Pyramid Training Systems

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Pyramid Training Systems

If it’s time to advance your workout and challenge your body to a new level, give pyramid sets a try.

Pyramid training refers to a change in the intensity of an exercise from set to set. Pyramids can be ascending, descending, or triangular. Ascending pyramids begin with lighter loads, and each subsequent set is performed with a heavier load. Descending pyramids begin with a heavy load, and each subsequent set is performed using a lighter load. Triangular pyramids ascend and descend with the heaviest load being lifted in the middle sets. Repetitions vary during pyramid training in order to accommodate the changing loads. An example of this would be performing a 10RM, 8RM, 6RM, 4RM, 2RM, 4RM, 6RM, 8RM, and 10RM with the resistance set to allow only the listed number of repetitions. As mentioned in chapter 3, this type of training is very time intensive so is often reserved for only a few exercises in a given workout.

Pyramid training combines several aspects of both maximal strength and hypertrophy protocols. Volume is relatively high because many sets are performed and some sets contain a high number of repetitions. This characteristic of hypertrophy training is coupled with the inclusion of at least one set in which a heavy load is lifted. This high-intensity set is indicative of maximal strength protocols.

Although this method does allow for a variety of muscle stimuli within a single workout, the volume may not be appropriate for individuals with a specific goal in mind. For example, if your goal is maximal strength, this type of routine may lead to an undue amount of muscular fatigue by the time you perform the high-resistance, low-repetition sets (e.g., the 2 to 4RM sets in the previous example) that would help you meet that goal. This fatigue may prevent the neuromuscular adaptations necessary for building maximal strength. However, like circuit training, pyramid training may be used occasionally to break up the monotony that comes with repeating the same workout over and over.

Types of Pyramid Training

Ascending Pyramids: Increase the weight and decrease the reps for each set.

  • Set 1 – light weight: 12-16 reps
  • Set 2 – light/medium weight: 10-12 reps
  • Set 3 – medium weight: 8-10 reps
  • Set 4 – heavy weight: 4-6 reps

Descending Pyramids: Decrease the weight and increase the reps with each set.

  • Set 1 – heavy weight: 4-6 reps
  • Set 2 – medium weight: 8-10 reps
  • Set 3 – light/medium weight: 10-12 reps
  • Set 4 – light weight 12-16 reps

Triangle Pyramids: With this technique you do both ascending and descending pyramids.

  • Set 1 – light weight: 12-16 reps
  • Set 2 – light/medium weight: 10-12 reps
  • Set 3 – medium: 8-10 reps
  • Set 4 – heavy 4-6 reps
  • Set 5 – medium weight: 8-10 reps
  • Set 6 – light/medium weight: 10-12 reps
  • Set 7 – light weight: 12-16 reps

 

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