December 19, 2022

Exercise & Physical Health

#235 ‒ Training principles for mass and strength, changing views on nutrition, creatine supplementation, and more | Layne Norton, Ph.D.

Most 40 year olds, 50 year olds, they have pain anyway. So I'd rather be strong and have pain than be weak and have pain.” —Layne Norton

Read Time 72 minutes

Layne Norton holds a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and is a physique coach, natural bodybuilder and powerlifter, and two-time previous podcast guest. In this episode, Layne discusses his training as a powerlifter and shares training principles that non-powerlifters can apply to improve muscle strength and mass. Layne goes in-depth on creatine supplementation, including the benefits for lean mass and strength, and addresses the common arguments against its regular usage. Additionally, Layne touches on many areas of nutrition, including how his opinions have changed on certain topics. Layne also touches on the subjects of protein, fiber, and fat in the diet, as well as the different tools and dietary approaches for energy restriction.


We discuss:

  • The sport of powerlifting and Layne’s approach during competitions [2:30];
  • Training for strength: advice for beginners and non-powerlifters [13:15];
  • Low-rep training, compound movements, and more tips for the average person [23:15];
  • How strength training supports longevity and quality of life: bone density, balance, and more [28:15];
  • Peak capacity for strength as a person ages and variations in men and women [33:00];
  • Effects of testosterone (endogenous and exogenous) on muscle gain in the short- and long-term [36:45];
  • How Layne is prepping for his upcoming IPF World Masters Powerlifting competition [44:00];
  • Creatine supplementation [54:30];
  • How important is rep speed and time under tension? [1:05:30];
  • Validity of super slow rep protocols, and the overall importance of doing any exercise [1:12:45];
  • Navigating social media: advice for judging the quality of information from “experts” online [1:23:00];
  • Layne’s views on low-carb diets, the tribal nature of nutrition, and the importance of being able to change opinions [1:34:45];
  • Where Layne has changed his views: LDL cholesterol, branched-chain amino acid supplementation, intermittent fasting, and more [1:42:00];
  • The carnivore diet, elimination diets, and fruits and vegetables [1:55:15];
  • Fiber: Layne’s approach to fiber intake, sources of fiber, benefits, and more [2:00:15];
  • Confusion around omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the Minnesota Coronary Experiment [2:05:00];
  • Layne’s views on fats in the diet [2:13:00];
  • Flexible dieting, calorie tracking, and the benefits of tracking what you eat to understand your baseline [2:18:00];
  • The nutritional demands of preparing for a bodybuilding show [2:30:45];
  • The psychological effects of aging and changes to one’s identity [2:42:00]; and
  • More.


The sport of powerlifting and Layne’s approach during competitions [2:30]

Explain the sport of powerlifting 

  • Right now he is training for the World Masters Powerlifting Championship
  • Powerlifting is a very basic sport, there are 3 lifts in the competition: 
    • 1 – squat
    • 2- bench press
    • 3 – deadlift
    • and they go in that order
  • You get 3 attempts on each, and they’re progressive
    • For example, once you put in an attempt, let’s say you put in a squat attempt of 550 pounds for your opener, if you miss it, you can’t go down
    • So usually, people do a pretty conservative weight for their first attempt, kind of like a last warmup
    • Second attempt is getting close to something that’s pretty reasonable, like RPE 9-9.5 (rating of perceived exertion)
    • And then, your last one, you’re hoping to get kind of your true maximum
  • Basically, highest total between the 3 lifts wins
  • At Worlds, they will give medals for individual lifts
    • There’ll be a gold, silver, and bronze for squat
    • Gold, silver, bronze for bench press
    • And gold, silver bronze for deadlift
  • And then, there’ll be those medals also for the overall
    • The overall is just the summation of the total of the number of lifts you hit

And when you do your 3 squats, 3 bench presses, 3 deadlifts, are you doing them in that order? 

  • You do all 3 squats go, then all 3 bench presses, then all 3 deadlifts
  • The time between can vary
    • The last time Layne did Worlds was in 2015, and that was a very, very fast meet
      • That whole meet took just over 2 hours
      • In his flight, there was only 11 people
    • The person who has the lightest squat will go first up to the heaviest squat
    • The same thing happens for the bench press and deadlift
    • Layne has been at meets where it took as long as 3.5 hours
    •  Usually you get at least 30 minutes between lifts 
    • They run it so there are no real breaks for spectators
      • They’ll have 2 flights going at the same time
      • While the other folks are lifting, you’re warming up and getting ready

What do you do in between? Does it matter what you eat?  How do you maximize your odds?  

  • Usually between the lifts (squat and bench press) we’ll have 30-60 minutes
  • Between the actual attempts (1st, 2nd, & 3rd) themselves, Layne will take a drink of water or might eat some candy quickly if he feels like he needs it
    • For the most part, he’s mentally trying to get himself in the right zone
    • This is a little tricky, because you can’t keep yourself at that really high level of arousal the entire time
      • It will wear you out
      • The trick is to bring the arousal down for 5 minutes or so (to relax), and the start to focus back up
      • It’s almost like a wave
  •  Timing is a big thing because when they call “bar is loaded,” you have 1 minute to get the down command for squat or bench press or whatever it is
    • There can be mistakes where you come out and forget your belt or something happens
    • So when they say “bar is loaded”, he gets out there very quickly so that if there is anything wrong, so he can address it and still have time
  • He likes to have 2-3 minutes to get very aroused and amped up
    • He’ll do visualization and breath work in the last few minutes leading up to his lift
  • He wants to have his heart rate around 160-170 by the time he goes out to hit his lift
  • Peter wonders about his blood glucose, he imagines glucose output would be at its max
    • Layne has never measured this

