Nowadays you can access practically any training program you like with just a few clicks. There is an absolute wealth of information on strength training to be found online.
Over the years, many strength training programs and methods have been posted on the forum site Reddit. Some programs have become so popular that they even now have their own “subreddit”.
A user by the name of Cody Lefever (or GZCL) posted his training framework on the website.
This framework became hugely popular and as a result, GZCL created a number of training programs using his unique training method.
The Formation of the GZCL Method
Having competed as a powerlifter, Cody Lefever was well acquainted with powerlifting training, however, he felt like his training wasn’t quite right.
He felt that the extreme volumes and high intensities often associated with traditional powerlifting weren’t best.
This prompted him to question the training methods he was using and consequently, he created his own training method – the GZCL.
As with the nSuns training program (another popular training program found on Reddit), the GZCL method is derived from the Wendler’s 531 programs.
Jim Wendler is a well-renowned strength and conditioning coach who’s training philosophies and methods are used worldwide by athletes and lifters.
As the name suggests, the 531 programs focus primarily on heavy loads and reps of five, three and one in order to maximize strength and size progress.
In addition, these programs use four-week training cycles, a training max (or “goal weight”), and AMRAP sets (As Many Reps As Possible) to assess progress.
There are a number of programs that have been created using the GZCL method including GZCLP, Jacked & Tan 2.0, Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) and The Rippler.
With each of these programs, the aforementioned principles found in Wendler’s 531 are used.
Using some of these components, Lefever developed his own training methodology. By following it he was able to improve his powerlifting performance by almost 100lbs across the three lifts.
How the GZCL Method Works
This section will detail all the information relating to the GZCL method. It’s important to note that GZCL is a framework that can be used to help you form your own program.
While most conventional powerlifting approaches focus on assessing and improving your one-rep max, the GZCL method does not specifically focus on your one-rep max.
Instead, the program uses submaximal loads referred to as goal weights.
Your goal weight should be a weight that you can lift for two or three reps. Before starting training, it is important that you assess your goal weights for a number of lifts.
When it comes to using your goal weights in training, the focus should be on producing high-quality movement and increasing the number of reps performed.
At the end of each training cycle, you should then progress your goal weights. The amount of weight that you add should be based on how well you perform with each lift.
While the length of your training cycle is ultimately down to you, GZCL recommends running in four-week cycles.
The Pyramid Approach
To allow you to understand how to build your training sessions, the GZCL method uses a three-tiered pyramid.
Starting with T1
You will start at the peak of the pyramid, known as “T1 (tier one)”. This portion focuses on developing your movement, strength, and overall performance with compound lifts.
There are three considerations to be made in regards to T1:
1) Main Exercise for the Day
You must first select a high-skilled, compound exercise such as the squat, deadlift, bench, or overhead press (1).
2) Intensity Range for the Exercise
Use an intensity ranging between 85-100% of your goal weight.
3) Volume Range for the Exercise
Complete a total of ten to fifteen reps by using an appropriate number of sets and reps. Ideally, use a rep range of one to three.
The goal with T1 is to perform compound exercises without overly fatiguing the body and allow you to refine technique and build confidence.
Therefore, if you find that the weight that you are using is highly-taxing, decrease it and complete the remaining sets.
Developing Strength with T2
The second tier (T2) will substantially develop strength and facilitate T1 lifts. As a result, you will see that the structure of T2 is very similar to traditional strength building techniques.
The three T2 considerations to be made are as follows:
1) Primary Accessory for T1 Exercise
The exercise that you select her should facilitate performance with your T1 exercises. For example, using a decline bench press may serve as a useful accessory for bench press (2).
2) Intensity Range for Primary Accessory
Using 65-85% of your goal weight.
3) Volume Range for Primary Accessory
Perform a total of twenty to thirty reps broken down into an appropriate set and rep range. Focus on a rep range of five to eight reps.
Considering that T2 is where most strength will be built, it is imperative that you perform T2 work. If you struggle to get through T2, it is likely that you are lifting too heavy or using excessive volume.
Not only will T2 allow you to build substantial strength, it will also refine your movement patterns and further enhance T1 exercise performance.
Laying Foundations with T3
The base of the pyramid, or T3, focuses on higher volumes to build muscle size and strength. Therefore, the structure is very similar to bodybuilding training methods.
Once again, there are three considerations to be made:
1) Secondary Accessory for T1 Exercise
Choose one to three exercises for T3. The exercises chosen should target the muscles that are involved in the T1 exercise. For example, focus on the quadriceps for developing your squat.
