Layne BLT_Wall_med

After a jam-packed Arnold Sports Festival weekend at Beyond Limits Training that featured photo shoots, epic workouts and special guest appearances; we were pleased to wrap up the weekend talking about TRAINING!  Who better to talk training than the 2010 IFPA Pro International Heavyweight Champ and drug-free powerlifting record-holder, Layne Norton.  Layne paid a special visit to talk about leg training and power.

Out of the 2 hours discussing leg training, 90 minutes was spent discussing the squat and 30 minutes the deadlift.  Here are the notes from Layne’s take on getting world class legs.  He began talking immediately about the squat as that has directly impacted the growth of his legs the most.  He feels that focusing on strength training has allowed him to handle much heavier loads during his typical bodybuilding training phases and thus made him a much better bodybuilder.

The Setup:

  • Shoes – First you must have the correct footwear.  Layne likes the Adidas Power Trainer better than Converse All Stars as slight heal and hardness of sole is preferred for ergonomic benefit and little lateral movement. Olympic Lifting team will be using Adi Power and is a step up, but pricey.  Running shoes are not preferred.
  • No Mirror & Head Position – Using mirrors often reinforce bad form such as looking down and not feeling the squat.  Head should be straight with eyes slightly forward.  If depth is an issue a parallel box can be used.


  • Breathing – Breathing is important for abdominal control.  It begins by un-racking the weight with a deep breath through the mouth and again before you go down in the squat.  Taking a deep breath can also help keep your chest up and stay tight at the bottom of the squat.
  • Un-racking the Weight – Take your time un-racking the weight.  Warm-up sets should be performed just like working sets with careful skill and precision to practice perfect form when weight is lighter.  Grip varies based upon comfort and placement should be low on the back, not on traps.  Low bar placement can be good for taller frames or longer legs.  Grip on the bar should be tight.  Weight should be un-racked forcefully and walked back in 3 small steps.  The first step brings you out, second step sets final stance and third evens you up.
  • First movement = Butt Back – When squatting the first movement is with your butt back pushing through the back of your heels.  The more posterior chain used, the heavier the load that can be lifted.  This is often the weaker area for newer lifters and using more posterior chain can also improve quad development due to overall load moved.  A lower bar placement will also recruit more posterior chain.
Squat Programs:
  • Though Shalt Squat – If you want to get better a squatting, then you need to SQUAT!  The squat is such a technical lift and the only way you will truly get better at squatting is by doing hundreds of thousands of reps over time.
  • Westside vs. Smolov vs. Sheiko – Feels that Westside methods while beneficial are much better for the advanced lifter.  He described Smolov as insanity that simply made him a tougher lifter and added significant gains to his squat for what part of the program he was able to finish.  Sheiko is something he has enjoyed for some time that has put focus on his squat, bench and deadlift.  The Sheiko 29 spreadsheet is his recommended starting point for Sheiko.  Click here for information on the EliteFTS page about Sheiko.  Sheiko includes one day of bench, squat and deadlift work and Layne recommends one ancillary work day for the bodybuilder.  He also cautioned against doing too much extra work and overtraining as the body will grow doing the big movements.
  • Overload – You can overload with more weight, but don’t forget about volume.  Overload will provide growth.
  • Belts – 10 mm belt is great to start, but prefers 13 mm belt worn high.
Layne Leg_Seminar_med
The Deadlift:
  • Shoes – Close to the ground as possible.  Prefers Titan Deadlift Slipper.
  • Grip – Prefers double over due to no biceps strain.  Hook grip is essential to grip with fore finger locked tight over the thumb.
  • Stance – Conventional or sumo stance is based on comfort and strength.  Go with what is strongest and most comfortable.  Keep bar as close as possible to you.
  • Pulling – Before you pull, breathe in, butt down and pull up.  Shove the hips forward.
  • Sticking Points – Prefers reverse band deads over rack deads for top sticking points as he feels the body is in a more true deadlift position with the banded deadlifts versus rack.  Deficit deadlifts are great for bottom sticking points.  Layne resets during each deadlift to work the bottom sticking point.  5 reps equal 5 sets of 1!
Layne put in work at Beyond Limits Training with 22 sets of deadlifts in one workout and 15 sets above 490 lbs.  Here is a clip of him and novice Beyond Limits member Jeff Covington hitting some deadlifts during the Arnold: