Before we dive deep into the specifics of the method itself, it’s important to first detail its origins. After all, it’s the history of the development of the program that created a proof of concept and later popularized it because of the profound results that it created.
As mentioned, the GZCL method was created by competitive powerlifter Cody Lefever after years of trial and error with other training methodologies in preparation for the IPL Worlds, an international powerlifting competition renowned for hosting top competitors.
As a student of science and a fitness enthusiast, Lefever was always looking to gain an edge on his competition, ultimately discovering the highly-respected Wendler 531 program, another popularized powerlifting program developed by Jim Wendler, famous for squatting 1000 pounds and achieving an elite 2375 pound total in competition.
Lefever ultimately went on to put 100 pounds on his total over the course of 10 months, taking concepts from a variety of training methodologies including a heavy influence from Wendler’s 531 protocol.
Just like that, the GZCL method was born. As we will explain later, GZCL method is not a program, but a method or style of training.
GZCLP is a program built for novice / intermediate athletes based on the GZCL method.
Many beginners have found GZCLP to be challenging to set up. Cody has since partnered with Boostcamp to build out the GZCLP program to make it easier and more accessible to the broader population. Lucky for you, the Boostcamp app is available both on iOS and Android. It’s free to use and allows for voluntary donations should you prefer to do so.
As the premier destination for Cody’s GZCLP program, we can’t wait to host you and help get your powerlifting numbers to the next level! Want to hear what Cody has to say about the Boostcamp app? Check it out for yourself here!
This guide aims to provide an outline of the GZCL method so that you can gain a better understanding of what’s involved and why it has become so popular (p.s. it’s because it works!). We will also discuss the GZCLP program specifically, which is one of the most popular programs based on the method.
Let’s jump right into it!
As outlined in the preface, the GZCL method is a powerlifting-centric linear progression framework created by Cody Lefever. There are several variations available, most notable is the GZCLP program, which is built for a beginner audience.
Widely popularized and made known on Reddit threads, the name combines both Cody’s Reddit username as well as what strategy the program uses; linear progression (LP).
While the program itself is used widely amongst the powerlifting community, it’s much more than a traditional training program but rather a training ideology that can be applied across disciplines.
The GZCL program takes a tiered approach to progression, basing lifting numbers off of your 1RM and your goal weight, and scheduling varying days of volume over the course of 3-4 days per week.
The ultimate goal is to gradually increase strength by increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting and adapting to plateaus by changing reps and sets. More on the progression scheme shortly.
Largely developed to improve overall strength and lifting numbers, the GZCL program is suitable for amateur and competitive lifters alike, though certain variations of the program are more suitable to certain demographics than others. The GZCLP program, for example, is more tailored to the beginner lifter.
With that said, the GZCL method is tailored for powerlifters and those eager to progressively and intelligently increase strength, typically with the four standard lifts but again, can be applied in a multitude of training circumstances.
Although the progression scheme is quite simple for those who understand the basics, it may be overwhelming to fully comprehend if you’re a beginner just getting started with your powerlifting journey. With that said, this shouldn’t deter you from pursuing your goals and looking further into the GZCL program.
Luckily, the program and its details largely live on Reddit and subreddit threads. If you’re looking to learn more, check out this subreddit thread for novices! Once you gain a better understanding of how the program works, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals!
The GZCL method breaks down each workout into 3 different “tiers.”
Tier 1: main compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press)
Tier 2: primary accessory movements
Tier 3: secondary accessory movements
Before we discuss how the tier system works, we need to start with identifying your “goal weight” for each main compound lift. Your goal weight should be a realistic but challenging weight that you can lift for 2 reps, with perfect form. This is a weight you can already do. You will retest this goal weight at the end of every cycle to determine if you need to move up.
What this goal weight ISN’T, is an empty and unrealistic dream. In other words, if you’re a 180-pound male who currently has a max bench press of 275 pounds for 1 rep, your starting goal weight is likely somewhere in the 260lb range for 2 reps. Your goal weight will move up as you move through the program.
First, select one main compound movement – squat, deadlift, bench press, or overhead press.
When performing a T1 exercise, the intensity range should be 85-100% of the goal weight you identified in the beginning. As for volume, aim to do 10-15 total repetitions, targeting 1-3 reps per set. For example, this could be 5 sets of 3 reps or 6 sets of 2 reps.