Perception is important 

  • Layne notes, “Your stress hormones are going to be high… This is a little bit off topic, but I was listening to a sports psychologist talk about how the differences between excitement and anxiety and anxiousness, you can’t almost pick them out. It’s just your perception.” 
  • He relates it to watching an episode of The Ultimate Fighter many years ago where it was Matt Serra versus Matt Hughes
    • And one of the fighters was vomiting before a match, because he was so nervous
    • He was over the bucket going, “I can’t do this anymore. I hate the way this feels. I can’t do this.
    • And Matt Serra just looked at him and said, “What are you talking about, man? That’s the feeling of being alive. You care about something so much that your body is reacting this way.

That reframing of things and just accepting and being okay with the anxiety has helped Layne so much 

Ever since then, it completely flipped the way I looked at competition… And now, when I feel those nerves start to kick in, I just tell myself  ‘this is a good thing, this is a good thing. This is your body getting you ready.’”‒ Layne Norton 

Have you ever injured yourself in a meet? 

  • Peter notes the stakes in powerlifting are really high and the meet is really short
  • He wonders if the states are high from an injury standpoint, because you’re pushing at your limit
  • Layne has not injured himself to the point where he had really bad pain or couldn’t continue
  • But at the Arnold Pro Meet back in 2015, he aggravated his back pretty badly, a week out
    • The day of the meet, when he hit his last squat (661 lbs), he rotated a little bit coming up and he could definitely feel it the next day
    • It was closer to his upper lumbar or lower thoracic, he had a lot of pain there
  • Typically don’t see people get injured at meets
  • It does happen, but Layne guesses it’s less frequent than during training
    • Peter notes the volume of exercise when training probably leaves your more fatigued
  • Layne agrees
  • If you’ve done your due diligence to get ready for a meet, hopefully, you’ve dissipated a lot of that fatigue through rest and tapering
  • However, when you’re in the throes of training and you have high levels of fatigue, maybe you’re just not able to execute the lifts as well (because of that fatigue), and that’s where things tend to happen
    • Especially if you’re doing multiple repetitions
    • As you get close to the failure, there is the opportunity to get out of position or make mistakes
  • Injury is definitely one of the things that is part of the game
    • You’re going to deal with pain
  • Layne always tells people “I’m 40 now, and most 40 year olds, 50 year olds, they have pain anyway. So I’d rather be strong and have pain than be weak and have pain.” 

How many times a year can you peak for a meet at the top level of powerlifting? 

  • Layne has done 1 per year and 4 per year (high level meets)
  • 4 is way too much
  • He thinks the sweet spot for him is probably 2

Really, it’s about getting to competition day with enough fitness level, in terms of being able to execute heavy lifts, while dissipating fatigue and being in low enough levels of pain that you can execute 

  • Afterwards when he feels good after a meet is the most dangerous because he tends to go right back into training
  • The smart thing to do is take some time to train for fun, keep that core strength, but move  towards accessory movements and things that don’t beat you up so much for several months
  • Then you could re-enter more of a building/ accumulation phase
    • Where the volume is going up, but the weights still aren’t super heavy
  • In those last 3 months, at the end of his training in preparation for competition, he ramps up to more heavy weights
    • He’s mostly hitting heavy singles


Training for strength: advice for beginners and non-powerlifters [13:15]

What can the rest of us learn about strength? 

{end of show notes preview}

Would you like access to extensive show notes and references for this podcast (and more)?

Check out this post to see an example of what the substantial show notes look like. Become a member today to get access.

Become a Member

Layne Norton, Ph.D.

Layne Norton earned his B.S. in Biochemistry at Eckerd College and a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois working with Dr. Donald Layman.  Layne founded BioLayne to provide science-based coaching.  He is a natural pro bodybuilder, professional powerlifter, and a physique coach.  He has won numerous bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions and currently holds the world record for the IPF 93 kg class squat (303 kg, 668 lbs).  Layne finished 1st at the 2022 IPF World Masters Powerlifting Championships in a drug-free tested division.  He is the co-author of several books, including Fat Loss Forever: How to Lose Fat and KEEP It Off, as well as several research publications. [

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user's own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.
  1. Great conversation with Layne. I have been on TRT for 15 years and to hear that Peter’s practice has abandoned looking at Creatinine levels is good news. We have been worried about this for a while. My Cystatin C is normal. However, I do take exception that you cannot have a great physique at 60. I had the best pictures of my life taken at 60.

  2. Interesting podcast as usual!
    On the subject of whether unprocessed is better than processed. Food technology uses physical, chemical and enzymatic means to modify basic ingredients in the manufacture of processed foods and it is possible some methods increase the immunogenicity of proteins which certain people are sensitive to. One area of concern is the deamidation of wheat gluten. This review is a good reference, but there are more recent articles linked in PMC.
    Malandain H (2005) Transglutaminases: a meeting point for wheat allergy, celiac disease and food safety. Eur Ann Allergy Clin Immunol 37:397-403
    I was reminded of this joke about the cultishness of diets.
    Q: How do you know someone is on the keto diet?
    A: You know because they tell you

Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon Pinterest icon Google+ icon YouTube icon LinkedIn icon Contact icon