2) Intensity Range for Secondary Accessory
Using >65% of your goal weight.
3) Volume Range for Secondary Accessory
Use a set/reps structure that allows you to complete a total of 30 reps per exercise. Commonly used structures are 3 x 10, 2 x 15, and 4 x 8.
As mentioned, the bottom tier is very bodybuilding orientated. Therefore, with each exercise, the goal should be to pump up the muscle as much as possible.
By performing sets of 8 reps or more, you will significantly fatigue the muscle which can consequently lead to an increase in muscle size (3).
Be aware that the weights that you are handling in this phase will be light. Don’t be concerned about the weight lifted, rather than focus on building fatigue.
Goal Weight Progressions and AMRAP Sets
When it comes to the end of a training cycle, you may wish to retest your goal weights. To do this, work up to using 100% of your goal weight and perform an AMRAP set.
The amount of weight that you should add is dependent on how many additional reps you achieve with the AMRAP sets.
The following table will provide recommended progressions based on AMRAP performance:
|Number of Additional Reps Completed:||Progression|
|1||+ 5 lbs|
|2||+ 10 lbs|
|3+||+ 15 lbs|
GZCLP and Other Programs
There are a vast number of programs that have been designed using the GZCL principle. One of the most popular programs of all is the GZCLP program which is a linear progression program.
For those who are looking to generally improve muscle size, aesthetics, performance, and strength, the GZCL General Gainz program is recommended.
Finally, back in 2016, a compendium was released which contained seven different GZCL programs.
The programs are as follows:
Volume Dependent Intensity Progression (VDIP), Extended Deadlift Wave Formulas, Jacked and Tan 2.0, Ultra High Frequency, 5 & 9 Week UHF, The Rippler and Basic Template.
The compendium is a superb place to start if you are new to GZCL as it provides a range of programs that will allow you to get to grips with the GZCL approach.
The above programs are just a small sample of GZCL inspired programs; there are several other GZCL programs that can be found online.
Regardless of the training goal that you have set yourself, there will be a GZCL program in existence to help you achieve it.
Q1) What exactly is the GZCL Method?
A) GZCL is a training template that can be used to effectively design your strength program;
GZCL uses many training principles popularized by renowned strength coach Jim Wendler, such as four-week training cycles, training maxes, and AMRAP sets.
Q2) What are the main differences between GZCL and GZCLP?
A) The GZCLP is a linear progression program that has been specifically designed for the beginner. It progresses more rapidly than other programs to account for the rapid adaptations often seen in novice lifters.
Q3) What does T1, T2, and T3 relate to?
A) These are the three tiers that must be worked through with the GZCL template.
Tier one refers to primary exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Tier two exercises are variations of the T1 exercise while tier three are accessory exercises.
Q4) What does GZCL actually stand for?
A) According to Lefever, GZCL doesn’t actually stand for anything and named the program after his reddit username. While the CL stands for “Cody Lefever”, it is not clear what the G and Z refer to.
Other Powerlifting Programs
- Everything about powerlifting
- Starting Strength Linear Periodization Program
- The Greyskull Linear Periodization Program (GSLP) Good or Bad?
- nSuns 531 LP Powerlifting Program Guide with Spreadsheets
- The Juggernaut Method: Unstoppable Strength Training Program
- Madcow 5×5 Program: The Workout for Strength and Size
- The High Bar vs Low Bar Squat Debate
GZCL provides a high-quality framework for strength training that can be applied to cater to your specific needs and goals. There is no doubt that when the framework is appropriately applied, it will facilitate significant improvements in strength, size, and performance.
1 – “What Are Compound Exercise | AFA Blog”. Australian Fitness Academy.
2 – Saeterbakken, Atle Hole; Mo, Dag-André; Scott, Suzanne; Andersen, Vidar (2017-06-22). “The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance”. Journal of Human Kinetics. 57: 61–71. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0047. ISSN 1640-5544. PMC 5504579. PMID 28713459.
3 – de Freitas, Marcelo Conrado; Gerosa-Neto, Jose; Zanchi, Nelo Eidy; Lira, Fabio Santos; Rossi, Fabrício Eduardo (2017-06-26). “Role of metabolic stress for enhancing muscle adaptations: Practical applications”. World Journal of Methodology. 7 (2): 46–54. doi:10.5662/wjm.v7.i2.46. ISSN 2222-0682. PMC 5489423. PMID 28706859.