The goal of T1 is to refine technique, boost confidence in the lift, and improve strength, all the while controlling overall fatigue.
Exercises used in T2 will depend largely on what compound movement you chose in T1. The exercises are a direct complement to support your main movement. For example, if your T1 exercise was back squat, you T2 exercise could be front squat or hack squat.
T2 exercise should be performed at 65-85% of the goal weight you selected for your T1. As for the volume, target 20-30 total reps with 5-8 reps per set. For example, this could be 3 sets of 8 reps or 5 set of 5 reps.
The goal of T2 is to improve T1 movements, increase hypertrophy, and offer variety for enjoyment purposes. It will also aid in performance and strength improvements.
Key considerations: In the initial phases of the GZCL program, only implement 1-2 T2 exercises max.
This is where you get to be a bodybuilder and focus on muscle growth in weak areas. You should focus on muscle groups based on what you chose as your T1 exercise. For example, if your T1 exercise was bench press, your T3 exercise could be cable chest flies, dumbbell chest press, dips or triceps extensions, depending on which muscles you think will help you progress in your T1.
When performing a T3 exercise, the intensity range should be less than 65% of your goal weight. As for the volume, aim for 30+ repetitions with 8-12 reps per set. This could be 3 sets of 12 reps or 5 sets of 7 reps.
The goal of T3 is the improve T2 and T1 movements, strengthen smaller muscle fibers that we often ignore, improve joint health, and improve muscular endurance.
Key considerations: In the initial phases of the GZCL program, only implement 1-2 T3 exercises max.
As discussed above, GZCL method is not a program but a method that is the foundation of many programs like GZCLP and Jacked & Tan.
To illustrate how a program works, here is an example of what an exercise progression might look like. The example will use the bench press as the desired T1 main compound movement…
While it’s ultimately up to the athlete how they want to program using the GZCL method, it’s recommended to journey through its progression in 3-week training blocks. This recommendation, in large part, is for simplicity and consistency purposes, while also allowing for a 1-week deload/recovery week to avoid burnout and plateaus. With that said, there’s no definitive approach, instead offering its users the flexibility to do what they deem most appropriate for them. In any case, most subreddit forums suggest a recovery week every 4-6 weeks.
Next, we will discuss how to deal with progression and failure using the GZCL Method. This is a key part of the training scheme.
There are several ways that an individual following the GZCL program can progress. Because of this flexibility, followers can choose to implement AMRAPs (As Many Reps As Possible), extend the cycle itself, or follow the standard structure of progression via increasing weight, reps, and sets accordingly.
For the standard progression scheme, athletes should first progress by AMRAP. Perform an exercise to failure when you see a “+” sign at the end of the programmed rep scheme. Based on the number of reps you performed during the AMRAP, you can increase the weights accordingly. For example:
2 reps on a 1+ AMRAP – add 5lb
3 reps on a 1+ AMRAP – add 10lbs
4 reps or more on a 1+ AMRAP – add 15lbs
“Okay, I think I get the method. Please give me a program that I can actually follow.” There are currently 6 popular variations of the GZCL program. We will talk in depth about the most popular version—GZCLP—and also touch on the other variations.
Each program has different intentions and programming structures, and choosing one will largely depend on your goals and objectives. The good news is that because there is such an abundance of program options, you’re likely to find one that suits your needs and objectives the best.
The following are the six programs offered within the GZCL program itself:
GZCLP Program (The Linear Progression Variation)
VDIP Program (Volume-Dependent Intensity Progression)
UHF Program (Ultra-High Frequency)
DLWF Program (Deadlift Wave Forms)
JnT 2.0 (Jacked and Tan 2.0)
Bonus: General Gainz
When people talk about the standard GZCL program or the beginner’s program, it’s likely this variation. GZCLP = GZCL method + Linear Progression. This method uses a linear progression and is the simplest approach of the variations and best suited for beginners.
As a reference, it only consists of two workout variations involving just three exercises each, one from each tier (T1, T2, T3). It’s that simple! One stipulation, however, is that squats and deadlifts should not follow one another, nor should bench press and OHP.
