If you’re fed up of hitting plateaus, making no notable progress in strength or size, then you should definitely consider incorporating pyramid training into your workouts.

This advanced technique can get your gains back on track by challenging your muscles with new stimuli, incorporating the benefits of both intensity and volume. Whether you’re trying to build muscle quickly or want to push through a plateau, try introducing a few sets of pyramid training into your routine.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about pyramid training…

What is Pyramid Training?

Pyramid training is the concept of varying both the weight and the reps for a particular exercise; when you increase the weight, you decrease the reps and vice versa. You can play with three different styles of pyramid training based on your goals and abilities:

Ascending Pyramid Training

Ascending Pyramids

Start with more reps at a lighter weight and work your way down to a heavier weight with fewer reps. This is effective as you can warm up with lighter weights first (although you should still be pushing close to failure), preparing your body to smash out some heavy sets towards the end. This high-intensity work is superb for stimulating strength gains.

Example Progression:

60kg x 20 reps

70kg x 15 reps

80kg x 10 reps

90kg x 5 reps

Descending Pyramid Training

Descending Pyramids

Start with low reps at a heavy weight and work your way up to a lighter weight with more reps . You will really fatigue the muscles as the weight gets lighter, triggering that tight burning feeling in your muscles sometimes described as ‘The Pump’. The technical term for this is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and is one of the three key ways your body builds muscle.

Example Progression:

200kg x 5 reps

180kg x 10 reps

160kg x 15 reps

140kg x 20 reps

120kg x 25 reps

Triangle or Ascending Descending Pyramid Training (DTP)

Triangle Pyramids

This is a combination of the ascending and descending pyramids, and has been given may names in the fitness industry (Kris Gethin’s DTP is just one example). Training this way add tons of volume to your workouts, and volume is one of the key factors you need to grow. This is why triangle pyramid sets are incorporated into our Ultimate Muscle plan, a plan specifically designed for massive muscle mass gains in a short space of time.

Example Progression:

60kg x 20 reps

70kg x 15 reps

80kg x 10 reps

90kg x 5 reps

80kg x 8 reps

70kg x 12 reps

60kg x 17 reps

Don’t be surprised if you can’t complete as many reps on the second phase of the triangle pyramid as when you first lifted that weight (shown in the example above). You can take two approaches when you fail prematurely like this:

  1. Rest pause: When you hit failure, take a 5-second breather, give your muscles a quick shake and then keep going. Repeat until you have completed the set.
  2. Move on: Take your rest period and then move onto the next set. Sometimes this is the best approach to remain injury free and keep hitting it hard.

Is Pyramid Training Right for Me?

Do you really need to change up your weight circuit? If you’re stuck in a plateau or simply aren’t getting the results you want at the gym, you could start getting results again by introducing heavier weight loads and alternating with lighter weights.

Check out some of the benefits of pyramid training:

  • Can help you break out of a workout rut
  • Ascending pyramids provide a great warmup for cold muscles
  • Can increase release of testosterone and Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
  • Improves functional strength
  • Can be used to perform both compound and isolated exercises
  • Easy to perform with basic gym equipment

Working Out with Pyramid Sets

So you’re sold on the idea of pyramid training. If you want to incorporate it into your training regime you need to take into account the following:

  • Sets: Use between 5-10 sets for pyramid training
  • Reps: Ranges between 5 and 50 reps can be used. Just make sure you increase or decrease the reps in even steps (e.g. 5, 10, 15, 20 reps)
  • Weight: Select a different weight for each set. The weight should be heavy enough that you will be approaching failure towards the end of each set.
  • Rest: Rest periods should be kept to a minimum for pyramid training. Aim for 45-60 seconds, although 60-90 seconds may be needed for heavier, low-rep work (<10 reps).

You can perform the pyramid circuit with any compound or isolated exercise, as long as you are changing up the weight used for each set. Try it with anything from leg press to leg extensions, or bicep curls to bench dips.

Have you tried pyramid training? Any tips to share? Post in the comments below!