masses and the GZCL Method will continue to spread.  

My goal is slowly being realized one lifter at a time as we become stronger one rep at a time.

Please keep me updated on your continued progress. I want to see how thick, solid, and tight you can get.

Thank you for your time,

Cody Lefever AKA GZCL

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