The following is a templated example of both workout variations found in the linear progression program…
GZCLP is similar to StrongLifts 5x5 and Starting Strength in that it’s just 3 exercises per workout. The major advantage is that the progression scheme is designed in an intelligent way to overcome failure once the athlete can no longer add weights to the workout. This is also the biggest point of confusion with the program, so let’s explain how progression works.
Let’s look at Workout A and Squat as the example here. You start by doing 3x5, adding 5lbs every workout until you can no longer complete these sets. This is the same progression scheme as workouts such as Starting Strength or StrongLifts 5x5.
Your schedule would look like:
week 1: 135lb - 5x3 (success)
week 2: 140lb - 5x3 (success)
week 3: 145lb -5x3 (success)
Let’s say week 4, you don’t succeed:
week 4: 150lb x 3, 150lb x 3, 150lb x 3, 150lb x 3, 150lb x 1 (failed!)
This is where things start to change in the program. Now your rep scheme becomes 6x2 instead of 5x3. Using the 6x2, you increase the weight by 5lbs until you fail again.
Now you continue like before, but you use 6x2. For example:
week 5: 150lb - 6x2 (success)
week 6: 155lb - 6x2 (success)
week 7: 160lb - 6x2 (success)
You fail again on week 8:
week 8: 165lb x 2, 165lb x 2, 165lb x 2, 165lb x 2, 165lb x1 (failed!)
Now, you change the rep scheme up again. Now you use 10x1 as your new set scheme, increasing the weight by 5lbs every workout again.
week 9: 165lb - 10x1 (success)
week 10: 170lb - 10x1 (success)
week 11: 175lb - 10x1 (success)
You fail on this scheme on week 12:
week 12: 180lb - 8x1 (Fail!)
Now it’s time start the cycle all over again. Your will go back to the 5x3 rep scheme with a new and higher weight. To figure out your new weight, you can:
Test for a new 5 reps max and take 85% of that number
Take 80–85% of the weight that you failed at
P.S. We understand these progression schemes are complicated and annoying to track on Excel. This is automatically programmed into Boostcamp, which makes the program much more user friendly. You can download Boostcamp on iOS and Android .
Progressing on T2
This is done in a similar fashion as T1 lifts, except you go from 3x10 3x8 3x6. At the end of the cycle, go back to 3x10 with a slightly heavier weight than the last time you did 3x10.
Progressing on T3
Increase the weight by the smallest possible increment once you can do over 25 reps during the last set.
Yet another simplistic program variation, the VDIP program follows much of the same progressive methods found in the traditional GZCL program, however, the decision of what weight to use or how much weight to add is dependent on volume, i.e. reps.
Additionally, it also requires that every lift is to be executed with maximal effort, i.e. to failure. To ensure that you are accurately reaching failure, it’s imperative to employ perceived rates of exertion on every lift. While this program is simplistic in nature, it can get confusing for beginners. In this case, check out this video made by Cody himself!
The following is a templated example of how each tiered exercise is to be executed in the VDIP program…
Of all variations, the UHF program is arguably the most volume-intensive and time-intensive. Not only is it recommended to be a 5 days/week program (2 additional days more than the standard GZCL recommendation of 3 days/week) but it utilizes a variety of exercises for each workout, hence the name “ultra-high frequency.”
While the majority of program variations have the primary goal of improving the main compound movements in T1, the UHF program seeks to provide an all-encompassing full-body workout to elicit a broader fitness capacity response. The result is a completely different progression scheme and an entirely new variety of exercises.
Intensity can become overwhelming week-to-week on the UHF program which is why it’s important to follow the Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) progression protocol: to maximize gains while minimizing fatigue and injury risk.
Obviously named, the DLWF program is a 10-week periodization program aimed solely at improving the deadlift. Of course, thanks to the flexibility the GZCL method provides, the DLWF program can be adjusted for any of the T1 compound movements (squat, bench, OHP, or deadlift).
The idea behind this program isn’t to follow a pyramid-like progression scheme but instead to focus on the three sticking points of a deadlift, i.e. range of motion. In other words, over the course of the 10-week program, you will be tasked to lift from both a deficit height, the ground, and an ascended height (e.g., from the blocks like a rack pull). The ultimate goal is to strengthen the deadlift at all parts of the lift, from the floor to the lockout.
Lastly, while it’s not a main part of the program, T2 and T3 accessory exercises are to be implemented to further complement the deadlift itself.
Everybody’s favorite program, and for good reason, the JnT 2.0 is a 12-week training program with 2 blocks specifically designed for hypertrophy gains. Comparable to the UHF program, JnT 2.0 comprises A LOT of volume; consider it “powerbuilding,” the perfect combination between powerlifting and bodybuilding.
With 4-5 workouts per week, each workout should contain at least one T1 movement, 2 T2 movements, and 3 T3 movements. The program follows the weight progression scheme from the traditional GZCL program.
If you’re looking to get jacked and tan, this program is for you! Heck, and you might gain some strength along the way…
Last but certainly not least is The Ripper, a program designed to be an easy-to-follow beginners program (though can be a suitable program for the elite lifter as well) using a basic upper/lower split. In fact, it was The Rippler that was, in part, to thank for Cody’s ability to hit two personal records back-to-back!
Other than the upper/lower splits, the Rippler can be thought of as a slight spin-off of the traditional GZCL program as it follows standard progression structures, just at a slower, more prolonged pace (it’s designed as a 12-week program).
Finally, among the six programs listed above, Cody Lefever also offers a bonus program called General Gainz. While this isn’t as structured of a program as the rest, it does provide beginners and experienced lifters alike with principles they can carry forth into their own journeys.
Often compared to the VDIP program, the General Gainz program prioritizes the quality of effort and efficiency of the technique while also providing a fun environment to succeed in. If you’re looking to get in and out of the gym promptly without too much time wasted, this basic but highly effective program is for you.
In what follows, we’ll be answering some of the most common frequently asked questions surrounding the GZCL and the GZCLP program. If there’s a question that’s yet to be answered throughout this guide, this is the place you’re going to find it!
Is the GZCL method for beginners?
While the GZCL isn’t necessarily for beginners, it’s most definitely suitable for beginners. In fact, the progression protocol itself was designed much like a beginner powerlifting progression program.
With that said, the GZCL program is suitable for all ages and experience levels and can be tailored to any goal or objective, whether that’s to increase strength, build muscle, improve technique, or a combination of the three.
If you’re looking for a program specifically designed for beginners, be sure to check out the GZCLP program on Boostcamp! With easy progressions and simplistic but effective programming, the GZCLP program is the best place to start your powerlifting journey.
I’m still confused about how the progression protocol works. Can you explain?
The GZCL program is certainly more complicated than 5/3/1 or Starting Strength but it is also a lot more flexible and customizable. However, it’s quite simple once you get it. Here’s one sentence that will hopefully clarify the confusion.
Once you can’t complete the set and rep scheme with the prescribed weight, increase the sets and decrease the reps by one during the following week. So, for example, if you’ve discovered that you can’t complete a 5 x 3, next week execute the lift with the same weight but for a 6 x 2. Rinse and repeat until you fail 1 reps before you restart the cycle.
Does the GZCL program build muscle or only focus on building strength?
Unlike most powerlifting programs that only strive to increase lifting numbers of the three main lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift), the GZCL method emphasizes accessory movements to both complement the strength gains of the main compound lifts AND stimulate hypertrophy, thus building muscle and strength simultaneously.
Additionally, if your priority is to build muscle, the GZCL method offers several (six, in fact) variations of the program that are tailored to different subsets of the population. The UHF program and the Jacked and Tan 2.0 program are the ones you’ll be most interested in if that’s your primary goal.
What’s the difference between Wendler 5/3/1 and the GZCL program?
Interestingly enough, the GZCL program is hugely influenced by Wendler 5/3/1. After all, they’re both premier powerlifting programs in their own right. With that said, there are some distinct differences between the two.
The primary difference between the two is the fact that GZCL offers much more variety and flexibility while Wendler 5/3/1 focuses solely on the progression of the three primary powerlifting movements.
Lastly, because of the variety, flexibility, and way of progression, GZCL can assist in several goals and objectives, whether strength gains, muscle gains, technique improvements or otherwise. Wendler 5/3/1 more biased towards strength gains.
What programs can the GZCL program be compared to?
While it’s difficult to fully compare any other program to the GZCL program because it’s largely flexible in nature, often referred to as less of a program and more of a broad training methodology, several popular powerlifting programs are comparable to the GZCL program.
Those programs include Wendler’s 5/3/1, 5x3 Workouts, Strong Lifts (SL), Starting Strength (SS), Greyskull LP, Alpha Destiny Novice Program, nSuns 531, and Tactical Barbell just to name a few…
If you want to explore other programs of similar stature, be sure to check them out on the Boostcamp app! As the premier destination for Cody’s GZCLP program, nSuns 531 program, and more, there’s no other program resource you’ll need! To learn more about Boostcamp and what Cody himself has to say about it, check out his Reddit post!
It wouldn’t be impossible to answer every single question regarding the topic of the GZCL program. Luckily, conversations are happening every day in their Reddit community. If this guide hasn’t been able to answer a pressing question that you might have, be sure to check out the Reddit page. Here’s the link to learn more!
The feedback on the GZCL program is overall an extremely enthusiastic one. There’s a reason it gained so much popularity on Reddit! Of course, like anything, you’re going to come across some negative reviews or those that believe in other programs more than this one.
The GZCL program in collaboration with Cody Lefever himself has been able to build an extremely loyal following which ultimately speaks for itself. It’s often found in the same discussion as the grandfather of powerlifting programs, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program.
As mentioned several times, the GZCL program gained popularity via its subreddit otherwise known as GainzHub or “r/gzcl” in Reddit terms. The community is 21,000 strong with no signs of stopping any time soon even though the community was created in September of 2014.
With that being said, let’s take a look at a few top comments, shall we?!
@dos_gatos: “Very solid, highly customizable intermediate training method that led to a 210lb/95kg increase on my total, despite being in a deficit and travelling for a majority of training.”
@Sniperdojo: “ My chest got noticeably bigger in the last five weeks…also, my bench shot up. Huge gains in such a short period.”
@howhardcanya: “Overall I’d definitely recommend this routine for anyone getting started in the world of weightlifting [powerlifting]…I think it’s a fantastic program for getting your feet wet.”
@ZenWanderer: I absolutely loved this program. Compared to Strong Lifts 5x5 and Starting Strength, this was a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed the program more than I have ever enjoyed a program before and I made better progress in three months than I have done in the past…”
As you can see, there’s no shortage of rave reviews about the GZCL program and all of the variations that come with it.
If there was one complaint of the GZCL program that’s been proven somewhat common across subreddit threads, it’s the confusion surrounding the progression protocol—a small issue that can simply be solved by some research.
While the GZCL method is often referred to as a program, it’s much more of a training methodology. In fact, this is where a lot of the confusion derives from.
And it’s understandable; Cody himself has admitted in the past that it does require some research and critical thinking on behalf of the athlete to completely understand what’s required.
With that said, it’s also the beauty of such a program. With so much flexibility accompanied by so much guidance according to your goals and objectives, the world is your oyster when it comes to tailoring the program to your specific needs.
Even more, with so much information out there on the program, whether through Reddit, third-party review sites, or best of all, the Boostcamp app, Cody’s content offered directly through his profile/website/resources, and through guides like this one, you’ll have no problem getting started.
If you’re a beginner eager to start or an interested consumer looking to learn more, be sure to check out the Boostcamp app, the premier destination of Cody’s GZCLP program!
In summary, the GZCL program, and the GZCLP program in particular, has grown to be a top-tier program for powerlifters, weightlifters, and avid gym-goers alike. Whether you’re a beginner or competitive athlete, the GZCL program and its variations can work for you. Do some research, find what program suits you the best, and get to work!
Before you know it, you’ll have reached and surpassed your goal in record time, eager to define the next goal to accomplish. Good luck!
Boostcamp is a free fitness app with training programs made by elite-level coaches. Our coaches include Greg Nuckols (Stronger by Science), Morit Summers (home workouts and training programs), Matt Hsu (Upright Health, mobility expert), John Henwood (Olympian, running program), and more to come.
Our mission at Boostcamp is to make fitness accessible to everyone. This means two things:
Free programs for all, not just those who can afford it. To that end, Boostcamp and our coaches rely on tips and optional services to fund new programs and product developments.
Digitizing programs so that they are easier to use. We hope to make great programs like nSuns into an automated, personalized, and easy-to-view digital format for those not familiar with spreadsheets.
You can find our other programs in partnership with amazing coaches like Greg Nuckols, Morit Summers, Matt Hsu, and John Henwood at www.boostcamp.app
Have any feedback? Let us know in the comments section.